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  1. The general suggestion here seems to be that those who have fallen away (or are about to fall away) are somehow the less invested ... the least informed. I think that's not at all necessarily the case. Instead, consider the possibility that those who remain on board might have invested the least. I think that this is true with all religions. There are sheep, and then there are lions. There are thoughtful, and then there are the numb. Because one stays, or selectively leaves is no doubt very personal — I think more personal for the folk that disassociate themselves from their religious upbringing. Don't ignorantly dismiss the significance, the thought, the selective hardship. They don't deserve absolute dismissal, but rather conversation, acceptance, social interface, and understanding.


    For those who feel that departed members should "shut up", I simply suggest that many have lifelong expectations brewing over a lifetime, yet probably feel a growing, dramatic void. That hardly deserves a "shut up" attitude. Adopting a 'them and us' attitude hardly positively contributes to the issue of those falling from the faith.

  2. The judge seems like a bit of an odd fellow. Follow the law. If one doesn't, then one deserves to be removed from the bench.


    Some judges frequently do strange things, based on either their personal life viewpoints, on their prejudices, or on their misinformed life interpretations of those standing before them. To assume that all judges know what the hell they're doing, is to assume that all policemen are honorable.


    Decades ago, my uncle (Gerald L. Richards, now deceased), [renowned North American] ornithologist, was convicted of a felony for "gathering and fathering" several golden eagles' offspring (who where left alone after the killing of their parents by trophy-seekers). That cost him his BYU career. I believe that the judge was later removed.

  3. Looks to me like Judge Johansen has made other questionable calls/rulings in the past.


    This is not the first time Johansen has been in the news for making controversial rulings.

    In 1997, he was reprimanded by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission for "demeaning the judicial office" after slapping a 16-year-old boy who became belligerent during a 1995 meeting at the Price courthouse. 

    Johansen was also criticized in 2012 for ordering a woman to lop off her 13-year-old daughter's ponytail as punishment for the teen cutting the hair off a 3-year-old girl at a restaurant. The judge offered to shave off 150 hours of community service from the sentence if she cut her daughter's hair in court.



    In 1987 my wife and I divorced. Our children included an 11 year old daughter and a 6 year old son. The courts presumed that the children would be better off with their mother (cultural prejudice), and she was consequently allowed to move them out of state — despite what might be best for them. Nonsense. Since we all "know" that children best thrive within a marriage between a man and a woman, and since my children were now left with their mother alone ... why not just take the two of them from now divorced father and [single] mother and place them with some heterosexual married couple? Gee, wouldn't they be "better off"?


    Consider the loving couple who gives life to three beautiful children. The husband (or wife) has been militarily assigned to Iraq or Afghanistan. When that military employed partner is killed in battle, should it reasonably be considered that the children should be removed from the household and awarded to some heterosexual married couple because it is in "the best interests of the children"? Nonsense.


    Consider the heterosexual married couple who can't seem to get along. BECAUSE they are heterosexual must mean that they are better candidates for raising children (through natural childbirth, or through adoption) than a single caring parent, or a married gay couple. Nonsense.


    I pretty much lost constructive influence on (not over) my children for nearly a decade because of legal (judged-ordered) crap. Fortunately we have a positive connection now (my daughter 40, and my son 35). But how much improved might their lives be (and mine), if judicial decisions were more 1) in line with the law, and 2) were without cultural prejudice. 


    We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.





  4. John L. Sorenson wrote:


    I will have one further publication to [offer]. In the January 2016 issue of The Ensign, the Church's magazine, a piece will appear that is a shortened version of my piece written a few years ago entitled "Mormon's Sources." I am sure this item in January will be my last publication. Besides it marks 65 years since my first publication, a nice round number to quit on. I will enter that item, when it appears, in my Resume/Publication list and send the final version to you to conclude that file.

  5. “Great and Important” Changes

    (Talk, 30 November 2014, Edgemont Seventh Ward)

    John L. Sorenson


    Some orientation is in order. My name is John Sorenson. I have lived in the Edgemont 7th ward for about 35 years. My wife, Helen Christianson, and I, having lost our first companions to death, were married going on 22 years ago, each bringing nine children to our marriage. We live on Canyon Rd across from the Senior Center. I retired from BYU as an anthropologist nearly 29 years ago.


    In my years in the Church, study and personal experience assure me that the Ninth Article of Faith is profoundly true when it says: “We believe that (God) will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”  In my talk today I want to document the fact that the Church has always been subject to revelation and inspiration leading to “great and important” changes and will yet do so in the future.


    The statement in the Article of Faith was made by the Prophet Joseph Smith nearly 175 years ago. Even before that great things had been revealed to change the way we think and then carry on the work in the Kingdom of God, that is, the Church. Changes began almost immediately after the initial organization. For example, Joseph Smith was initially called merely the “First Elder” of the Church. A First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles were soon established. The Church was not begun as an experiment but as the beginning of  “a great and marvelous work” to be unfolded according to a plan fully known to God.


    In broad terms what the Church has been becoming over its history, and must further become in the future, is:

    1. A much larger Church, in both population and geography (D&C 65:5: it will eventually “fill the whole earth”).
    2. A unified, manageable Church, not a mere bunch of fragmented congregations contending over authority, doctrine and a name, as happened with the New Testament church.
    3. A Church that is more receptive and obedient to divine guidance.
    4. A more helpful, sensitive, loving Church.
    5. An independent and resource-rich Church (DC 78:14; “to stand independent of all other” institutions).
    6. A Church of hard-working, participating members.

