May 13, 2017


Thailand's capital city
Bangkok, Thailand (Wikimedia CC photo by Roma Neus)


This is a group that my wife and I have tried to support:


Posted from Cairo, Egypt



December 13, 2014


Operation Underground Railroad poster
One of the best things I’ve heard about in years


I’m very proud that this man is a member of my church:


He is also, it turns out — and I just realized this a few days ago — the same man who authored this book:


See this website.


Posted from Orlando, Florida



October 15, 2017


Bryce Haymond's David Whitmer
A photograph of David Whitmer in his old age, retouched and colorized by the estimable Bryce M. Haymond for the Interpreter Foundation. See


On 21 August 1883, James H. Hart, a Latter-day Saint journalist who was, at various times, editor of the Bear Lake Democrat (later the Southern Idaho Independent) and associate editor of the Paris [Idaho] Post, interviewed David Whitmer, the last surviving Witness to the Book of Mormon.


According to the late Professor Edward L. Hart, “James H. Hart’s Contribution to Our Knowledge of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer” (BYU Studies 36:4 [1996-1997]: 118-124), James Hart used a form of Pitman shorthand to take his interviews with David Whitmer down verbatim, often putting portions of them in quotation marks immediately after the interviews while his memory was still fresh.  He then transcribed his shorthand notes into his journal.  On a return visit to David Whitmer, Hart showed the Witness what he had written and, evidently, Whitmer fully endorsed it as a correct expression of his sentiments.


Finally, James Hart transformed his interview with David Whitmer into (doggerel) verse.  Here is a pair of stanzas from that poem, in which Hart assumes Whitmer’s voice:


If this be not truth, there is no truth,

And I have been mistaken from my youth.

If I’m mistaken, you may know from hence

That there’s no God, no law, no life, no sense.


I know there is a God—I’ve heard his voice,

And in his power and truth do still rejoice;

Though fools may ridicule and laugh today,

They yet shall know the truth of what I say.[1]


[1] Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 103.




Despite the title of the article (and notwithstanding the fact that it’s about a new book from D. Michael Quinn), this is largely a positive piece, even a faith-affirming one:


“Historian digs into the hidden world of Mormon finances, shows how church went from losing money to making money — lots of it”


It reminds me of an old controversy, and of some of my responses to that controversy:


“On living stipends for General Authorities”


“Another note on General Authority stipends”


“Two quotations relevant to the matter of General Authority stipends”


“A few more thoughts on General Authority stipends”


“A few more lines about General Authority stipends”


And here’s a brief 2012 piece by Nate Oman that, in my judgment, makes an excellent and vital point regarding the Church’s investment in the City Creek Mall, which has been indignantly criticized in some quarters:


“City Creek and the Choices of Thrift”




I think it’s always nice (not to say fun) to see the human side of the Brethren:


“Elder Oaks, Elder Ballard talk about upcoming Face to Face in new video”




You may have missed this story from Friday:


“Flight 666 to HEL took off one last time this Friday the 13th”




Some critics make this claim.  It’s nonsense:


“Is the Church Ambivalent on the Historicity and Antiquity of the Book of Abraham?”


I was myself (very slightly) involved in reviewing the Church’s Gospel Topics essay on the Book of Abraham before it went public, and I can categorically state, from personal knowledge, that backing away from the book’s historicity wasn’t even remotely a motive for, or an intention of, the essay.



February 24, 2017


Poor residences in Port-au-Prince
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


The article doesn’t mention that he’s a very devoted Latter-day Saint:


On his Mormon side, see here:


I’ve been writing about this effort, and encouraging donations to it, for quite some time now:


Incidentally, in response to my recent blog post “‘Every person deserves to rest in peace’: American Muslims raising money to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery”, one of my Facebook “friends,” who appears to believe that no Muslim can ever be motivated by a genuine desire to do good, confidently asserted that the project described in that post is a mere publicity stunt.  I doubt that this “friend” — who, having discovered my abject failure to despise Islam and all Muslims has apparently decided that she wants no more to do with me — would say the same thing about Tim Ballard.  He’s a Mormon, after all.



February 27, 2016


Melvin J. Ballard's grandson
Elder M. Russell Ballard


Last night — Friday night — Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Council of the Twelve, delivered a fireside address to the seminary and institute teachers of the Church.  What he had to say was striking, and very welcome.


