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A class for questioning members; famed mural finds new home

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Do you have questions? Answer this class?

Essays on the gospel of the church tackle some of the thornier aspects of its history and teaching

Did founder Joseph Smith translate the faith’s key scripture, the Book of Mormon, by looking at a rock in a hat? Did members abandon polygamy in 1890? Did Brigham Young order the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Do Latter-day Saints believe in Heavenly Mother and that man can be like God?

These provocative pieces addressed questions raised by, among others, skeptical outsiders and committed critics.

Now, a new institute class aims to do the same — for young Latter-day Saints.

This course, titled “Answering My Gospel Questions,” is intended to help students examine and discuss their specific questions and learn how to find answers from reliable sources.

“This course is part of a larger effort to meet the needs of young adults in an inviting and relevant way,” Chad Webb, seminary and institute administrator, said in a news release. “This will allow them to address current questions and issues with fidelity.”

The first lesson acknowledges that “many” young adults have questions about church doctrine, teaching, policy, and history. “This lesson will provide students with an opportunity to explore the various resources provided by the church to address their questions,” the teacher manual says. “They will consider why these sources are trustworthy.”

Sources matter Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, recently told The Salt Lake Tribune that those researching church history, for example, should stick to primary sources and the work of professional historians.

“See the real thing and make your own judgment,” he said. “Don’t rely on what someone says about it on the Internet.”

The sixth lesson, on diversity and unity in global faith, reminds students that they “belong to an international church that embraces different cultures, races, nationalities and languages.”

It includes a video of Black Latter-day Saint Darius Gray, co-founder of the Genesis Group, explaining the beauty of diversity.

“If you look around, you will not see one type of flower in one color. … You have all the diversity of the field, every variety of plant and animal, and God is the author, whether of the fish of the sea or the fowl of the air. God loves diversity,” Gray said. “He made me as I am. You, who you are, as you are. Taste it. Be proud of it. … Know that God has given you space for what you were and are so that you can learn and share the positive aspects of that experience with others. Variety is good.”

The next eight lessons focus on topics chosen by class members. They are encouraged to turn to resources found in the church’s “newsroom, scripture guide, general conference, life help, or topic pages.”

These topics pages cover topics from abortion to Zion, clothing to the Godhead, polygamy to the priesthood, to words of wisdom for women in the church.

Blogger Emily Jensen at Common Consent points to the new class as a possible response to — and help — young people leaving their faith.

“The church realizes that a tsunami is headed their way,” he writes, “if this new institute class is any indicator.”

He also discussed it on the latest “Mormon Land” podcast

World’s Fair mural finds a permanent home

(Courtesy of Brigham Young University-Idaho) This “Purpose of Life” mural, which was displayed at the 1970 Osaka World Expo. Now on display at the BYU-Idaho Center.

The church’s “Purpose of Life” mural is being recreated.

The well-known artwork, which turned heads and some hearts at the New York World’s Fair in the mid-1960s, is now part of a permanent exhibit at the Brigham Young University-Idaho Center.

It joins the Japanese “Purpose of Life” mural that captivated and enthralled visitors to the 1970 Osaka World Expo.

“The exhibits at the Mormon Pavilion really impacted how people perceived the church and it led to a lot of growth for the church,” BYU-Idaho Jacob Spori Art Gallery curator Kiong Dabell said in a news release from the Rexburg School. “These events forever changed the concept of the worldwide church.”

Images from the mural — depicting a person’s journey from a precocious state with God, through the pivotal moments of death and final return to the hands of the Almighty — have appeared frequently in church manuals and pamphlets, and a short film, “Man’s Search for Happiness,” screened at the New York Fair. Converted has become a staple over the years.The original movie is still available online as a 1986 remake.

We thank you, O God, for the new song?

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A young woman plays a hymn on the piano from the church’s Spanish hymn book. Many members have ideas about what they would like to see in the creation of new stanzas.

When the church’s long-awaited and long-debated revised hymnals arrive in the pews, many Latter-day Saints want to see not only new songs, but new tunes to old tunes.

A blogger, for example, would welcome a verse tweaked to one of the standards of faith.

“I’m not really a fan of the song ‘We thank you, O God, for a prophet’ that celebrates how evil people are going to make their appearance,” argues Ziff, a writer’s pen name for the Daughters of Zelophehad website. “I’m thinking here of these lines: ‘The wicked who fight against Zion / Must be vanquished in the end.’ [and] ‘Though those who reject this glad tiding / Shall never know such happiness.’

The author sees these phrases as holdovers from the church’s persecuted past, adding that “they feel out of place” in the current climate.

From the Tribune

• In this week’s “Mormon Land,” Emily Jensen, web editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and her 17-year-old daughter, Cecily, discuss why young Latter-day Saints leave the faith, how parents should respond, Discuss it. And what the church can do to help.

Listen to the podcast.

(Courtesy; Copyright © 2022 Noah Van Sciver) This panel from “Joseph Smith and the Mormons” by Noah Van Sciver explains Joseph Smith’s plural marriage to his wife Emma Smith.

• With the release this month of “Joseph Smith and the Mormons,” readers can explore the church founder’s life — and artwork — by acclaimed graphic novelist Noah Van Syver, who grew up a Latter-day Saint and admits there are “discomforts” in Smith’s story. Part “which I really don’t know how to make comfortable.”

Read the story.

• Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency that governs the church, warned that “the religious right cannot be absolute,” as he issued an impassioned plea from Rome Wednesday for worldwide pressure to protect religious freedom.

Read the story.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oakes, First Counselor in the Governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered a keynote address at the Notre Dame Religious Freedom Summit in Rome on July 20, 2022.

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson tackles a big question: Where do LGBTQ people fit into Mormonism’s eternal plan?

Read his column.

• After BYU’s speech program stopped offering gender-affirming voice therapy to transgender clients, its accreditation came into question. But a national panel decided the school still met its standards.

Read the story.

• Religion News Service columnist Jana Rees President Russell M. Nelson sees efforts to use the “Mormon” moniker as another step toward integrating the faith into the religious mainstream.

Read his column.

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