    All these require frequent changes. So how does the Church change?

               The same way individuals do:

                     By instruction, or

                     By experience, or by a

                     Combination of the two.


    Examples of both modes are apparent from the beginning of Church history:

          Direct instruction by revelation in detail, as in D&C 20

          Experience: the Prophet Joseph Smith said in D&C 121:39, “we have learned (naively) by sad experience” how “almost all men” tend to misuse priesthood authority when it is first given to them. Of course he had had earlier been taught the same thing by the same method when he entrusted Martin Harris with the pages containing the translation of the early part of the Book of Mormon only to have Harris “lose” them. The Lord’s chastisement that resulted (D&C 3:4- 8) and Joseph’s loss of sacred privileges profoundly shaped his subsequent relationship with the Lord.


    Regarding timing: The Lord sees all and knows how fast or slowly members and leaders can make necessary, desired changes; the process is necessarily long.


    A number of examples of changes the Church has chosen or had to make are instructive.  They each have yielded several kinds of improvements previously mentioned.

    1. Pioneer tithing was paid “in kind” (e, g., every tenth load of a farmer’s hay was delivered to the bishop who had to find some practical use for it). That changed to cash payments over a hundred years ago, Many other changes would have been impossible had this matter not been changed first. Now funds flow through the Church in about 150 currencies worldwide through the modern commercial banking system. (For example, on average every business day some $10 million to pay personal missionary expenses—from parents/donors, not from Church funds as such--are transmitted from Salt Lake City to some 405 mission accounts at local banks in up to 100 countries.
    2. Planning and funding Church buildings has gone through many changes. For a long time local congregations were alone responsible for financing and designing their own facilities. About a hundred years ago the central Church chose to pay some of the cost for buildings out of tithing funds. More recently total tithing has increased, so all costs are now paid, and site and design decisions are made by a large Church building department. (On average a new Church building is authorized every day and another is completed, demanding corresponding inspiration as to the purchase of sites, drawing of plans, choice of contractors, obtaining permits, etc.) As a result greater equity, as well as general uniformity of design, prevails worldwide.       
    3. Nearly 40 years ago the Seventies were changed from being a confused body of priesthood holders in every stake to a small number of full-time general authorities who aid the First Presidency and Apostles in specific ways. (I was a Seventy for 28 years, including being one of the presidents of a stake quorum; but we were never clear on what we were to do let alone how.) Inspired reexamining of D&C 107 about the office of Seventy led to a clarification and redefinition of that calling. But that actual change could come about only when tithing payments became large enough to support up to a hundred full-time Seventies (as now). The service of the Seventies as Area authorities covering the entire world could not come about until this fundng re-configuration had taken place.
    4. A uniform system of membership records is now used that is unique among churches. Transfers of membership records are routinely made so that members are not so likely to “fall between the cracks” upon changing residences. Of course this could not have taken place on the present scale without the use of computers.
    5. There was no realization of the need and possibility for genealogical research and centralized temple records until 1894, when Pres. Wilford Woodruff instructed the Church by revelation that individual members were responsible for identifying persons in their own ancestral lines for vicarious temple work. Since then a stream of procedural changes in that activity has resulted in the greatest genealogical inventory (Family Search) in the world.

      Now quickly, a few more:
    6. The Aaronic Priesthood has been given to youthful males only since around 1900.
    7. The priesthood was extended to Black members about 30 years ago. Today Africa is one of the fastest growing areas for the Church. (Last year six new stakes were organized on a single Sunday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.) That growth would have been impossible without this change.
    8. Seminaries and institutes date only since the ‘20s and ‘30s.
    9. The Humanitarian Assistance fund (and resulting cooperation with other churches and agencies) is only approximately 20 years old. The missionary program expansion. (In 1946 when I received my mission
    10. The missionary program expansion. (In 1946 when I received my mission call, after military service in World War II, there were fewer than 1500 missionaries in less than 25 missions, and neither MTCs nor any missionary teaching plan existed. Now about 1,000 missionaries are called every week to more than 400 missions.)
    11. The “Welfare program” was first organized in 1936.
    12. Emphasis on families.is only 20 years old. (In 1940 when I was a priest, my stake president asked me to baptize his oldest son; the idea that fathers should officiate in ordinances for their own children had not yet dawned on anybody in the Church.)
    13. What had been in the 19th century the Perpetual Emigration Fund had long been given up when Pres. Hinckley adapted the idea to become the Perpetual Education Fund,

    ... and many more . . . .


    Some changes the Church has not proved ready for:


          A couple of examples:

    1. The “United Order” or principle of Consecration and Stewardship.
    2. Around 1937 the Church bought a short wave radio station in New York heralded as “how the gospel would be preached to all the world.”  It was sold about 15 years later without fanfare; the notion proved unworkable.

    Some changes have occurred because precious measures proved no longer feasible.



    1. The ”Gathering of Israel” as a pattern of immigration to the USA.
    2. An All-Church MIA June Conference held in Salt Lake City.
    3. The Relief Society Magazine.
      And of course plural marriage, terminated in the 1890s.
      Two crucial factors underlying much change have been the increase in wealth (thus in tithing) of members and the use of more modern technology:


    1. From handwriting to typewriters to computers for record-keeping.
    2. Air travel. (I spent over two months of my mission traveling to and from New Zealand on ships; there was no air travel for missionaries then). (Can you imagine a modern plan for “the city of Zion” without an airport!?