He said, flatly, that earlier Church Education System curriculum was not adequate to today’s challenges from critical materials on the Internet, etc., and that it left our young people unprepared.  They are no longer “sheltered.”


He repeatedly spoke about “inoculating” students against difficulties and faith crises by candidly approaching such specific, controversial issues as polygamy and past statements and practices regarding race.


He said that we can no longer dismiss issues by telling students “don’t worry about it,” or avoid grappling with challenges by merely bearing testimony.


He exhorted teachers to know the Church’s new “Gospel Topics” essays “like the back of your hand.”


He acknowledged his own reliance upon experts when his personal knowledge was inadequate to a topic, and he encouraged teachers to make use of solid scholarship in their teaching, and to be ready for honest, faithful discussions on difficult topics.


Elder Ballard’s remarks begin at about 21:30.


I’m grateful to Ben Spackman for calling my attention to this talk.  I agree with him that it represents a “sea change.”  It’s very important, and I hope that it foreshadows genuine and much-needed change.  I’m very pleased with it.


I wouldn’t be a believer if I weren’t confident that the “difficult issues” can be adequately addressed.  Still, I think we can address them more adequately than, on the whole, we have been.



December 19, 2015


I Norge valley scene
Briksdalen, Norway
Not at all relevant, but pretty.
(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge.)


In the United States, at least, the end of each year is an important time for giving to charities, causes, and non-profit organizations.  Not merely because, at Christmas time, giving is in the air, but because of the tax laws.


There are innumerable worthy causes.


In response to absolutely no public demand whatever, though, here are three tax-exempt organizations (beyond the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its various funds) in which my wife and I take particular interest, and which I want to commend to your attention:


1.  The Interpreter Foundation.  You can scarcely be surprised that I like this group.  And, while there are some malicious folks out there who like to suggest, on the basis of nothing more than sheer spite) that I’m profiting handsomely (and rather corruptly) from it, I’m not.  I’m permitted under the organization’s bylaws to take up to $500 annually for my services, but I’ve never taken so much as $0.01.  Rather, my wife and I are donors.


2.  The Liahona Children’s Foundation.  Please look over their website.  I like the fact that the mission of the Liahona Children’s Foundation is actually achievable.  Too often, we’re daunted by the sheer impossible magnitude of a charitable task — e.g., eliminate poverty, wipe out world hunger — and, since we can’t see how our insignificant little contribution will make much of a difference, we do nothing.  Not so, however, in this case.


3.  Operation Underground Railroad.  This is a remarkable undertaking.  And it has a strong Mormon connection in the person of Timothy Ballard.  Again, even small donations can make a real difference here.



October 24, 2015


JP II and Father Anawati
My beloved teacher, Father Georges Anawati OP (1905-1994), with Pope Saint John Paul II
(Click to enlarge; click again to enlarge further.)


You may or may not have noticed the very recent tempest — there’s always a tempest, but its focus constantly changes — concerning a brief, passing, unscripted remark made during February 2014 by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of Twelve in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Referring to Catholics, he remarked before a local group of Latter-day Saints that “they don’t know who God is. They don’t know who the Savior is; nor do they know who the Holy Ghost is.”


For a critical reaction to his remark that isn’t rendered basically unreadable by deep and unreasoning hostility — the same can’t be said, unfortunately, for all of the comments posted in response — see Jana Riess’s blogged reply here.


Elder Ballard is being pilloried in certain predictable quarters as a bigot, an out-of-touch throwback to the supposedly bad old days of Mormonism, full of hate, and so forth.  He’s portrayed as having “denounced” Catholicism.  Even more moderate quarters, though, have expressed regret.  And some have voiced the confident hope that a more-univeralist, less exclusive Church is on the horizon, and that that glorious dawn will arrive once the current generation finally exits the scene.


To the last, I’ll simply say, in passing, that a non-exclusivist Mormonism would be unrecognizable as Mormonism.  Joseph Smith’s claim of Restoration would be both pointless and incomprehensible without the implication of an apostasy.  Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s reception of Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood authority would be redundant if other claims to such authority were deemed valid.


Instead, I would like to very briefly address the regret that some commenters have voiced.  (I know that little can be done to win over those who want to portray Elder Ballard as a hateful anti-Catholic bigot, which I’m entirely confident that he’s not.  But perhaps I can help a little bit even there, if somebody is willing to listen.)


