BYU to Produce Thomas B. Marsh Film

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LDS Church spokesman Myron Brunchmeyer has announced that the BYU Media Department will produce an historically accurate film on the life of Thomas B. Marsh, an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Thomas B. Marsh is often used in Church Sunday School lessons as an example of someone who became offended and left the Church over something trivial. George A. Smith claimed in an 1864 sermon that Marsh had left the church because of a dispute between his wife and other Mormon women over a milk cow (milk strippings).

Brunchmeyer said that the film will show that the reasons were more complex. He gave the following overview.

By early June 1838, some of the more zealous Mormons in Far West, Missouri, led by Sampson Avard, formed a society which came to be known as the “Danites.” According to Marsh, these men swore oaths to “support the heads of the church in all things that they say or do, whether right or wrong.”

Two of these Danites, Jared Carter and Dimick B. Huntington, proposed at a meeting that the society should kill dissenters. Marsh and fellow moderate, John Corrill, spoke vigorously against the motion.

Sidney Rigdon issued his “Salt Sermon” on the following Sunday, in which he likened the dissenters to salt that had lost its savor and was “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Within a week the dissenters had fled the county.

Although concerned about these events, Marsh remained in the church until late October. According to his sworn testimony, Marsh claimed that a Mormon invasion of Daviess County and the subsequent looting and burning of non-Mormon settlements, including Gallatin, the county seat, were the acts that caused him to leave. Marsh stated:

“A company of about eighty of the Mormons, commanded by a man fictitiously named Captain Fearnot [David W. Patten], marched to Gallatin. They returned and said they had run off from Gallatin twenty or thirty men and had taken Gallatin, had taken one prisoner and another had joined the company. I afterwards learned from the Mormons that they had burned Gallatin, and that it was done by the aforesaid company that marched there. The Mormons informed me that they had hauled away all the goods from the store in Gallatin, and deposited them at the Bishop’s storehouses at Adam-on-diahmon”

On October 19, 1838, the day after Gallatin was burned, Thomas B. Marsh and fellow apostle Orson Hyde left the association of the Church. Marsh drafted and signed a legal affidavit against Joseph Smith on October 24, 1838, which Hyde also signed. In addition to reporting on the organization of the Danites and on the events in Daviess County, Marsh reported rumors that the Danites had set up a “destroying company” and that “if the people of Clay & Ray made any movement against them, this destroying company was to burn Liberty & Richmond.” He further stated his belief that Joseph Smith planned “to take the State, & he professes to his people to intend taking the U.S. & ultimately the whole world.”

Marsh was rebaptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City in 1857.

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– Tom Irvine

Revised LDS Hymnal Planned

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Brother Myron Brunchmeyer of the LDS Public Affairs Department has announced plans to expand the current hymnal.  The First Presidency has tasked Mormon Tabernacle Choir Director Mack Wilberg to lead this effort.

Brother Brunchmeyer opened his recent press conference with the scripture:

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.  (D&C 25:12)

The first hymn to added will be the choral favorite “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” by Robert Robinson.  This hymn had been included in past hymnals, but was omitted from the current 1985 version.

Brother Brunchmeyer noted that Robert Robinson was a prominent 18th century Baptist Pastor.  He explained that inclusion of this hymn is part of the Church’s effort to reinforce its message that Latter-days Saints are Christian.

Other traditional Christian hymns to be added include:

“Bringing in the Sheaves,” written in 1874 by Knowles Shaw and inspired by Psalm 126:6

“Shall We Gather at the River,” written by American poet and gospel music composer Robert Lowry.

“Amazing Grace,” a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton.

“Ave Maria” by Shubert

Brother Brunchmeyer also said that these favorite hymns will help visitors and recent converts from other Christian faiths to feel more comfortable in LDS Sacrament meetings.

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On a personal note, I am petitioning for a restoration of the quirky hell-fire and damnation hymn “Though in the Outward Church Below,” which was in previous hymnals but omitted from the 1985 green book. The words to this hymn were written by John Newton, who also wrote “Amazing Grace.”

– Tom Irvine

BYU-Idaho Fashion Trends

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BYU-Idaho President Kim B. Clark recently sent a message to students reminding them of modesty:

“You may wonder why the president of BYU-Idaho would spend time on these small things. Here is the reason: The dress and grooming standards are one of those small things on which big things depend. Obedience in the small things creates a spirit of obedience in all things. And obedience brings the blessings of heaven, to you individually and to the whole campus community.”

Students have responded positively to Clark’s instruction.   Hannah Bellflower is the Relief Society President of a local Rexburg student ward.  She has organized pioneer-themed sewing workshops for her ward sisters.  The women will display their handiwork in an upcoming fashion show.  They will also wear their pioneer dresses as they go to their classes, devotionals, and Church meetings in and around the BYU-I campus.

Several other student wards are joining in this effort.  Samantha Trestleton is a fifth-generation descendant of pioneers who crossed the plains in the Martin-Willie Handcart company.  She is also a senior physics major who has been accepted into Stanford’s graduate program for particle physics.   Samantha said that it is as important for sisters today to learn sewing and other domestic skills as it is to learn calculus and quantum mechanics.

In addition, BYU-I’s student paper, the Scroll, reports that the upcoming Fall Homecoming Dance will have a pioneer theme, with square dancing and music provided by fiddlers.

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Other students are taking a variation of this approach.  Some are forming Dickensians signing groups in preparation for the Christmas Choral Festival, where they will dress in Victorian-era outfits.  Sister Madison Hillmont notes that many of the early Saints came from England after receiving the restored gospel from Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, and other apostles.  She said that the Victorian dresses will thus be consistent with the pioneer theme.