    The Church today is still making “great and important” changes. It could not function and grow without change triggered by both revelation and inspiration based on experience.

          Examples: Think of the revelation required to accomplish these & much more—

               To identify and call 140 mission presidents every year.

               To call two  stake presidents and about 20 bishops each week.

               To call thousands of amateur financial clerks, with virtually zero losses.


    Are changes yet to come? Yes, of course. We need to stay ready! 


    Some things are, however, permanent: In one sense every new Church building constructed, and even more every new temple (whether in Kyiv, Brazzaviille, Córdoba, or Cebú), states to both saints and the world that the Church is there to stay.


    My testimony is that great and important things are being revealed at an increasing pace and will continue to do so.




    [edited to improve formatting]

  6. Testimony of John L. Sorenson, January 2010


               A testimony is a statement of what a person knows to be true and is willing to testify before anyone in the world that he or she knows certain things to be true. There are several ways or mechanisms through which one can gain this level of knowledge, yet how one obtains that knowledge about which he or she testifies cannot be adequately explained to another person. The important thing is that the testifier is sure and convinced as he can be about a thing so that his testimony is a valid, ultimate statement. What follows is a statement of the most significant things I have learned in life.  They are things I know to be true and are the foundation of the life I have lived. In my 90th year, surely near the end of my life, I state the following with as absolute a certainty as I can be of anything--of these points. No list can, of course, include every point a person knows; these are only the major truths about which I can and do testify. Every other thing I know is less significant than these:


      (1) God is a being not bound by limits of time and space, who has, through his

    Experience, learned in the process of creating “worlds without number” and peopling them with his creatures. These crucial laws of the universe have allowed him to create our present world for the purpose of bringing to pass the “eternal life” of his children. That is, us.


    (2) Every human being is a combination of a spirit--a unique personality that

    existed before we lived on this earth—and a physical body. Together these two components combine at birth into a unified “soul.”


    (3) Our spirits are offspring of God, our Father, who loves us as his children and

    aims and desires to provide for our maximum joy (but the process or nature of our being born as his children we do not, and perhaps could not, understand). Thus all humans are in one sense brothers and sisters to each other.


    (4) We are sent to earth by our Father according to a plan where we are to be

    schooled and tested to see how well we learn, by experience to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error.


    (5) We are each born on earth under conditions calculated to carry out the individual learning we need, each a part of a stream of ancestors to whom we will always be indebted for many of our capabilities and possibilities. Families are the most immediate and influential sets of our brothers and sisters with whom we share this life an are shaped  within it.


    (6) Regardless of the variations in individual heritage, environment, and events

    we encounter in life, there are always better-worse moral choices facing us that we must make. The stream of free-will decisions we choose to make are the primary means by which we learn, and are tested, in this school of life.


    (7) Upon death the spirits of all men leave the physical body behind and enter an

    intermediate “spirit world,” a condition under either relatively pleasant or unpleasant circumstances, depending on the quality of the life lived on earth.


    ( 8) After a time spent in that intermediate status, all humans will be allotted a permanent (eternal) condition depending on how all they have done, said, and felt up until that time coincides with the truths of the universe.


    (9) Those who merit the greatest happiness, that is those who have made choices

    most consistent with Truth, will obtain eternal life, the most glorious condition attainable, by virtue of which we will have access to all God’s power and substance. Those of lesser attainment will receive (generally) pleasing conditions on a graduated scale that matches the best they had qualified themselves to receive.


    (10) The essentials of God’s “plan of [our] happiness” have been revealed by

    God (the only way they could be known on earth) to certain individuals (prophets) at various times in human history according to his wisdom. Most recently they were revealed again (“Restored”) to Joseph Smith between 1819 and 1844, and today are exclusively taught and administered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the successor prophets who have led that organization.


    (11)  A crucial element of the Restoration has been the translation of the ancient record kept by Mormon and other worthy record-keepers now known as the Book of Mormon. It was translated by Joseph Smith “by the gift and power of God” to be published to the world in English (and now in 119 other languages. My detailed study of that book over a nearly 60 year span has revealed nothing to me to call into question the spiritual assurance I have had since childhood that the book is exactly what it says of itself.


               I know these things because their truthfulness has been manifested to my soul many times by the Holy Spirit, the power by which God most often manifests Himself to mortals. I invite and urge all human beings to seek to learn/know these same things for themselves by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior and Creator of the earth, repenting of their sins, being baptized, and receiving the Holy Ghost for themselves. Because of the great mercy of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, this privilege is available to all people. I stand as a witness of this fact.  

  7. More Thought about the Gospel, According to John

    (written to one of my children, but applicable to all)


    I find that words alone are inadequate medium for expressing what most of us would like to communicate. Rather than to depend on words alone, I have to ask that you look at my entire life as a kind of meta-language that I at least intend to “say” some of the things about which you would like to hear as part of a “conversation” that I am unable to have.  Unable, because my words do not flow readily in the style of “conversation.” I find little substantive value for me in that genre. Conversation is part of a social process that makes us think we are communicating significant ideas and information. Ideally that would always be so, but I fail to do it well in a casual context. For example, I now feel dissatisfaction with conducting business or exchanging ideas on the telephone. At my age I find it impossible to remember precisely, or even generally but accurately, what is said on such occasions.


