Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Do "Mormons" Believe?

1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

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

13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.


Laura's Last Sunday


Laura F is surrounded by YSA Branch RS members
including Dalia, Shirene, Alysa, Emmy, Jenny, Rachel & Alyssa
A new adventure for Laura--who will be missed by all--is beginning next week. Good Luck! And God Bless You! Come back to visit often! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scotcheroos & Skittles

Scotcheroos or Chocolate-topped Butterscotch Dessert Bars
Thank you, Katie, for finding this for me!

Ingredients:
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Cocoa Krispies or 6 cups Rice Krispies ceral
1 package (6 ounces or 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch chips

Directions:
1. Place corn syrup and sugar into 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated. Press mixture into 13x9x2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm. Cut into 2x1-inch bars when cool.
Note: Before measuring corn syrup, coat measuring cup with cooking spray--syrup will pour easily out of cup.

I served these this week to our YSA Institute students along with regular Rice Krispies bars and they disappeared! I also had a bag of Skittles that someone gave us and served them, too. Surprisingly, all the males in the room ATTACKED them! Who knew Skittles was a guy-guilty-pleasure??!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Role Model

This sweet missionary is serving her FOURTH mission!!! She teaches YSA Institute and Pathway here in Jersey! Her companion on this mission is her home ward visiting teaching companion who is serving her SECOND mission. Both of these volunteers are in their 80's!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Female Episcopal Priest Visits a Mormon Temple Open House

Liberty Missouri LDS Temple

As I stood in front of the new Mormon Temple in Liberty, Mo., it struck me as ironic that close to 175 years ago, Mormons were forced out of this same state.

Whereas the Missouri public once urged their governor to force Joseph Smith and his followers out of the area surrounding Kansas City, Mormons began to return to the region in the 1900s, eventually gathering in such large numbers that the Church organization decided the region needed a temple.

Which is why I came to visit.

Latter Day Saints restrict temple access to members of their denomination who have proven themselves to be faithful and dedicated adherents. Because Mormons believe temples are the most sacred places on earth, one needs to be prepared to enter them by being an active member of the Church. (In contrast, chapels, where Mormons hold Sunday worship, are open to everyone. Temples are used only for certain rituals and are not open on Sunday so that Mormons can be at their chapel services.)

When a new temple is built, anyone may enter prior to its dedication. So, always curious to learn about the faith of others, I didn't want to miss an opportunity to see a site normally closed off to an Episcopal priest like myself.

My visit seemed all the more timely because Mormons have been in the news a lot lately, and so have their temples. Elizabeth Smart recently married her husband in a temple in Hawaii during a ceremony called a sealing, in which the couple and close Mormon friends and family gather together to witness God joining the couple together for time and all eternity. In less complimentary news, Elie Wiesel took Mitt Romney to task for his faith's practice of baptisms of the dead, which also take places within temple walls.

These headlines, in addition to my own curiosity, motivated my visit to the new temple in Kansas City, and with my curiosity came some questions:

What does a Mormon temple look like, and what happens inside it?
Would I feel God's presence in this space, even though it's not a space that's sacred for me?

Before I go any further -- and because I know it's the question at the front of your mind, dear reader -- no one tried to convert me. In fact, everyone was very welcoming. Members volunteered en masse, clad in pressed suits and dresses. They offered guided tours, bent down to put protective boots onto my feet so my shoes wouldn't dirty the carpeting, and offered me a chewy snickerdoodle at the end of the tour. They showed me every space from changing rooms to sealing rooms where marriages take place and answered every question I asked, no matter how challenging or controversial.

And in the end, yes, I did have a God moment.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Mormons go to temples to be close to God. Much like the ancient Jewish people believed God lived at the heart of the temple in Jerusalem, Mormons believe that followers can meet God most intimately in the temple. The reasons they visit temples vary: In addition to having their marriages sealed in the temple, Mormons also have sealing ceremonies that unite parents and children for time and all eternity. Others come to participate in baptisms of the dead, which are intended to be used only for deceased family members of active Mormons, though the Church acknowledged in the wake of Elie Wiesel's comments that others -- such as Anne Frank -- have had baptisms performed on their behalf. These baptisms are not intended to convert the deceased but rather to give them a choice in the afterlife to embrace the revelation of Mormonism: Assuming an afterlife exists, the baptized deceased are free to say yes or no as they please. Finally, Mormons come to the temple to receive their endowment, a ritual ceremony where followers make promises to God and receive knowledge about God.