The critics should perhaps dial it back a bit, and consider the principle of charity in reading others.


Elder Ballard was presumably speaking more or less off the cuff, as Latter-day Saint speakers and especially Latter-day Saint leaders commonly do on such occasions.  Had he been speaking from a carefully prepared text, he might have nuanced his remark more, or differently.  He can certainly clarify it and/or defend himself, if he chooses to do so.  (Perhaps he already has, and I’ve missed it.)  But what he said doesn’t seem to me untrue (from a standard-issue, mainstream Mormon viewpoint) nor even remotely novel.


Some have purported to summarize what Elder Ballard said by representing him as declaring that Catholics don’t know God.


Well, in an important respect, that’s certainly true:  They don’t.  None of us does.  Not fully.  Not adequately.  Not as completely as, someday, we hope to know him.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” wrote even the great Apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 13:12, “but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”


But Elder Ballard wasn’t referring to that.  He was plainly suggesting that Latter-day Saints know who God is in a way that Catholics don’t.


Please notice, though, the way in which I formulated that:  I spoke of knowing who God is, not of knowing God.  There is, to my mind, a clear significant difference between the two modes of expression.  And it’s significant that Elder Ballard, too, used the first, not the second.


Lots and lots of stories tell of princes in disguise, and similar things.  Clearly, it’s possible to know a person and not to know who that person is — at least, not fully.  There are, for example, accounts of kids going door to door singing Christmas carols in Princeton, New Jersey.  At one house, the long-haired old man who answers the door tells them to wait for just a minute, goes and fetches his violin, and then accompanies them on several carols.  Did all of them realize that he was named Albert Einstein, and that he was among the greatest scientific thinkers in history?  Did the people who went to that nightclub on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena and heard the guy playing the drums there know that the drummer, Richard Feynman, was a professor at Caltech, a Nobel laureate in physics, and one of the foremost authorities in the world on quantum theory?  The peasant girl might know her young suitor very well and love him dearly, but she may not realize that he’s the heir to the throne.


Elder Ballard seemed to be saying, simply, that Catholics are theologically wrong about God in several respects.  That they misunderstand precisely who he is.


There’s nothing whatever new in this.  Catholics and Mormons disagree about the nature of the Godhead in dramatic ways.  Mormons believe God to be embodied.  Catholics don’t.  Catholics believe in Nicene ontological trinitarianism.  Mormons don’t.  Mormons believe humanity to be genetically related to God, as it were, in a very literal way that Catholics don’t.  Catholic theologians often speak of God as the Unmoved Mover; Mormons don’t.  And so forth.


Catholicism is precisely as far from Mormonism on such points as Mormonism is from Catholicism, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise.


I suspect that Elder Ballard didn’t mean a whole lot more than that in the two sentences that have so inflamed some critics.


Jana Riess, speaking up against what she sees as a rather total devaluation of Catholicism by Elder Ballard — a devaluation that I simply don’t see in his comments — tells of how much certain Catholic music has meant to her, as well as certain other things Catholic, including the writing of Thomas Merton.


I don’t take a back seat to her in that regard.  I hope that my respect for Catholicism has been evident over the years, here on this blog, in various newspaper columns, in other things I’ve written, and in many public lectures and firesides that I’ve delivered.


I read Thomas Merton while still in high school.


I’ve met with very high Catholic leaders at the Vatican and elsewhere — one of them even invited me and some friends, as his guests, to attend a function with Pope John Paul II at the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls — and I respect them enormously.


In September 2006, while I was on a lecture tour in Australia and New Zealand that was focused on Islam, Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture at the University of Regensburg, in Germany.  Some of his remarks struck both Muslim and non-Muslim observers as bigoted toward Islam, and an international controversy ensued.  I soon found myself being asked to respond to him both in lectures and during several radio interviews.  Unlike Elder Ballard’s comment, the Pope’s speech was written out, and I managed to find a copy of the German original online.  And, although I’m both a Mormon and an Islamicist, I was perfectly happy and willing to defend him, on multiple occasions in both countries, against what I regarded as gross and inflammatory misinterpretations.


I, too, love much Catholic music.  (Singing Schubert’s Mass in G with a choir in Cairo, for example, remains, for my wife and for me, one of the musical — and spiritual — high points of our lives; I’ve written about it several times.)