    I guess I subscribe more-or-less to the view of a character I remember from some forgotten work of fiction: an old lady said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” For me, “what I say” needs to be the result of a thoughtful process, not spur-of-the-moment spiel. For example, the wording of Mormon’s Codex was the result of six to ten separate rewrites/edits by me plus up to four separate edits by others who questioned at points what I thought I was saying. And still the phrasing is at many spots a compromise that I am not particularly pleased with. I guess this inability to be utterly clear in my statements should be seen as a weakness in me, maybe “inherited” from my relations with my father and mother, with whom I never, literally never, had a genuine, substantive conversation. But in that case then it is at least my weakness, and I take full ownership of it.


    It should not surprise you that I have many different perceptions than you (or any of your siblings) in what I/you recollect and infer. Rather than to try you with a “full” expression of how I have seen my life (much of which is now beyond my accurate recollection anyway), I will simply try here to present a few perspectives that I believe have escaped you, in the hope that you may be informed more beneficially.


    I say both “recollect and infer” with good reason, because it appears to me that you have filled in gaps in your knowledge with inferences, as no doubt I have also. An example is your inferring that I must have had to swallow or hide certain of my ideas or to hunker down at contrary points (political or whatever) in order to “get along” at BYU. Such a picture is entirely foreign to my actual experience. I mostly enjoyed myself at the school. At no time in my 25 years at BYU did I ever feel oppressed or pressured to adhere to any majority opinion with which I disagreed, and there were a number. If my views were contradictory to some other people’s, I simply proceeded along without paying detailed attention to what anyone else opined. I considered my thinking and information as good as  (and often better than) those of others. I never felt constrained by anybody else’s opinions. I felt the same at General Research, where varied opinions were a daily fact of life. I was not hired at BYU or GRC to kowtow to other people’s opinions but rather to hold and share my own informed views, and in fact to have those welcomed to the varied mix. When I was interviewed in 1969 by Joseph Fielding Smith, (because he had learned that I was teaching “anthropology),” all he really said was, “Do you know how I feel about evolution?” I said, “Yes, I do,” whereupon he said, “Do you have a testimony?” I assured him that I did. Then, “I do not presume to judge you on academic matters. That is the BYU’s business.” And that was essentially that.) I felt quite a bit of elbow room.


    At the school I naturally picked as friends and colleagues where possible those with rather similar ideas and opinions, and there were plenty of those people, or at least ones with tolerant feelings toward diversity of opinions. I no doubt brushed up against others of lesser tolerance who came to resent some of my ideas, but I never allowed myself to feel any pressure. In that sense BYU was as ideal a university as any other such institution; in all universities there is more or less social pressure to be “politically correct,” however that may be defined locally, if one allows those views to be determinative of one’s own thoughts.( That reminds me of Arturo de Hoyos, a Ph.D. sociologist originally from the “wrong” side of the Texas border, in my old department at the Y; once asked if he had ever been discriminated against at the school because he was a Latino, he once replied, “No. Some people have tried to, but I wouldn’t let them.”)


    One principle that I have always taken quite seriously, and that impinges on this matter, is the “Mormon Creed” that was often referred to in the late 19th century. It said, “Let everyone mind his own business.” My interpretation of that is two fold: (1) Don’t try to “mind” a matter that is someone else’s business, that is, that is beyond your purview and responsibility; and (2) by implication, if you are actively minding what is legitimately your business, you will have little time or inclination to mind another person’s. Thus I do not waste thought in “telling” President Obama what he should be doing about some public policy; and neither do I waste time mentally advising the governor on what to do about Medicaid expansion, or Senator Lee on any number of points, because any attempted intervention by me would almost certainly not have significant effect, even if I knew more than any of them about the facts of the matter at hand. So, whom the Jazz pick as a coach, or what is happening in the Ukraine, consumes but little of my attention because I can do nothing about either. At BYU I tried to think little (but didn’t always succeed) about what my dean or the school president should do in reference to this or that issue. Occasionally, when I thought I might have some effect on matters, I spoke up with a letter to the administration, to no good end I am sure. But by normally following the general principle of the Creed I save myself a good deal of grief and frustration.


    So too in regard to family. I may have had opinions and feelings about so-and-so and what he/she “ought to do” in some particular regard, but generally I have not considered it “my business” to try to intervene in this or another matter (unless specifically asked to do so).  On a broader scale, the prophet Joseph Smith observed a similar principle at play: “It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty . . . .  Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God, when all things with you are so uncertain?


    The results may sometimes have seemed as if I did not care about others--family, friends or colleagues. That was not so. I have done what I have done, or not done what I have not done, broadly speaking having tried to do the best I could under the circumstances as I saw them. I am sorry I did not do better.


    A topic on which you leave me wondering about the facts behind your inferences is in your interpreting my role as a father. It appears that you see me as more or less an unchanging being in this regard. Nowhere do you seem to credit me with some degree of learning or change; it appears that I just was what I was from the beginning. Period. Actually I began near zero in my knowledge or modeling of how to be a father. My own Dad was pretty much a model of what NOT to be or do. (But I have never felt that he was responsible for how I turned out; my life has been my own project. My choices have all been my own actions, not to be credited to or blamed on others.) I had to learn on the job, so to speak, by observing others, while wondering how I should, and even possibly could, act. Nor was there even a single useful how-to book or similar source available at that time to serve as a guide to “parenting” (a term only recently coined; a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor was entitled “Can parenting be taught?” It detailed a number of projects/efforts, all with mixed results, that have left that question without a clear answer.) If I failed to some degree, and surely I did, I have joined a large company of other imperfect fathers. (To inform my children of some of my obstacles and struggles to learn has been part of why I’ve written a series of “reminiscences.” Please read them carefully in this regard.)