– Tom Irvine

BYU-I Successfully Crossbreeds Corn Plant and Apricot Tree

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Guest Post by Dalton Willard

REXBURG, Idaho— In what botanists around the world are calling a “nice surprise,” a research team comprised of BYU-Idaho faculty and students announced in a press conference yesterday the creation of Prunus redenbacunae, a new species of apricot that produces delicious popping corn in lieu of its usual succulent fruit.

Jennifer Christensen, a senior studying horticulture and one of the project leaders, told reporters that she could vividly recall the moment she realized the experiment had been successful.

“I came into the lab very early one morning and looked out the observation window, and what did I see? Popcorn, popping on the apricot tree!” Christensen said.

Kevin Arnold, Horticulture department head and senior advisor to the project, told reporters that the he believed the fruit-vegetable hybrid would fill a previously-unoccupied niche in the culinary field.

“There are many applications for this new species of Prunus armeniaca,” Arnold said. “For instance, I could take an armful and make a treat. A popcorn ball, which as you can see, has a very sweet aroma. This is just one of the numerous uses I anticipate for this new foodstuff.”

President Kim B. Clark, the concluding speaker at the press conference, expressed his appreciation for the Horticulture Department, which in 2013 completed a challenging five-year expansion program.

Clark said the reorganization began in 2008 when Gordon B. Hinckley, then the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, directed campus administrators to drastically increase the amount of greenhouse facilities on the campus.

“The Prophet said to plant a garden,” Clark told reporters. “To which [the Horticulture faculty] replied, ‘So that’s what we’ll do.’ The success that we see today is a result of that willingness to adhere to inspired counsel. We are now reaping the fruit of the seeds of obedience that were sown half a decade ago.”

This is not the first noteworthy achievement of the Horticulture Department, which in 2003 successfully produced a strain of miniaturized purple pansies which now line garden rows worldwide.

Strengthening the Church Members Committee

LDS Mormon Missionary Free Kit

My second cousin’s former mission companion’s younger brother works in the LDS Church Office Building (COB).

The younger brother has said the Church is concerned about improving its public image in conjunction with the “Meet the Mormons” film and similar efforts. The Brethren are also concerned about the negative image that the Strengthening the Church Members Committee (SCMC) has received in the press and in blogs. Thus the SCMC will soon be renamed as the “Scrapbooking the Church Members Committee” to better reflect its true mission and to clear up unfortunate misunderstandings.

From now on, the SCMC will only collect positive information on the Saints, such as their testimonies, service projects, achievements, etc. The information will indeed be preserved in scrapbooks. As the angels in Heaven record a brother or sister’s righteous deeds, so will the SCMC on Earth. The scrapbooks will be stored securely in the Granite Mountain Records Vault.

The SCMC will then forward packets containing copies of information on those members to their local leaders. The stake presidents and bishops can then recognize these Saints and personally express gratitude to them. Such positive affirmations have been found to greatly enhance the morale and self-esteem of the members, thus fulfilling the great potential of the Church to become like the City of Enoch.

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)

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– Tom Irvine

Cheshire Cat Story to become Doctrine & Covenants Section 139

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President Thomas S. Monson enjoys reading. One of his favorite books is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  President Monson has oft quoted the story of Alice’s encounter with the Cheshire Cat. These references can be found by searching on “Cheshire” at lds.org.

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When faced with significant choices, how do we decide? Do we succumb to the promise of momentary pleasure? To our urges and passions? To the pressure of our peers?

Let us not find ourselves as indecisive as is Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You will remember that she comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom Alice asks, “Which path shall I follow?”

The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”

President Thomas S. Monson, The Three Rs of Choice, October 2010.

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The First Presidency has determined that this story has been given so many times in General Conference that it is now time to add it as canonized scripture to the Standard Works. The story will be given in expanded form with further instructions to the Saints. A formal announcement is expected in the April 2015 General Conference.

The First Presidency has said that this will be in the spirit of:

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118)

In addition, there are rumors that selections from C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, and other writers will also be canonized.

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As an aside, a Church focus group of three dozen cat owners showed wholehearted support for this addition. But some dog owners are demanding equal recognition for “man’s best friend.”

– Tom Irvine

Sister Kate Kelly to Host Reception for Elder F. Whitney Clayton in Kenya

Sister Kate Kelly holding a wooden map of Kenya.

Sister Kate Kelly holding a wooden map of Kenya.

After the close of General Conference, Elder F. Whitney Clayton and his wife Kathy will embark on a tour of LDS Church units in East Africa.   Elder Clayton has said that the Brethren are excited about the number of Africans receiving the gospel and being baptized into the Church.  He is eager to meet with these members and their leaders in person and to extend greetings on behalf of the First Presidency.

Elder Clayton recalled that Joseph and Mary took baby Jesus to the African nation of Egypt, where they dwelt for some time.  “Jesus loves the African people” will be the theme of his tour.

Elder Clayton’s itinerary includes Nairobi, Kenya, where Sister Kate Kelly and her husband Neil will host a reception for Elder Clayton and his wife.  Sister Kelly is organizing a performance of traditional dances for the event.  Members will perform dances from Kenya’s five major regions.

These include:

Maasai dances of Northern Kenya
Coastal Chakacha dances
Kamba dances from the Eastern Province
Mwomboko dances from the Central Region
Isukuti dances from the Western Region

Sister Kelly said that she and her husband are looking forward to “breaking bread” with the Claytons, which in this case will be “chapati,” an unleavened flat bread which originated in India and which has become a favorite in Kenya.

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– Tom Irvine