I studied one-on-one for several months with Father Georges Anawati at the Institut Dominicain d’Etudes Orientales in Cairo, and, like most everyone else who knew him, loved him.


One of my sons is named after St. Thomas Aquinas.


I’ve drawn considerably from Catholic liberation theologians for my thinking about Mormonism and social trinitarianism (some of which will shortly appear in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture).


I don’t consider it even remotely “bigoted” or “hateful” or “denunciatory” to acknowledge that, from the standpoint of Mormonism, Catholicism gets some things quite wrong about “who God is,” “who the Savior is,” and “who the Holy Ghost is.”  And I fully expect that informed, believing Catholics will sometimes do us the credit of frankly saying precisely the same thing about Latter-day Saints.


Posted from San Francisco, California



November 7, 2023


These are great photos
James Jordan, Elder Willy Binene of the Third Quorum of the Seventy, Léon (driver), Jeff Bradshaw, and Russ Richins after returning to Mbuji-Mayi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following a long jeep ride from Luputa.  They were there gathering footage for the Interpreter Foundation’s ongoing “Not by Bread Alone” film project.  President Russell M. Nelson announced a temple for Mbuji-Mayi at the conclusion of the October 2023 general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Two new Interpreter Foundation videos have now been posted online.  I think that some of you will find them of interest.  Personally, I found them moving:

““We Absolutely Fell in Love with the People”: A New Short Film About Africa with Elder and Sister Renlund”

““You Can Take Your Hand Off Africa Now”: A New Short Film about President Kimball, David M. Kennedy, and the Revelation on the Priesthood”

As he has been doing every week for several years now, Jonn Claybaugh has generously provided a brief set of notes for teachers and students of the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Come, Follow Me — New Testament Study and Teaching Helps: Lesson 47, November 13 — 19: James — “Be Ye Doers of the Word, and Not Hearers Only”

The New Testament in Context Lesson 47: “Be Ye Doers of the Word, and Not Hearers Only” (James)

In the 22 October 2023 Come, Follow Me segment of the Interpreter Radio Show, our hosts Martin Tanner and Robert Boylan discussed New Testament lesson 47, ““Be Ye Doers of the Word, and Not Hearers Only”” on James.

It has now been shorn of commercial and other extraneous interruptions, archived, and made available to you at your convenience.  The other segments of the October 22 radio show can be accessed at -2023.

The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard every week of the year on Sunday evenings, from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640.  Or, if you prefer or if your circumstances are such that you need to do so, you can listen live on the Internet at


DR Congo on a river, from. James Jordan
James Jordan captured this beautiful view in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


If you keep track of the inflammatory claims that are routinely leveled against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders, you may have seen the most recent accusations directed against President M. Russell Ballard (who, incidentally, at age 95, has recently been in the hospital).  Here is the Church’s official response:

“Church did not provide tithing records to Tim Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad, spokesman says: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ‘regards tithing records as sacred and keeps them confidential,’ spokesman says”

And, speaking of inflammatory claims (although, this time, they target a much lesser figure than President Ballard), the anonymous slanderer that I’ve termed “Everybody’s WC” is once again publicly lying about me online, something that apparently comes as naturally to him as breathing.  Many of you are probably aware that there is considerable controversy swirling at the moment around Tim Ballard, a member of the Church who was, until recently, associated with Operation Underground Railroad.  For two or three years a while back, my wife and I donated a small amount each year to Operation Underground Railroad — trying to fight child sex trafficking seems to us about as intrinsically and unambiguously noble a cause as could possibly be imagined — and I even mentioned OUR a few times on this blog as an organization that seemed worth supporting.  Everybody’s WC never mentioned my support of OUR or my donations to combat child trafficking back then but, now that controversy has emerged, he is portraying me, quite falsely, as Tim Ballard’s chief public cheerleader and as vocally endorsing Tim Ballard’s books, which, in fact, I don’t own and have never read.  I’ve never met Tim Ballard, either.  The safest rule to follow with respect to Everybody’s WC, whenever he claims insider information about me or any organization with which I’m involved or with which I’m possibly involved, is to assume that he’s lying.  His malevolent and unsleeping hatred of me has long since overwhelmed any sense of honesty on his part; of course, I’m not sure that there was ever really much of a contest between the two.


