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December 21, 2014

December 19, 2014

LDS Church to create new missions in Utah and Washington in 2015 (Deseret News - Utah) (December 19, 2014)
The LDS Church will announce the creation of at least two new missions next year, based on social media posts and other reports.

LDS Church approves Utah Orem Mission (Daily Herald - Utah) (December 19, 2014)
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approved a new Utah Orem Mission that will open about July 1, 2015, according to a letter sent to missionaries in the Utah Provo Mission through mission office communications.

Idaho Falls temple to close for 19 months starting next year (Standard Journal - Idaho) (December 19, 2014)
The Idaho Falls Temple will be closed for over 18 months for renovations the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Tuesday. According to a news release from the LDS Church, the temple, located on 1000 Memorial Drive in Idaho Falls, will be closed from Monday, March 16, 2015 to Oct. 2016.

BYU upsets Texas, reaches NCAA volleyball national championship match (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah) (December 19, 2014)
For two teams with big hitters and even bigger blockers, it was the small things that made all the difference. The ability of unseeded BYU to take care of serving, passing and digging spelled the difference in a 3-1 national semifinal upset win over second-seeded Texas (25-20, 25-16, 17-25, 26-24). With the win, the Cougars (30-4) advance to the NCAA Championship match for the first time in school history. Saturday night, BYU will face the winner of the second semifinal, either top-seed Stanford or fifth seed defending champion Penn State.

Hamson and Gray step up big to get BYU past Texas and into the NCAA championship game (Deseret News - Utah) (December 19, 2014)
BYU coach Shawn Olmstead likes just about all his hitting options during critical moments. But toward the end of a hotly contested fourth set in Thursday’s NCAA semifinal match against No. 2-seeded Texas, he had one particular option in mind: Jen Hamson.

After sharp decline, Mormon numbers in Washington County stabilize (SU Independent - Utah) (December 19, 2014)
Mormon numbers in Washington County seem to be leveling for now, a marked change to the plummeting LDS-faith population trend seen from 2000 to 2009 throughout the state of Utah. Due to the influx in growth from newcomers throughout the 2000s, Washington County’s population dramatically jumped from 90,354 persons in 2000 to 138,115 in 2010, but Mormon numbers were left behind on a trending decline. In 2000, 67 percent of Washington County residents were Mormon, but by 2009, that figure had dropped to 61 percent. In 2010, the LDS percentage rose to 62 percent in Washington County and the figure has stayed steady for the past 4 years while the county has trailed off in growth.

December 18, 2014

Will Mormon mission calls soon say Havana? (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
Now that Cuba will be open to U.S. visas for religious activities, that island nation may soon be flooded with evangelizers — including its first name-tagged Mormon missionaries.

How would LDS be affected by renewed US-Cuba relations? (Deseret News - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
Mormons don't need much imagination to think about what normalized U.S.-Cuba relations could mean for the LDS Church in the Pearl of the Antilles. The thoughts of a mission-minded faith turned directly to missionary work in a communist nation with two small but growing congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

US-Cuba news holds special meaning for LDS (Daily Herald - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
After 53 years of hostility between the United States and Cuba, the timing to make amends was perfect for both governments. The breakthrough in US-Cuban relations came with the release of American Alan Gross and an unnamed US intelligence agent, and the freeing of three jailed Cuban agents. The longtime enemies announced they would move toward full diplomatic relations, and Washington said it would ease economic and travel restrictions.

Elder Cook Reports Europe Area Focused on Work of Salvation (Church News) (December 18, 2014)
After visiting the Church’s Europe Area in November, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reported that missionary, temple, and family history work is moving forward. The majority of the trip, November 14–23, was focused in Portugal and Spain—where Elder Cook presided over stake conferences in the Porto Portugal North Stake and the Lléida Spain Stake, met with members and missionaries, and conducted leadership training meetings.

Missionary Service a Tradition at West Point Military Academy (Church News) (December 18, 2014)
Lying 50 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River, the United States Military Academy at West Point is a photographer’s dream. Along with the University of Washington and Brigham Young University, West Point’s Michie Stadium is rated in the top three most picturesque football stadiums in the nation.

‘Mayor Dan’ headed to church mission in Mexico (Spectrum - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
Longtime St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur and his wife Bunny are brushing up on their Spanish after having been selected to serve a mission in Monterrey, Mexico, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. McArthur, 66, who finished his 20-year tenure as mayor at the end of 2013, will serve as mission president and preside over the church’s Monterrey West Mission, which covers a large section of the city and its 1.1 million inhabitants.