Unlike a cathedral, which is primarily composed of one large worship space, a Mormon temple has a variety of smaller rooms that serve different purposes. There are sealing rooms and rooms for men and women to change into white clothes (every male or female Mormon who enters a dedicated temple wears the same white clothing) and instruction rooms where individuals learn about God in preparation for receiving their endowments.

It was in these rooms, and the final Celestial Room, where I caught a glimpse of God.

You see, as part of our final stop on the tour, our guide took us to a room with a mural of the Missouri countryside painted by a local artist. The room had earthy colors, browns and greens and rows of cushioned seats. This was the first instruction room. From there, we took a step up -- as if ascending closer to heaven -- and entered a second room, similar to the first in shape and size but all white. This was the second instruction room. When we left that room, we took another step up and entered the Celestial Room, a space designed to give those who sit in it a foretaste of heaven.

It was a simple room yet ornate at the same time, all white with sparkling crystal chandeliers, large mirrors, and plump sofas and chairs reminiscent of those that must have existed in Joseph Smith's day. Our guide asked us to be silent and said we were welcome to sit wherever we liked and take a moment to pray. So I sat down on a sofa that seemed to envelop me, folded my hands on my lap and closed my eyes.

Like Dante, who saw God face to face but had no words to describe the encounter, I have few words to describe what I felt in that moment. But I can say this: While it did not convert me, nor did it make me want to be a Mormon, the silence and peace I felt reminded me of the many other times I've felt close to God, whether in an Episcopal cathedral, in a clear, warm ocean or in my ratty old car. And because of that, I came to understand why temples exist and why they are so important to Mormons across the world.

And along the lines of Mormons being across the world: As I wrote earlier, Mormons were ironically driven out of Liberty, Missouri and the surrounding region nearly 175 years ago. It cannot be lost on those who visit the new temple that almost two centuries later, Mormons are often still held in suspicion by society, but they are far from being as vulnerable as they were in their early years. They are building stronger foundations every day, and striving, as they do so, to catch a glimpse of heaven.
Danielle Tumminio is
an Episcopal priest,
life coach, and writer.
She wrote this piece
for the Huffington Post
on 4/22/12.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Share the Good News

Today our Stake HC speaker used a New York City transit slogan with a twist.

He said:
"If you SEE an opportunity,
SAY something about the gospel of Jesus Christ." 

Monday, April 16, 2012

THE REAL LIFE Book of Mormon Musical


“At Age 19, From Utah to Uganda or Study Abroad, Mormon Style” from NY Times 13 April 2012
LAST summer, Jared Dangerfield was simply 19, skateboarding the streets of suburban Salt Lake City, plugged into the Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu. He had just wrapped up his year at Utah State University, where there was a girl he liked to make laugh.

Memories of college and family are kept in a photo album his sister gave him when they said goodbye, but it is rarely looked at.

“Little time to remember home,” he says. “We kind of have to stay away from the world.” Gone are his friends. Gone is his given name. The next time he will see his mother’s face is 2013. Until then, he is Elder Dangerfield, as it says on his name tag.

Each day he rises with the African sun to say his prayers before venturing into the urban wilderness of Kampala, Uganda, a churning kaleidoscope of motorcycles, street urchins, vegetable carts and pterodactyl-like storks that circle office towers and lampposts. They orbit above him as he makes his way up and down the muddy hills of the capital city, careful to keep his black pants and white shirt clean, scanning faces in search of those who will listen to him speak of his faith. His Mormon faith.

As one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, with 14 million followers; with a hit Broadway musical about two 19-year-old Utahans in Uganda; and with a member, Mitt Romney, poised to challenge Barack Obama for the presidency, Mormonism is basking in the mainstream spotlight. The church gained nearly 400,000 members in 2010, about 70 percent of them converted by college-age missionaries like Elder Dangerfield.

Missionary work is not just a fundamental tenet of the faith; it is also a well-oiled operation. An army of 52,000 young Mormons proselytize around the world, from Boise, Idaho, to Mozambique, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In modern-day Mormon culture, men are expected to take up evangelism on their 19th birthday and serve for two years; less commonly, women enlist when they turn 21. Missionary work is not mandatory, but it is popular.