Congolese baptism
A group of members reenacting the baptism of Elder Willy Binene and others in Lac Golf, Kolwezi.
Yesterday, I briefly mentioned the story of Billy Johnson, a pioneer member of the Church in Ghana who passed away in 2012 at roughly the age of 78.  While checking on his story, as I remembered it, I came across the following:  “The Greatest Modern Missionary -Joseph “Billy” Johnson of Ghana.”  I’m inclined to think that he may well deserve that title, “greatest modern missiionary.”  And seriously contemplating that idea should certainly lead to some readjustment of the stereotype of Latter-day Saints as a sect of whites bordering on white supremacy.  The basis for that notion has been obsolete for several decades now, at least, and it’s becoming more and more inaccurate these days at a rapidly increasing pace.
Congo Temple
The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple was the first Latter-day Saint temple dedicated in the area.  Three more temples — in Lubumbashi, Kananga, and Mbuji-Mayi — are now either announced or under construction in the DR Congo, and fifth (the Brazzaville Republic of the Congo Temple) has been announced for the capital of the other Congolese republic, which is essentially a continuation, across the Congo River, of the same vast urban area.  (LDS Media Library)

Now, sit down.  Make sure that a licensed counselor and a cardiologist are available and near at hand.  It’s time, yet again, for a quartet of almost unendurable abominations from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™:

“Which state is the most charitable in the country?  Utah most generous state for 4th consecutive year, according to new analysis”

“Church devoting ‘significant financial resources’ to relief agencies in Gaza, Israel”

“Family Services Counseling Gives Single Mother Tools to Help Her Mental Health: ‘I’m so excited to start a life as a bigger, happier family,’ Kristen Gardner says”

“Latter-day Saints Around the World: Caring for Others: Homes built for flood victims in Ghana, Church recognized for helping those in need in Los Angeles, and school bags donated to Muslim children displaced in the Philippines”


September 21, 2023


What the bomb left
The fruits of science? This photo shows Hiroshima after the explosion of the atomic bomb there on 6 August 1945.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


A few days ago, I published a post here in which I replied to the silly atheist slogan “Science flies men to the moon. Religion flies planes into buildings.”  Responding to my response, an occasional participant on the Peterson Obsession Board who does not appear to be as reflexively hostile to theism as many of the others there — an (American?) physicist teaching in Germany who has never been a Latter-day Saint — offered an alternative slogan:  “Religion builds hospitals.  Science builds hydrogen bombs.”  Given his profession as a physicist and the recent box office success of the biographical film Oppenheimer, it’s a fairly obvious riposte.  And it’s certainly at least as “true” (which is to say, at least as much of a caricature and very nearly as false) as the first one.

However, one of the regulars on the Obsession Board quickly answered that the revised slogan isn’t really available to Latter-day Saints, since the (greedy, unfeeling, uncharitable) Church doesn’t build hospitals.

But this is deeply misleading.  As the Wikipedia article on “Intermountain Health” explains, “Intermountain Health [initially “Intermountain Healthcare”] was founded on April 1, 1975, after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated fifteen hospitals, as a system, to what would become Intermountain Health.”  Moreover, the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™ positively overflows with examples of the Church not only providing humanitarian aid around the globe but donating cash and medical equipment and the like to clinics in impoverished areas.  I’ve been posting account after account after account here of such donations.

In a curiously related matter, I read a post online at another location in which a critic blamed Utah’s high rates of obesity and diabetes on Latter-day Saint culture.  Others immediately joined the chorus of condemnation.  So l looked up data, by state, on obesity (also here, where Utah ranked thirty-seventh of the fifty states) and diabetes.

My question is whether the folks who make such allegations ever consult anything, before they post, beside their burning hostility toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Girls' camp girls
The fruits of religion: Three authentic young Latter-day Saint women at a girls’ camp


I’m always astounded when I see confident declarations that there simply were no Book of Mormon plates.  One might imagine, given the consistent testimony of multiple, seemingly credible eyewitnesses to the literal, tangible, physical existence of those plates, that folks who flatly deny that existence would want to cite some evidence or present some kind of an argument.