2014 in review: An unsettling year, with religion in a starring role (Washington Post) (December 18, 2014)
Mormon misconceptions In a series of online essays, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tried to carefully debunk popular caricatures of Mormon beliefs, a remarkable exercise in the real-time evolution of a distinctly homegrown American religion. No, the church said, Mormons don’t get their own planet in the afterlife, and no, there’s nothing “magical” about sacred temple garments. No, founder Joseph Smith didn’t literally translate an ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll as part of LDS scriptures, and yes, Smith practiced plural marriage — as many as 40 wives, the church conceded.

Defending the Faith: A modern witness to the baby born in Bethlehem (Deseret News - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
Tuesday, Dec. 23, will be the 209th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Appropriately, this year as every year, that anniversary will be vastly overshadowed by celebrations of Christmas, the traditional birthday of the master he sought to serve.

'A light on the hill': Las Vegas Nevada Temple reaches 25-year milestone (Deseret News - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
Jason Abbott remembers attending the dedication of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple with his family on Dec. 16, 1989. It was his 12th birthday. He saw the members of the First Presidency and other general authorities. He still has the handkerchief he waved during the hosanna shout. He wrote about the memorable event in his journal.

Jabari Parker steps into the unpredictable NBA (Washington Post) (December 18, 2014)
The infancy of Jabari Parker’s career has been interrupted by the cruel, premature end to his first NBA season. In a play that captured so much of why Parker has helped invigorate the Milwaukee Bucks, the rookie of the year favorite led a fast break with long, fluid strides that belied his size and still dumped the perfect pass to a teammate for a wide-open three-point attempt before crumpling to the floor in agony.

Dream come true: Nobles fulfills goal of playing at BYU, now going to Final Four (Daily Herald - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
She was just a little girl growing up in Colorado, dreaming of one day playing college volleyball for BYU. Tambre Nobles earned the right to live that dream. Now she'll step on the floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday against Texas in the NCAA Final Four.

4 reasons the Big 12 won't take BYU (KSL - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
In last week’s article, I highlighted reasons BYU would be a good fit for the Big 12 Conference. Here are four potential reasons the Big 12 would not take BYU.

Dick Harmon: How a simple decision in the early '70s impacted BYU football in 2014 (Deseret News - Utah) (December 18, 2014)
Here's how the late Fred Whittingham helped save BYU’s 2014 season. Now, before some folks get all cranked up, hear me out. This is a tale of relationships, a four-game losing streak, the loss of the remarkable Taysom Hill to a broken leg, and the emergence of walk-on Christian Stewart.

December 17, 2014

Two Temples Scheduled for Renovation in Germany and Idaho (LDS Newsroom) (December 17, 2014)
The Freiberg Germany Temple will close on February 9, 2015, and remain closed through May 2016 to accommodate the renovation, which is the second time this temple has been renovated. Following this renovation, the temple will be rededicated. The first remodeling and rededication took place in 2002.

Church Marks Centennial of World War I Christmas Truce (LDS Newsroom Blog) (December 17, 2014)
This Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014, marks 100 years since a Christmas truce took place in Belgium during World War I. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is commemorating the anniversary by participating in the release of a video in a joint project with other faith groups.

Elder Ballard shares gentle counsel on suicide prevention (LDS Church News) (December 17, 2014)
Not long ago, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a letter from grief-stricken parents who were mourning the death of a teenage son who had taken his own life.

Taking on a higher calling for Latter-day Saints (My Journal Courier - Illinois) (December 17, 2014)
Paul Drake joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1999 as a way to get closer to God. His family was Catholic and protestant, and he was constantly on the move as his father served in the military. When it came to picking a formal church, Drake said he wanted some place where he could find spiritual peace.

Stories of the Season: In LDS church, Christmas is time to celebrate Jesus (Casa Grande Dispatch - Arizona) (December 17, 2014)
Many people outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may not be familiar with the way LDS members observe Christmas. Some may be surprised to learn the LDS church recognizes and celebrates Christmas in much the same way most Christian churches do: It observes the birth of Jesus Christ as the greatest gift God has given humankind, and it uses the season to remember what’s important.