    I believe that an important issue it would be well for you to clarify in your own thinking is the relation of “church” to “gospel.” I feel like sketching for you my own feelings in that regard, although it will require a considerable historical excursis.


    I am sure that the universe operates according to principles of truth—“the way things (really) are.” There is no other way it could operate. Our problem as less-than-perfect instruments for learning truth is to align ourselves with truth in the conduct of our lives as far as possible. A merciful God, who lives by truth alone, is concerned with facilitating our attempts at such alignment. Left largely to ourselves in thinking about such important matters, every man fumbles around a good deal. An initial key to get on a straight track in that process is to start at the beginning, that is, with God’s relationship with us as individuals. The bottom rung on the ladder of truth is the gospel. The gospel is “the good news” that Christ announced to the Jews in person: that of ourselves we cannot even find the ladder. But by following His instructions we may reach the first rung. It begins with purging ourselves of error by trusting Him as He guides us step by step. We begin by trusting His instructions that start with believing that Christ, the Son of God, the Father’s executive Head, is our effective connection to understanding the universe and that He is prepared to aid us in articulating with the cosmos. Inevitably our egos have built up idiosyncratic images of the universe (“every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world,” D & C 1:16), and we must abandon those errors before we can start over in a corrective learning process. Each and every human can be freed from error by giving up his/her mistakes and misperceptions and having their past errors in regard to light and truth set at zero. This is done through submitting to baptism, an arbitrary symbol signifying that we are starting over in life as though newborn children. By doing so we can be purified from our errors/untruths by selective course correction (“repentance”). The Light of Truth can then come from God’s Truth realm to lead us to a more accurate enlightened state. This “good news” is the big message that Christ expects his representatives to deliver to the people of the world.


    This may seem like an absurdly simple-minded view of a complex situation, but I assure you that simple does not mean simple-minded. It is just the way life in the universe actually is.


    Beyond becoming cleansed, error-free individuals, however, there must be a social structure on earth -- the Church of Jesus Christ – that constitutes the organizational instrument through which those who have found the gospel ladder of truth are enabled to combine their efforts in the task of supporting and “perfecting the believers,” while coordinating and administering the affairs of the earth-wide organization. The dual title of the present-day Church points to its unavoidably dual nature. On the one hand it is the Church of Jesus Christ, a perfect being, a God, whose ideal church would be perfectly in tune with truth. On the other hand it is an organization of still imperfect human beings – the Latter-day Saints – who are attempting to improve and expand the organizational structure by accessing Light and Truth from the heavenly realm as they are able to, striving to approach the ideal represented by its founder, although far from that in practice.


    That dichotomy – the divine ideal simultaneous with inadequacies of the human instruments involved – means that at different times and places, the church as it is manifested in human history must take varied forms according to the cultures and environmental situations of the host peoples or nations. In ancient Israel the believers were organized at first as an extended family, then, as population grew, a tribal structure was possible as a social context for the believers. That didn’t work very well, but the evolutionary state of human society and culture offered no better alternative at that time. At the time of Jesus Christ’s appearing in the flesh among the Jews, under Roman political dominance, he organized a non-political “church” or cult as a voluntary association. But when Paul carried that same gospel to Greek-speaking peoples in the eastern Mediterranean of course he had to change somewhat the emphasis of his presentations to fit their differing thinking modes. And as “the primitive church” spread geographically and over time, the church of that day lacked the linguistic/rhetorical and technological capacity and administrative skills to carry out necessary communication and directing power among its branches, so it eventually proved non-viable.


    God also allowed the Nephites of the Book of Mormon to maintain a version of his Son’s church, which operated according to different local parameters, rising, spreading and falling according to unique historical factors. And He may also have caused other groups to be organized on earth in specific locations, but neither did any of those flourish in the long run.


    All these happenings were known to God beforehand (“all things are before him”) and were prophesied among men from time to time by inspired prophets. But in his economy God planned that when, at a certain time (in “the latter days”), the world’s social, economic, political and technological development would make it possible, he would cause a new/restored church to appear on earth, modeled on some of the ancient forms, that would be able to overcome the limits that had prevented previous versions of believer-associations/churches from continuing and expanding. This final church came forth at the unique spot where historical, cultural and geographical conditions would combine to enable it to endure and eventually to flourish until it would, as planned, come to “fill the whole earth.”


    That was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but of course the story does not end with its founding under the leadership of Joseph Smith. Somehow, through unique socio-cultural forces, it had to become transformed into an organization that could and would carry its gospel message to all peoples. The unique position it has occupied in United States history has allowed it to ride the (now waning) wave of American expansionism as a force in the world. But it now exists on its own terms in at least 140 lands. To get to this condition Mormonism has had to follow its own unique path. The painful process of adaptation began as it attempted to find a path to viability within the United States itself. Its early career hardly boded well for its continuance, let alone its flourishing. Under Joseph Smith, in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, his promotion of the movement’s most exotic, marginalizing features of its social structure and belief system threatened its continued existence amidst a hostile American population that would not tolerate the faith’s “oddities.” As a result Brigham Young moved the core population to the Great Basin, at that moment (1847) outside the United States (but the Mexican American War resulted in U.S. annexation of the refugees’ settlement area only two years after their arrival there). The church could not long escape the forces of “Manifest Destiny.” The Deseret Mormons were forced to accommodate bit by bit to their new political situation during the next 40 years, their pioneering period. (My Dutch colleague Walter van Beek, an Africanist anthropologist, and former stake president in the Netherlands, has written a brilliant paper on how much pioneer Utah resembled an African chiefdom, a shared though temporary structural form.) 