Although I judge them to be manifestly losing arguments, I can easily understand those who want to contend that all of the seventeen or eighteen witnesses (or more) who claim to have seen, hefted, and/or handled the plates were either hallucinating or lying.  But one should probably advance some evidence and an argument to that effect, if one cares at all about being taken seriously.  I can also imagine arguing that there were plates, but that they were in some sense bogus.  In such a case too, though, one should probably at least nod in the direction of evidence and rational argument.

But to simply, complacently, announce — without even the slightest attempt to justify the assertion — that Joseph Smith never possessed any actual plates of any kind?  That’s not worthy of being taken seriously.  It’s not a serious position.

In response, I offer the relevant historical works of Richard Lloyd Anderson as a starter (notably Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses), as well as the films Witnesses and Undaunted: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, the Interpreter Foundation’s series of Insights videos, and the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon website.  After that, I can point to still more.


Godzilla recharging his batteries
A representative product of science — in this case, specifically of nuclear physics.  (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)


Let’s assume, for the moment and for purposes of discussion, that absolutely every accusation made against Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad is true, even the most lurid ones.  (I have no particular reason, personally, to believe that any of the accusations is true, but I could easily be wrong.)

Over on the Peterson Obsession Board, my Malevolent Stalker is suggesting that I resign from my role in the Interpreter Foundation and with the Foundation’s Six Days in August film project because of the cloud that my close association with OUR and Tim Ballard has put them under.  My close association?  Somebody over there even described us as “close friends.”

But, so far as I’m aware, I’ve never met Tim Ballard nor even corresponded with him or spoken with him.  I read about OUR’s efforts to liberate children from sexual servitude, thought it an exceptionally noble cause, decided to donate money to support it, and decided to invite others to do so.  That’s it.  (Also at about that time, I did the same with respect to what is now called the Bountiful Children’s Foundation.)

Baseless suggestions that I was attracted to OUR precisely because of its allegedly abusive and corrupt character — relatively recent charges that are, as yet, quite undemonstrated — are too contemptible to merit serious comment.

Another charge that is being leveled on the Obsession Board claims that the alleged actions of Tim Ballard are indicative of the evils done by religion.  To which I respond, Really?  Seriously?  In the cases found in the illustrious Hitchens File™, the actions described are motivated by religious belief and, quite commonly, sponsored and/or organized by a religious organization.  Can anybody seriously maintain that Tim Ballard became too physically intimate with women other than his wife (as some have charged, though thus far over his denials and without demonstrating it to be true, and without indictment, let alone conviction) in accordance with the teachings of his Church rather than in direct opposition to them?


A Genesee farmer and his family pose for a photo
A representative product of religion:  A happy, faithful, nineteenth-century family — that of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith.  James Jordan persuaded them to sit for this informal family portrait — perhaps the first ever taken in color — during production of the Interpreter Foundation’s “Witnesses” film.


But let’s get back to some relatively recent materials from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™:

That should do for now to give at least some slight sense of the horrors inflicted upon humankind by religions and religious people.  When will it ever end?


Posted from Park City, Utah



September 20, 2023


Galatia is in the interior of modern Turkey
A partial map of the Eastern Roman Empire (covering, for example, today’s Turkey, as well as the Mediterranean and the Black Sea), showing Galatia in dark red.


Two more items have gone up on the website of the Interpreter Foundation.  As is typically the case, they are available to you at no charge:

The New Testament in Context Lesson 40: “Walk in the Spirit”: Galatians

In the 3 September 2023 Come, Follow Me segment of the Interpreter Radio Show, Terry Hutchinson (the moderator), Spencer Kraus, Brent Schmidt, and Hales Swift discussed New Testament lesson 40, “Walk in the Spirit,” covering Galatians.

You can listen to or download the New Testament in Context segment of the September 3 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show via the link given above. The other segments of the 3 September 2023 radio show can be accessed at

The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard weekly on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640.  Or, if that doesn’t work for you or if you prefer, you can listen live on the Internet at

Come, Follow Me — New Testament Study and Teaching Helps: Lesson 40, September 25 — October 1: Galatians — “Walk in the Spirit”

As he regularly does, Jonn Claybaugh has again kindly provided those who follow the Interpreter Foundation with a concise set of notes to accompany the Church’s “Come, Follow Me” curriculum.