Statue Of A Mormon Alien Stirs Controversy In Salt Lake City (Huffington Post) (December 17, 2014)
The two Mormon missionaries in artist Brook Robertson’s piece “Zion / Rocky Mountain Alliance” look determined. The figures are both wearing crisp white shirts and ties, resolutely staring forward as their vehicle heads towards it destination. Such a statue normally wouldn’t be out of place in Salt Lake City -- the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nordstrom fires black Mormon worker for comment he made about killing cops on his personal Facebook page (Mail Online - UK) (December 17, 2014)
Nordstrom has fired a sales associate who made a statement about killing police on his Facebook page. Aaron Hodges, 37, of Portland, suggested killing a white officer for every black man killed by police. His comment quickly circulated online, prompting complaints both online and directly to his employer. Nordstrom spokeswoman Tara Darrow said the department store chain does not tolerate violence, violent conversation or 'threats of any kind.'

December 16, 2014

FamilySearch, Joseph Smith Papers Project collaborate to assist genealogy (KSL - Utah) (December 16, 2014)
Family history enthusiasts had reason to rejoice Monday when the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a collaborative project between the Joseph Smith Papers Project and

Did your ancestor know Joseph Smith? (Daily Herald - Utah) (December 16, 2014)
Stories of one's great-great-grandpa coming to Kirtland, Ohio or Nauvoo, Ill., to meet Joseph Smith can now be verified through a new collaborative website that identifies names mentioned in the extensive Joseph Smith Papers Project. The LDS Church History Department announced Monday the collaborative effort between the project and FamilySearch. Those who use can check out documents that are a part of the Papers Project and see if their grandpa or grandma was mentioned and how they interacted with Joseph Smith.

Mormon Temples Currently Under Construction (LDS Newsroom) (December 16, 2014)
The Córdoba Argentina and Payson Utah Temples will soon be added to the list of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 140-plus operating temples throughout the world when they are dedicated in 2015. The Córdoba Argentina Temple will be dedicated May 17, 2015, and the Payson Utah Temple will be dedicated June 7, 2015. They are two of 14 temples under construction and featured on the infographic below.

New Ward, Stake Calendar on Easier to Use (Church News) (December 16, 2014)
A new version of the calendar makes scheduling and keeping track of ward and stake events easier for leaders and families. The last major calendar release was in 2011. The newest version, Calendar 2.7, was released November 27 in 11 languages. According to product manager David Crockett, improvements and new training resources will help building schedulers, leaders, and members more easily use the calendar.

Festival of Lights begins at Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center (LDS Church News) (December 16, 2014)
With the press of a button, a blaze of color radiated through the rain-drenched landscape outside the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center on Dec. 2 to herald the opening of the annual Festival of Lights.

New building for Life Sciences at BYU (LDS Church News) (December 16, 2014)
After nearly three years of construction, a new “gateway” for the south end of the Brigham Young University campus greeted students and faculty beginning the fall 2014 semester. The building — home to the Life Sciences department — is located on the hillside near the well-known duck pond and has more than 200,000 square feet dedicated to teaching and research.

Why Idaho Is One Of The Most Generous States (Boise State Public Radio - Idaho) (December 16, 2014)
A recent report from the finance website Wallet Hub says Idaho is the third most-generous state (tied with Kansas). Utah and South Dakota topped the list. Wallet Hub looked at volunteer time and money donated using IRS statistics and survey data. Other organizations make similar lists and Idaho usually comes out near the top. A couple months ago we told you about a report on charitable giving from The Chronicle of Philanthropy. That report ranked Idaho as having the seventh-highest giving ratio among residents, on average, donating more than 4 percent of their income to charities.

LDS musician shares her testimony, discusses her work with David Archuleta, Lexi Walker, other renowned artists (LDS Church News) (December 16, 2014)
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is the reason I get up every day and music is the thread that weaves through my life, continually tying me back to heaven,” said Kendra Lowe, a multi-talented LDS woman with a deep, professional music background. “Music is my life — whether it be composing, recording, performing, producing or arranging. It is what I do, and it is what I love.”

LDS young man makes lasting impression on the court, in the mission field (Deseret News - Utah) (December 16, 2014)
There were 6.7 seconds remaining on the game clock when McKay Gregson of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, checked in at the scorer’s table. McKay’s parents had been told that the coach planned to put him in at the end of the final game of his senior season on Feb. 14, 2014, but with his team down at the end of a rivalry game against Farmington High School, putting the manager with special needs into the game completely slipped the Prairie Grove High School coach’s mind. A cheerleader ran over to the coach, Steve Edminston, to remind him as fans from both sides began chanting, “Put in McKay.” The coach immediately called for McKay and put him in the game.