    By1890 further geographical flight was out of the question. The only course open was painful abandonment of the parochial agrarian pattern of life that had come to characterize the intermountain west in the late 19th century, but soon would evolve away in any case. The arable land was essentially filled to capacity; it could not accommodate more immigrant farmers by that time (my own father, born in 1875, was one of that generation who could neither find place on Deseret’s crowded farmland nor obtain productive work in the still non-industrialized hinterland). The “Gathering” had come to an end.  Under immense pressure from “Gentile” political and economic structure of the U.S.A., LDS Church leaders realized that no choice was open to them but to reach an accommodation with the American Establishment. Many of their leaders were “on the underground” (fugitives from prosecution), the people were severely disenfranchised, and the Church’s property was virtually all taken away by legal enactments.  Under such duress the leadership was forced to implicitly strike a deal with the superior power structure. They would generally conform to the American social, political and economic formulation; in return they were granted statehood and allowed to operate as a church in the American sense of that term.  The “pioneer” experiment was over.


    During the next 60 years the Church slowly turned itself around, for survival’s sake giving up or muting social and doctrinal features that had been most objectionable to the greater society, and by accepting (they had no choice) “Gentile” businesses in their midst Mormons became “good American citizens” -- a minor regional ethnic group in the USA located in the area formerly called “Deseret.” By actively participating in two world wars Mormons managed to allay latent suspicions held by Americans about the genuineness of their accommodation to the “capitalist”/”free world” system.  By the 1950s as a people they were in a position to be considered a harmless “ethnic” minority in the U.S.A.


    One solution to local over-population and unemployment was the growth of Utah’s own industrial sector, limited though it was (Kathryn’s father, a veteran of World War I, worked at Kennecott Copper in the Salt Lake Valley all his life beginning in the 1920s). Growing commercial and transportation services around focal Salt Lake City also increased non-farm employment. A burgeoning number of second- and third-generation Mormons had already been forced to disperse to other urban areas seeking employment, especially to California and eastern cities. starting in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The same pressure to find occupations beyond agriculture also led many to embrace higher education, in accordance with one aspect of Mormon ideals. This educational alternative was pursued of necessity by my siblings; and I was the last, entering the university at Logan in 1941.


    This dominant reorientation of Latter-day Saint life from farm to town and city obviously entailed many modifications to the structure of domestic life and the pattern of worship in the new context. (Just as one example, the substitution of tithing being paid in cash versus formerly in kind.) My doctoral dissertation (completed at UCLA in 1961 in social anthropology, “Industrialization and Social Change”) analyzed some of those consequences in the light of the building of the Geneva Steel plant in Utah Valley in the 1940s that transformed the quintessential rural “Mormon villages” of earlier days. The new way of life saw a highly literate population learning to cope with white-collar employment and the anonymity of urban life.


    From the ‘50s forward the Church has proceeded steadily toward fulfilling its prophetic mission to carry the gospel to all the world, which would inevitably mean adapting its practices to fit into multiple cultures as a hosts.  In order to do that several internal and external situations or arrangements needed to change. Two major obstacles to the rise of the Church as a global phenomenon had to be modified. The first was to adopt a new perspective: the Church had to stop trying to iterate in detail the Wasatch Front pattern of organization everywhere else that it might spread. Starting with Pres. David O. McKay, and with renewed emphasis under Presidents Spencer W. Kimball and Gordon B. Hinckley, the perspective changed to cautiously decentralize the leadership. Priesthood holders of the office of Seventy were restructured from being merely an ineffectual body  scattered wherever the saints lived (I was a Seventy for 28 years, and we never knew clearly what we were to do) to a limited number of quorums of senior leaders available to assist full time the Quorum of the Twelve anyplace in the world. Many of the new Seventy were constituted as area presidencies (serving three to five year terms in a given area), organized so that every part of the world is covered. Those presidencies are tasked not only to supervise all church units in their areas but also to carry the gospel to all the non-members in their area as opportunities arise. A brilliant Chinese-American man, a former student and friend of mine (Ph.D., Oxford), is now Area President in Beijing, bearing responsibility not only for up to 25,000 members scattered in “house congregations” in mainland China but also tasked ultimately to spread the word as possible to the one-fifth or more of the world population in that area. The area president based in New Delhi (where our friend Gary Ricks from Santa Barbara was recently mission president) has not only LDS congregations under him but also another fifth of the world’s population, in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh for him and his fellows to figure out how to reach.


    The second decisive change was the modification 30 years ago of the 19th-century policy excluding Negroes/Blacks from the priesthood (no one has ever been sure where that came from or why).   Only with this change, along with the structure of adaptation to local societies, could the way be opened for Mormonism to become a truly world church.