Eric Hawkins, a church spokesman, describes it as “something we hope all Mormon young men will want to do — a time of meaningful personal sacrifice, service, testing and growth.”

It is certainly a time of sacrifice. Missionaries are slingshot into an intensive, airtight and sometimes lonely schedule of prayer, scripture study and door-to-door proselytizing six days a week, 52 weeks a year.
They are to abstain from virtually every earthly pleasure—not just the usual temptations prohibited under Mormonism, like premarital sex, alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea, but also magazines, television and music not sanctioned by the church. They can call home two days a year, on Christmas and Mother’s Day. (When suicide bombings ripped through Kampala during the 2010 World Cup, killing more than 70 people, including an American citizen, the missionaries still were not allowed a call.) E-mailing, through a secure Internet server, is for Mondays.

“Two of my best friends back home are not members,” says Christian Rennie, a former offensive tackle for the Southern Utah University football team who is nearing the end of his tenure in Uganda. “They e-mailed me they were spending the weekend in Vegas. I just don’t ask for details.”
Instead, they burrow deep into scripture and prayer, feeding off the energy the concentration foments.

“I’ve had very familiar feelings in a lesson as I have had in a game—the excitement, the energy, feeling like helping your team score a touchdown,” Elder Rennie says. He is walking down a narrow dirt path on the outskirts of the city, on the way to a lesson with a new recruit. The storks munch on rubbish scattered across a field nearby.
Of going back home, he says, “It’s going to be weird.”
Not too long ago they were all in college. Michael Zackery Lee squeezed in a semester at Westminster College, a liberal arts college in Salt Lake City. James Davis, with the strong handshake, was three semesters into a veterinarian track at Utah State University. At Utah State, 500 students formally pause their studies each year. Ninety percent return, and the university works to help prepare them to re-integrate, including offering an intensive math refresher. Missionaries have been able to pass proficiency tests and get college credit for foreign language.

At Brigham Young University, the Missionary Training Center welcomes hundreds of new missionaries every week from around the world. For up to 12 weeks, they study doctrine, learn how to teach the gospel and hone their communication skills. Some 50 languages are taught at the center, in Provo, Utah, which can accommodate 4,000 learners and has a gymnasium, medical clinic and bookstore. Training centers in other countries also prepare students to serve in one of the church’s roughly 350 missions. They can be sent anywhere. Mitt Romney, for example, served in France.

“I thought I was going to Nebraska,” Elder Dangerfield says, his rosy cheeks betraying a sunburn. “The first week I was here I thought, ‘Where am I?’ ”
First he was in barren northern Uganda for six months, a smudge above the Equator, where malaria and oppressive heat reign. He picked up bits and pieces of the language, Acholi. Now, he traverses the streets of the capital with Michael Chiromo, from Zimbabwe.
Missionaries are paired, six weeks at a time, with a companion—in missionary lingo, the first companion is called “father,” and the second is called “mother.” They stay “within sight and hearing of” each other, according to the handbook they all keep near. “Never be alone,” it warns. Companions will study, pray and proselytize together. Together, they will be caught in populist street demonstrations and taste strange foods—grasshoppers, dog. Rather than with the residents of their host country, where contact consists of managed conversation about their faith, perhaps the most cultural exchange happens among the missionaries themselves.

In Kampala, companions room with another pair in a modern two-bedroom apartment rented by the church. They decorate their tabletops with toiletries and church literature, and their walls with glossy pictures of Mormon temples in the United States.

There is not much time for recreation. At 8 a.m. they are at their desks for an hour of personal scripture study. They then study with one another for an hour. By 10 a.m. they are out the door, visiting homes of families they already work with or scouring the streets for new recruits. Sometimes it is 9 p.m. before they return home, where they pray, compile the day’s results, cook dinner and switch off the lights by 10:30.

It is nearly dusk as Elder Dangerfield and Elder Chiromo try to squeeze two last hours into the day. They are positioned near a power station, the sun melting in oranges behind the transmission lines. Elder Dangerfield spots a well-dressed man walking down a hill, and decides to follow.
“We are from The Church of Jesus Christ and we have come to share,” he says with a smile, followed by friendly introductions. The missionaries talk as they walk. The man has seen missionaries before, though he has not engaged with them.
“I come from a Catholic foundation,” he says. “I accept Christ as my personal savior. How can you move me from that?”