In the meantime, the Interpreter Foundation’s new film project continues.  Once again, I’m sharing a few still photographs from the current location of our crew and our actors in Ontario, Canada.  It’s impractical to do much filming in Nauvoo today, what with tourists and automobiles and power lines and historical sites that remain staffed and open.  But Upper Canada Village offers similar landscapes, virtually identical foliage, and buildings and roads that have been carefully conserved in their early-nineteenth-century form.


Married in real life, too.
Brigham Young (John Donovan Wilson) and his wife, Mary Ann (Twyla Wilson), rehearse a scene for Brigham’s departure to England, on the set of the Interpreter Foundation’s “Six Days in August” film project.


Back in 2018 and 2019 — and, I’m now told, for several years prior to that — my wife and I donated to Operation Underground Railroad and encouraged others to do so as well.  (Child sexual trafficking seems about as unambiguously evil a crime as can be imagined — not unlike its near-cousin, slavery.)  Moreover, a little more than two  months ago, we watched the film Sound of Freedom, which tells a story connected with the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, Tim Ballard.  I mentioned the film here on this blog (in an entry largely on the subject of “Searching Out the Truth about the Mountain Meadows Massacre”), as follows:

My wife and I saw Sound of Freedom on Tuesday, the Fourth of July.  There isn’t a trace of QAnonism in it, so far as I could tell.  (I have no sympathy whatever for QAnon.  Quite the contrary, in fact.)  My only complaint, to be perfectly candid, is about the film’s pacing.  I thought it somewhat slow, especially in its first half, and overly long.  It could have been edited down a bit.  That said, I hope that as many people as possible will go to see it.  Efforts like this need to be supported, and the cause to which the film seeks to call attention is enormously important:  “God’s Children Are Not for Sale.”

And, by the way, Tim Ballard — who is portrayed in the film by Jim Caviezel (who starred in such films as The Passion of the Christ and in The Count of Monte Cristo) — is a Latter-day Saint, and, although the film doesn’t mention his religious affiliation (it actually shows him drinking coffee and tea and, on one occasion, smoking a cigarette to create rapport with a captured pedophile) and wasn’t produced by members of the Church, Angel Studios, which is distributing Sound of Freedom, is based in Provo, Utah.

At the same time, we were also donating to — and encouraging others to donate to — what was then known as the Liahona Children’s Foundation, which has since changed its name to Bountiful Children’s Foundation.  Eliminating malnutrition in children seems to me, quite clearly, to be another unambiguously good cause.


BY and Mary Ann about to part for a long, long time
Brigham and Mary Ann just prior to his departure with the Twelve to Great Britain


Now, it seems, there is a controversy swirling around Tim Ballard (who evidently left Operation Underground Railroad back in June or so).

This is extremely unfortunate.  Human trafficking does exist, and the sexual trafficking of children is, in a sense, especially heinous.  Anything that hinders the goal of putting an end to the sexual exploitation of minors is, to put it mildly, regrettable.

All I know about this particular matter, though, is what I’ve read online, and I haven’t been following it with any special care until today.  But here are five relevant links that have now provided me with at least some slight orientation:

FAIR LDS:  “Tim Ballard – Current Events”

“LDS Church removes content promoting Tim Ballard”

Sound of Freedom’s Tim Ballard Is a Star on the Right. Why Would His Church Denounce Him?  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is conservative. But maybe not like this.”

“LDS Church Delivers Blow to Tim Ballard’s Hero Status”

“Tim Ballard, former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, issues response to church statement”

I intend to try to monitor what, if anything, comes of this.


A pensive JS
Brigham Young ponders what to do following the assassination of Joseph Smith


I posted a blog entry here on Saturday, under the title of “More about “LD$ Inc.,”” in which I shared the links to three very good analyses of Church finances.  Here now, I offer a fourth link that is very relevant to the discussion:

“The Latter-day Saints the Washington Post Forgot: While the Washington Post sheds light on the Church of Jesus Christ’s finances, it overlooks key perspectives, instead allowing our critics to speak for us.”

The last few paragraphs of an article that I wrote for Meridian Magazine a couple of months ago may also be apropos:  “Are Latter-day Saint Temples Too Lavish?”

As for me, to be perfectly candid, my faith in both the Church and its mission and in the goodness and sincerity of its leaders (more than a few of whom I’ve had the good fortune to know) is such that, to be honest, I can’t really generate much personal interest in this topic — let alone any indignation.


Posted from Park City, Utah


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