BYU heads to Final Four after wins over Florida State and Nebraska (Universe - Utah) (December 16, 2014)
The BYU women’s volleyball team continued its impressive run in the NCAA tournament by defeating Florida State in the Sweet 16 in four sets (25-20, 25-19, 19-25, 26-24) and sweeping Nebraska in the Elite Eight (25-21, 25-20, 25-21).

4-star offensive line commit Kieffer Longson: 'BYU just offers more of what I want than my other choices' (Deseret News - Utah) (December 16, 2014)
For offensive line prospect Kieffer Longson, it all came down to the big picture. The four-star prospect publicly announced his commitment Monday morning and chose BYU over finalists Ohio State, Utah and UCLA. “To me it’s not just about who just had a great season and all that. It’s about where I feel connected to most and the program, and everything it offers, in general,” Longson said of his decision. “BYU just offers more of what I want than my other choices, and it’s why I chose them.”

C.I.A., on Path to Torture, Chose Haste Over Analysis (New York Times) (December 16, 2014)
In 2012, Mr. Jessen was selected to be a bishop in the Mormon Church in Spokane, but he was forced to step down “due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques,” a spokesman for the Mormon Church said.

Hoping to attend BYU? Sorry, Santa and Jesus (Standard Examiner - Utah) (December 16, 2014)
Christmas needs a shave. And, quite possibly, a haircut. I hadn’t really given it much thought until recently, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the two most iconic figures at the holiday season — Santa Claus and Jesus — wouldn’t be welcome at Brigham Young University. Oh, sure, they could probably walk around freely on the LDS church-owned campus. But if they wanted to take a test, check out a book from the library, or attend a student-sponsored event like a Christmas dance, odds are good the two men would have to shave off their famed facial hair.

December 15, 2014

The Mormon Advantage (National Review) (December 15, 2014)
With even New York Times columnists and distinguished social scientists like Andrew J. Cherlin reinforcing the core truth that the retreat from marriage is causing core inequalities in the opportunities of millions of American children, it is worth asking: Who is doing a better job at sustaining a marriage culture?

New Temples To Open in 2015 (LDS Newsroom) (December 15, 2014)
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced the open house, cultural celebration and dedication dates for the Córdoba Argentina and Payson Utah Temples.

Artist Santino Fontana, ‘Sesame Street’ Muppets™ Bring Holiday Spirit to Christmas Concert (LDS Newsroom) (December 15, 2014)
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra and Temple Square are entertaining children and adults who are young at heart for their annual Christmas concert this year. Guest artists Broadway star Santino Fontana and the “Sesame Street” Muppets™ have joined the choir for several concerts, including performances in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City from December 11-13, 2014. The artists will also appear on the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast and mini-concert on Sunday, December 14.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert features Muppets, return of Fontana (Deseret News - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
Cookie Monster once sang “C Is for Cookie.” But at this year’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert, the famous Muppet was reminded by singer Santino Fontana that the letter also stands for “Christmas” and “concert” and “choir.”

Photos: Muppets join Mormon Tabernacle Choir for holiday concert (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
"Sesame Street" came to Salt Lake City’s North Temple Street this week as nine Muppets joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and singer Santino Fontana in the choir’s popular Christmas concerts. The first of three evening performances took place Thursday; the event also includes a Sunday-morning broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word."

Video of world's largest live Nativity featuring David Archuleta, Piano Guys, other YouTube stars released (Deseret News - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
A YouTube video was released Friday morning on The Piano Guys' Facebook page featuring a musical collaboration between several artists and footage from the world's largest Nativity scene.

Mormon poet Emma Lou Thayne remembered as ‘hugger of life’ (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
Emma Lou Warner Thayne held no high office in the LDS Church. She won no election. She was not the director of some huge organization or the faith’s General Relief Society president. Nor was she married to a Mormon prophet. Yet nearly 1,000 people showed up Friday for her funeral at an LDS meetinghouse in east Salt Lake City to pay their last respects.

Family shares memories of father, son killed when car struck wheelchair (Fox 13 - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
“I’m gonna miss the kisses on the forehead from my son, and curling up next to my husband at night, and feeling so safe and so protected even though he was so sick,” said Rhonda Johnson. The proud wife and mother is still in shock after learning her 44-year-old husband, Todd, and 11-year-old son, Levi, died Saturday.