“We are not here to move you to another church,” Elder Dangerfield explains, scampering behind him underneath a grove of banana trees. “We just want to share.”
The threesome turn a corner, and chants of “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” break out from the porch of the man’s home. A swarm of youngsters are soon upon them. Ugandan culture emphasizes hospitality, and the man introduces the adults of his family—Hope, Maria and the portly Tuba.

“Hey! Very nice!” Elder Dangerfield exclaims, breaking the ice with laughter. “For me, I am Elder Dangerfield.”
“Field marshal of the gospel!” the man teases.
The house is too small for guests, the man says, but the missionaries are free to speak to his family in the yard. The missionaries ask for a convenient time for a more serious discussion. An appointment is set for Thursday evening.

Mormons are only one of a number of religious groups vying for local hearts and minds in this predominantly Christian nation. Missionaries brought the faith to colonial Uganda in the 19th century, and it became a popular alternative to indigenous practices, including witchcraft. Today, ministries pepper the country, and religious conversion is common. There is even a community of Jews in the country’s east who preferred the Old Testament to the New Testament when missionaries introduced them to both.
Currently, there are only about 5,000 Mormons in Uganda, less than 1 percent of the population. What is noteworthy, however, is that a third of those were converted last year. The number of missionaries stationed in Uganda has also grown, to 120 from 70 two years ago. The missionaries say they can net a dozen new contacts from the street in a couple of hours, and visit five homes in a day. They estimate each is responsible for around 40 baptisms by the time service is up.

Elder Davis says that at the Mormon mission in Latvia, where a friend was recently based, there were zero baptisms.

“It’s a lot harder to teach the people in Europe than the people in Africa,” adds Elder Lee, Elder Davis’s companion. “It’s Africa’s time.”

The Mormon brand of Christianity is as much a peculiarity in Uganda as in some parts of the United States. In 2010, from its headquarters in Salt Lake City, the church began a nationwide public-awareness campaign declaring “I’m a Mormon,” hoping to dispel misconceptions about the religion.

“Her family says she married a devil worshiper,” a recent convert complains about his in-laws. (In fact, Mormons worship Jesus Christ, who, according to the sacred Book of Mormon, visited ancient America.)

“Why don’t you have the cross?” asks a Ugandan who is considering joining. (Mormons object to the crucifixion—and death—as a symbol of their Christianity.)

“The Mormons were founded by some guy who found stones or something,” a middle-age man calls out from the driver’s seat as he delicately maneuvers his car over a pothole. Elder Dangerfield and Elder Chiromo approach, their clothes betraying their identity.

“You are thinking of Joseph Smith!” Elder Dangerfield calls back.

“Yes,” the man says, “and that they allow polygamy? Do they still do so?” (They do not--the church banned the practice in the 1890s—and the stones were seer stones, which Smith used to gain his revelations.)

The young men take it all in stride—the prickly questions,the cultural misunderstandings, the rain and the cancellations.
Through it all, their own lives are changing. Their personal values sharpen, and they begin to understand whom they want to be when they return to college.
Elder Dangerfield wants to focus on youth or special-needs social work. One family he visits grapples with an alcoholic father. The missionaries teach of service, loyalty and respect, and the man shows bouts of promise. But then he reverts. “We’ve talked to the dad a lot, and he even went one week with being sober and we were, like, sweet,” Elder Dangerfield says. “Then he went to the village and hasn’t come back.”
As a freshman, Elder Lee wanted to pursue international business, but now he is thinking of something that will keep him close to his family, possibly accounting, which he picked up as an assistant for the mission president in Uganda.

“I have learned more about myself in the last 20 months than I could if I was back home,” he says. “You begin to understand what really matters in your life.”
He had converted to Mormonism at 16 for a girl he was dating. “I was a pretty messed-up kid,” he says. “I wasn’t doing drugs or anything, but I was a huge punk.” Selfish, he says. Going to church sparked a change. When he left for his mission, his mother could not understand what he was doing. But she has come to accept her son’s choice, Elder Lee says, and wants to start going to church with him when he gets back.

It isn’t always easy leaving home. The missionaries say some aren’t able to complete their missions. They call it “trunking,” being antsy to go home.

Just ask Elder Lee. “Between six months and 18 months everyone forgets you,” he says. “All your friends back home, they stop writing you. That’s when the umbilical cord is cut, that’s when you start realizing a lot of different things.”