    The point I make is that the Church has learned by experience, punctuated by occasional explicit revelation, to exist structurally in varied milieus, to serve its resident members, and to spread the gospel as possible to those not members in every one of at least 140 nations and territories, and beyond—Iceland as well as Singapore, Malta as much as Rarotonga, Bolivia in addition to Armenia, Mongolia (12,000 members, 10% of them returned missionaries!) and also Zimbabwe, Ghana and Kenya. Each setting has required adaptation to local political structures and strictures as well as national or local cultures. (In Israel, for instance, the sabbath day for Latter-day Saints is Saturday, the Jewish Shabat). In late-nineteenth-century Utah the central Church population had to work out compatibility with the U.S. capitalist power structure of that day, as well as subsequently with the more modern version. But nowhere is the Church “capitalist” per se or “socialist,” or “communist,” or whatever; as Jesus told Pilate, his kingdom was neither Roman nor anti-Roman nor anything else in terms of how the world structures power. As an organization today it is adaptable to any host society that allows a measure of (religious) choice to any portion of its population. This LDS adaptation has a long though checkered history beginning with the original “six” members (the number specified by New York law for a new organization). In addition to the continuous process of accommodation to U.S. society an especially noteworthy case was in East Germany, where (supposedly “capitalist”) Church authorities from Salt Lake City cultivated contacts in the communist state, even obtaining approval for constructing a temple before German unification took place. Our grandchildren as missionaries are now (or recently were) living with varied current church adaptation patterns in Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Italy, Mozambique, and Taiwan. (For example, in none of those countries is there a “Church Welfare system.”)


    In every land, however, the same gospel is taught. Priesthood and Relief Society instruction manuals in recent years have featured the compiled teachings of the various presidents of the Church, beginning with Joseph Smith and continuing through Gordon B. Hinckley. Each of those compilations demonstrates an essential unity and continuity of the leaders’ teachings for over 180 years, despite the local adaptations in operational procedures such I have been discussing. Those adaptations will continue, for conditions on the ground will continue to vary from place to place and time to time.


    Finally to reiterate, if after 90 years I have not articulated carefully phrased statements of what I wish to communicate to my children and others, then my best statement of those principles will have to be my life. So for me legacy time approaches. What have I learned and done that is worth the world’s  remembering? A colleague wrote to me recently: “your diligent and careful work over the years [has] led to this important milestone [codex].” That is an external view. More important to me are more private life-statements, my less public satisfactions. Notably, I have married, loved and respected two fine women and in cooperation with them have helped rear many healthy, talented, respectable children and their families. I have occupied a position in society that has been contributory to civic virtue and moral values. I have helped do the world’s work in a responsible way, and yet I have left (I hope) no significant social problems in my wake. I have finished much of the work I began, and this fact gives me satisfaction. I have no major regrets but plenty of lesser ones. I have been faithful to the responsibilities I chose to take on myself, to family(ies), to my descendants and ancestors, to community, to the wider world, and to God. I am not much different in regard to issues of faith toward the end of my life than I was as a 15-year-old. Then I knew God existed and loved me. I expected, and still expect, that by adhering to crucial truths I can expect a happy outcome, “eternal life,” at the end of my mortal existence, which cannot be far away.


    Dear son, may you be as blessed as I am at the end of your life.


    Love, Dad




    [edited to correct formatting errors]

  8. From JLS:


    Some Archaeology of the Lost Civilization of My Youth


    The Whale


    When I was between 8 and 10, I’d guess, I made a rare trip to Logan to see a spectacle. There were not many spectacles around Cache Valley in those days, but this promised to be a real one. I can’t recall who I rode with (of course my folks never owned a car) but somehow I went. The spectacle consisted of a whale, once alive and somehow preserved on an enclosed railroad flatcar. (There was no smell of an old fish anyway.) Admission couldn’t have cost more than 20 cents because I never had more than that. As we filed through the car with it is huge corpse, a guy offered a few observations about whales in general but never said where his one came from (let alone how it got, preserved, onto this railroad car!) And that was it. But worth every penny of the admission. (Yes, we were hard up for spectacles in those days.)


    A Rodeo


    About the same time I found myself one night at a rodeo in Logan at the County Fair.

    Again I have no idea how I got there, that is, with what friend’s family. That once was enough for the rest of my life.  One after another of those wranglers climbed onto a restrained horse who then proceeded to buck wildly until the guy fell off. Nobody ever stayed on until the horse gave up. Wild enthusiasm ensued from the spectators. The whole business struck me as pretty useless.  It couldn’t compare for interest with reading a good book from the Carnegie Library in town.


    Softball in Smithfield


    Around 1936 a cooperative community effort (funded in part, I think, by money from the federal government, that is, through the welcome New Deal of  President Roosevelt) provided a new, and newly-lit, softball field for night games in the center of town. A league was constituted of make-do teams with no particular degree of skill but lots of goodwill. I and many other youths flocked there to watch the action. It was “something to do,” at a time before television was available (although people would hurry home after the game to listen to “Amos and Andy: on the radio.) And no doubt the men (but no women) benefited from the sport. Several hundred folks would show up for these games, with consequent enhancement of community spirit.  




    As a junior in high school I had a lot of friends among all types of students and as a result was elected business manager of the yearbook, one of the student body offices (I have no recollection how that came about). I was apprenticed as an assistant the first year, but as a senior I was on my own. . The main task was to sell “advertisements” for the yearbook to merchants throughout the area. These were just courtesy ads on which we wasted little time designing and displaying. For me the horror was having to go to see the businessmen and beg them for $20 or $30 bucks for our ad fund to help pay for printing the yearbook. And I had no transportation and had four or five towns to hit up. That experience was enough to convince me that I could never be any sort of a salesman. And, fortunately, I never had to be one.