When it Comes to Recruiting, Navy Football Seeks Athletes Who Are Students First (PressBox) (December 15, 2014)
When Navy ends its football season in the Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 23, coach Ken Niumatalolo will wrap up his seventh full year as the Midshipman's head coach and say goodbye to his latest senior class.

Battleship Missouri association honors LDS volunteers (Deseret News - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
The USS Missouri Memorial Association presented representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a plaque made from a piece of the Mighty Mo’s original teak-wood deck in honor of the approximately 27,000 hours of volunteer service that Mormon missionaries and local members have donated to the famous battleship over the past 15 years.

Local church youth paint 200 fire hydrants as part of annual conference (Star Local Media - Texas) (December 15, 2014)
Youth and leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Collin and Grayson counties gathered at a local chapel Nov. 15 for an annual Youth Conference.

Op-ed: Escalation in LDS missionary welcome-home spectacles (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah) (December 15, 2014)
Last Wednesday, we picked up our missionary daughter at the airport. We weren’t the only ones. But we may have been the least prepared. It’s been more than two years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the age for full time missionary service, causing a flood of new missionaries that included our daughter. Now those missionaries are coming home. We arrived late at the airport. By late, I mean 15 minutes early. By the time we arrived, the concourse was full of parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and an assorted collection of friends, cousins and other "followers," all waiting for loved ones to return from their missions. The airport prepared for a crowd. They cordoned off a walkway to make sure the other passengers could exit without navigating through a frenzied mob. I was not ready for such a large crowd. I did not know I needed to be there an hour early and invite all of my daughter’s Facebook friends to attend.

December 12, 2014

Laura Bush, daughter to speak at Utah family history conference (Salt Lake Tribune - Utah) (December 12, 2014)
Former first lady Laura Bush will be in Utah next year, talking about life in the White House, her perspective on difficult post-9/11 days and the importance of family. Bush will be a keynote speaker Feb. 13 at RootsTech 2015, the "largest family history conference in the world," according to organizers, describing generations in one of the country’s most famous families.

Psychologist who helped devise CIA interrogation program lost Mormon role (Reuters) (December 12, 2014)
One of the chief architects of the CIA’s harsh interrogation program said on Thursday he had to quit as leader of his Mormon church in 2012 amid controversy about his role in fighting terrorism. No senior policymakers or CIA officials have been charged for the maltreatment of suspects, but at least for former Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen there has been a repercussion at a local level for his part in the so-called “war on terror.” Jessen resigned as bishop of a Mormon congregation in Spokane, Washington after civil liberties and human rights activists criticized his professional past in the local newspaper.

Mormons And CIA Torture Report: Is LDS Church 'Morally Bankrupt' Because Of Involvement In Torture? (International Business Times) (December 12, 2014)
A Mormon blogger is questioning whether the Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture is a condemnation not just of torture itself but also of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because two distinguished Mormons -- Bruce Jessen and Jay Bybee -- had prominent roles in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program under the George W. Bush administration.

Piano Guys, David Archuleta, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Peter Hollens release free download of Christmas song (Deseret News - Utah) (December 12, 2014)
The Mormon Channel Facebook page released the option Thursday to download a free copy of the song "Angels From the Realm of Glory," a collaboration by The Piano Guys, David Archuleta, Peter Hollens and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

A Nativity and Christmas without Snow (Church News) (December 12, 2014)
Peru has always been a very religious country that celebrates Christmas. But more important than a Christmas tree is preparing the Nativity and dinner together. There are large and small Nativities—Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, the Wise Men, the animals, and the whole village.

1960 Christmas Most Memorable for Board Member (Church News) (December 12, 2014)
As a child growing up in an upper middle class, professional family in Havana, Cuba, I enjoyed comfortable, even privileged, circumstances. My grandmother, Mamucha, was the family matriarch, and her home was the family gathering place. Each Christmastime she purchased a large fir tree for her living room, which the whole family elaborately adorned with lights, ornaments, and tinsel, topping it off with a star symbolizing the star of Bethlehem. At the foot of the tree, a nativity set reminded us of the Savior’s humble birth.

5 ways other religions have made me a better Mormon (Deseret News - Utah) (December 12, 2014)
The Prophet Joseph Smith once described a fundamental belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as our respect for the right of all people to “worship how, where, or what they may” (The Articles of Faith 1:11).

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