For Elder Davis, the cord was cut on a Christmas. He phoned his girlfriend of more than five years. She told him she had met someone else and was going to be married. “It happens a lot on missions,” he says.

Life is further tested by the straitjacket of rules. “Listen only to music that is consistent with the sacred spirit of your calling,” the handbook reads. “Do not telephone, write, e-mail or accept calls or letters from anyone of the opposite sex living within or near mission boundaries.” Failing to follow the rules, the handbook says, could threaten “salvation.”
Kampala is full of temptations. Near an Ethiopian restaurant popular with the missionaries, pop music blares outside, marijuana is sold down the road, and prostitutes solicit. Several young missionaries were caught fraternizing with women and sent home, the missionaries say. But rules are rarely broken—for one, companions are together virtually all the time.

“Dating,” Elder Lee says, “it’s definitely something we look forward to doing again.”

But he says he misses music the most. “You could get away with it so easy,” he says, climbing along a gully, up a hillside of homes, on his way to meet a convert. “Nobody would ever know.”
A group of children call out “mzungu”—“foreigner” in the Luganda language—from the shade of a mango tree as Elder Lee leaps over a crevice. “But, like, if you listen to a Nickelback song, you won’t be ready to go teach a lesson.”
The lessons are much the same, convert to convert. The young Mormons simply begin a conversation about what they believe, and if it goes well they leave a pamphlet or Book of Mormon and ask the recruit to give it a read, and pray. They are authoritative but deliver the message in a submissive manner.
“We don’t expect anyone just to take our word for it; we ask them to pray for it, to ask God if it’s true or not,” Elder Lee says. “Everyone knows that God is not a God of lies. We’re not trying to convert you to us; we’re trying to convert you.”
Unlike other Christian missionaries in Kampala, Ugandans say, Mormons never ask for money. They are polite, not pushy. They volunteer to help local members or anyone curious about joining, even digging ditches or hauling bricks.
In the leafy Kampala neighborhood of Kabowa, Charles Owori prepares to take the leap of faith. Mr. Owori has been meeting with the missionaries for several weeks. He holds his copy of the Book of Mormon as the discussion turns to the ultimate matter at hand: Is he ready to convert?
“Brother Charles,” says Hillary Chigwedere, a young missionary from Zimbabwe, “are you ready to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone with the priesthood authority in The Church of Jesus Christ?”
Brother Charles answers: “We read scripture that Jesus Christ was immersed in the water, but I only had some water poured on my head. So I need that.”

The missionaries smile. They are satisfied and set a date.

Next stop is Joseph Kagodo, a 29-year-old D.J. baptized just three months earlier.

For new converts like Mr. Kagodo, the values of the young proselytes are as compelling as any set of religious beliefs. Indeed, Mr. Kagodo says the details of Mormon doctrine were confusing for him at first—do they believe only in the Book of Mormon, or in the Bible as well? (They are meant to complement each other.) But in a land where many aggressively preach the word of God and worship tends toward the enthusiastic, he appreciated that the Mormons lived as they taught — quietly, humbly.
“I found what I wanted,” Mr. Kagodo says. “It is the way of life. I’ve met many other Christians who would be very comfortable just saying they are born-again or what, but their character does not depict it.”
“For me,” he adds, “the fact that nobody pushes you, but asks you, and read the scriptures, and just keep the gospel, that matters a lot.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

After Stake Conference YSA-Missionary Potluck

How many Hawaiian haystacks can 100 people make?!!

Full house!

Happy chatter!

These 2 YSA were in freshman homeroom together
and dated same guy who introduced them to church!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Volleyball & Pizza

Thursday night YSA Institute class Spring Break Activity was volleyball and pizza. Score!
Laura, Jack, Sydora, Dalia, Cristina, Chris, & Enzo

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bowling

McKinzey, Alyssa, Billy, Mike T, Richard, Miguel, Mike E, Jesse, & Mike C
Wednesday night YSA Institute class Spring Break Activity was bowling. Strikes and spares and gutter balls!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Laser Tag & Buffalo Wild Wings

Rutgers' student from Ukraine, Daniel S, Elder S, Alysa, Richard, Alyssa, Emily
Tuesday night YSA Institute class Spring Break Activity was laser tag and buffalo HOT wings! Fun times!
Daniel C, Chaz, & Shane