    Jim Thorpe


    My encyclopedia refers to this man as “the greatest American athlete of the 20th century.”  Born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma in 1888 he played football at the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Penn., under “Pop” Warner, who went on to be one of the leading college coaches in the U.S. Thorpe also excelled in baseball, basketball, boxing, lacrosse and swimming. In 1912 he won Olympic gold in the decathlon and pentathlon by wide margins but was denied the medals when it was discovered that he had played semi-pro baseball for a short time. He went on to become a professional football star and was the first president of the NFL. In retirement he struggled with poverty and alcoholism. In 1940 he was going around to high schools on what was known as the “lyceum circuit” putting on shows/appearances for a bit of money. He came to North Cache High that year. Our football coach, Jesse (?) Whiting knew Thorpe’s history and proposed to the (jocks”) Boosters Club (to which I belonged, inexplicably) to turn the event into an honor for him. Several tableaus were worked up where local athletes had mercury smeared on the bodies to represent Thorpe’s feats in various sports, with accompanying commentary. It all worked out well, and Thorpe was very gratified not to have to put on his usual spiel.


    Movies on Campus in Logan


    The summer (1941) that graduated from high school, at age 17, my brother Randall graduated from Utah State (Agricultural College in Logan, later Utah State University) in radio engineering. Because he had an in with the department, he learned of a summer job on campus that I could fill and to which he steered me as a last helpful brotherly act before he went off to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to a new job with the Navy.  (His girl friend, Brenda Van Orden, followed him a couple of months later, and they were married in Hawaii, being there in November when the Japanese attacked.) I got the summer job at the college even though I was not yet a student. (I did enroll in September in the same educational track Randall had followed, radio engineering, because I didn’t know anything better to do.) The task involved was to show educational movies where requested in classrooms. I would haul a projector and film across campus to a designated classroom, set it up, run it when the teacher said to, then clean up. Unfortunately the klunky equipment was not very well developed and fairly frequently broke down. More often the fragile films would break off. I would then have hastily to rethread the broken end through the machine and start again at the point. Fortunately I had nothing to do with the ultimate repairs, which somebody else had to deal with. I am glad this was not a winter job!

               Other NYA-funded jobs I did included janitoring offices in the Old Main building after hours and serving as a stockroom clerk for a U.S. Navy electronic technician training program (after the War started) who were going eventually to work on the newly invented radar equipment (which they were not allowed to even refer to). I also taught a Morse Code (for radio transmission) practice class, having attained a rather precocious knowledge of the material after only a short exposure.

               These various jobs required my managing to get from my home in Smithfield to Logan, seven miles away and back again. I usually rode the interurban electric railway (Utah-Idaho Central) but hitch-hiked home in the evening. (This was at the close of the Great Depression when nearly anybody driving a car would out of consideration for those “down on their luck” give a ride when anyone “thumbed” in the approved manner and place.)

  9. When Dad did his excursion to Mexico/Guatemala in  1953 he was a mere 29 year old freakin' kid. I can say that because on Saturday I will be a freakin' 63 years old man.  What dramatic wealth to be shared? What a humble position assumed. What a man.

  10. Just today,




    Over many years you have documented my writings and other aspects of my "biography" in computer file form  I deeply appreciate that. You have told me from time to time how those files can be accessed. The fact is, however, that I do not recall/know those how-tos nor even how to locate your past instructions about it. I suppose I am pretty much done adding to them.


    Attached are some further pieces that I would  like you to add to my "Reminiscences" file, and with that consider it closed. (My memory is now so unreliable that what more I might say is probably unreliable anyhow.)


    I will have one further publication to list. In the January 2016 issue of The Ensign, the Church's magazine, a piece will appear that is a shortened version of my piece written a few years ago entitled "Mormon's Sources." I am sure this item in January will be my last publication. Besides it marks 65 years since my first publication, a nice round number to quit on. I will enter that item, when it appears, in my Resume/Publication list and send the final version to you to conclude that file.


    Meanwhile some of my Christianson children and grandchildren have enquired how they can access the files you have prepared on me. (I don't mean the Sorenson Forum.) Would you please prepare a message of instruction in that regard and send it to me to forward to them?


     Love,   Dad
  11. I envy you.


    I would love to have chickens -- and enough land to raise them on.


    But here I am deraling the thread!


    Got 1½ acres here ... plenty for foraging/scratchin' chickens. Im guessin' that on your invitation ... I'll hang out on my own acreage and not burden the rest of you with my thoughts or concerns. Don't forget to wash the eggs after harvesting 'em. Salmomella is a killer. Just a friendly FYI.

  12. I, personally, have serious issues with the LDS Church ... on a various number of levels.


    Even my dad in the early 1980's was the target of almost obscene personal resistance by Elder Mark E. Peterson. I'm certain that it caused him (my Dad) a great deal of personal stress. Upon asking my Dad about how his An Ancient American Setting was even published, despite the angry objection from Elder Mark E. Peterson ... he frankly said ... "I frankly outlived the man." Hell ... is THAT what it takes? Where any is the prophetic UMPH? Bruce R. McConkie comes to mind (with regard to wrong "Mormon Doctrine").


    What issues might you have with the policies of the LDS Church? Dad kinda won out on a lifelong scholastic battle about Book of Mormon events being restricted to Mesoamerica. Good for Dad. I totally agree with the sum of his very thoughtful and thorough evaluations.


    What other serious issues still deserve to be resolved?

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