When Mormons were in endangered by violence and discrimination, Brigham Young guided the members through success. Young not only salvaged the Mormons, but had a large impact on the development of the American West. Young was first introduced to the idea of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the Book of Mormon was published by Joseph Smith in 1830. In 1832, while living in New York, Young was baptized into the Church. Later in 1834, he marched in Missouri with other church members to help Mormons regain their lands. Recognized by his dedication and works, he was named third of the “Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.” As a honorable member, Young guided the members to move to Illinois and attracted members from England; establishing a path for European converts. .
When Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844, Young took command of the church as the second president. Unfortunately, Young could not resist the pressure of politics in Missouri, and commanded the church to Salt Lake City. In 1849, the settlement was named “Deseret,” and later changed to “Utah.” Although his political status was limited by outside governors, Young governed the state with firm ideologies. He stressed education and theatre, and as an advocate of polygamy, he took more than 20 wives and fathered 47 children.
Young’s legacy is still portrayed in the beehive state of Utah. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, 62.8% of Utah residents still remain Mormon. In the capital, Salt Lake City, 50.07% of residents are Mormon. With over 2,040,178 members and 19 temples, the LDS Church still remains the major religion in Utah.
Growing up in Salt Lake City, I share a part of my life with the Mormon culture. No matter where I am in the state, I am surrounded by believers. Even hotel rooms store “the Book of Mormon” instead of the “Holy Bible.” However, being a non member of the church, it is hard to be informed with LDS knowledge. The following several posts will be my journey on trying to understand the people around me the best I can.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the Mormon Church, was founded by Joseph Smith. Smith was born under Joseph Smith Sr. (father) and Lucy Mack (mother) and was raised in an unfortunate family due to a series of rop failures. Growing up, his family was religious, although they rarely attended church. The family was rather involved in magic and myths. Religious rivalries in his hometown Palmyra left Smith looking for a Church. Smith ended up praying to God at the age of 14, when he encountered God and Jesus. According to Smith, God said there was no right Church. Later in 1823, Smith had his second revelation when an angel called him “Moroni” and told him about a set of golden plates containing a record of the ancient inhabitants of America. Later, Smtih found the plates buried near his father's farm. Four years later, the angel told him to remove the plates and transcribe the characters using “interpreters.” Completing the work in less than 90 days, he published it in March 1830 as a 588-page volume called the Book of Mormon. A month later, Smith organized people into a church who later were sent to convert people. These members were referred to as Saints and gathered into settlements called “Cities of Zion.” However, Mormons were constantly expelled because the rapid reproduction of Mormons threatened political parties. Due to arrests and charges, Smith fled to Illinois. In Illionis, Mormons settled in Nauvoo, and grew successfully with members internationally. However, because of reasons later discussed, Mormons left Nauvoo in 1846, and migrated to Utah where Brigham Young constructed Salt Lake City.
There is no doubt that everyone’s heard of the name “Mother Teresa.” Mother Teresa, also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was born in Skopje and spent most of her life in Ireland and India. Even as a child, Teresa was fascinated by the stories of missionaries and committed herself to the religious life. At the age of 18, she flew to Ireland in order to learn English and deepen her faith. A year later, Teresa went to India to serve as a missionary at the St. Teresa’s school. As a teacher, and a missionary Teresa served nearly 20 years until she was “called” to serve at the Missionaries of Charities. In her own words, she was called To feed "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone,” Teresa had to beg for food and money everyday in order to continue the life of her and others. Until the day she died on September 5th, 1997 Mother Teresa never failed to put others before her.
However, recent employees at the Mother Teresa charity home are demolishing her reputation. A nun and one other person were arrested in eastern India’s Jharkhand state for “baby trafficking.” The charity home was recognized for sheltering homeless pregnant women and their children in continuation of Mother Teresa’s legacy. However, police officers discovered at least five to six babies were sold to married couples for 40,000 rupees($600) to 100,000 rupees($1,454.23). Even though the home was supposed to report the number of births to authorities, employees were privately selling babies away from their mothers. Although the reason remains unclear, many suspect that the home disagreed with the authorities giving away adoptions to unmarried, solo parents. Instead, the home sold babies to married couples, who were waiting on the long adoption list, for prices depending on their budgets.
To ruin Mother Teresa’s tough grind is unjust. Also the relation between the Catholic Church and the home is shameful to me as a Christian. It is necessary for organizations to put the benefit of all before one’s self like Mother Teresa.
What is the Church?
God’s Church cannot be fully comprehended with the human intellect. Although I’ve been raised Catholic, the word Church is vague and mysterious. However, a lecture given by my theology teacher has filled up the gap between my knowledges about what the Church is. During the lecture, I was introduced to Avery Cardinal Dulles, who wrote the Models of the Church. Dulles provides five different models of the Church that come together to help Christians understand the Church more deeply.
First of all, the Church as an Institution focuses on its visible structures as a tangible community rather than the Spiritual aspect of the Church. For example, the Church contains a hierarchical structure such as the Pope, Deacon, Bishop and the Priests. Although this model is useful in focusing on the organization and unity of the Church, it loses sight of the spiritual, and mystical communion.
Second of all, the Church as a Mystical Communion focuses on the spiritual community: those bound together in Christ. As opposition to the Church as an Institution, its main focus is on common prayer and the spiritual community. Although this model is useful in portraying that the Church is united under strong beliefs, it loses sight of authority and guidance.
Third of all, the Church as a Herald portrays the Church as someone who receives an official message. Every day interactions with the Gospels such as theology classes and sermons provide an example of this model. A strength of this model is that it is rooted from a reliable source- the Gospels, however it ignores the tradition and practices that were delivered by the early Christians.
Fourth of all, The Church as a servant portrays that the Church exists to serve others, especially those in need. For example, the corporal works of mercy and various service organization the Church provides exist to serve others. Although this model glorifies getting good work done and the inclusion of all people, it loses track of the spiritual aspects of the Church.
Fifth of all, the Church as a Sacrament portrays the Church as a visible sign of invisible reality. For example, it is common that Catholics hold hands to pray the Our Father at a mass. This model helps us connect with God in a spiritual manner, however contains little presence of Scripture and loses sight of serving others.
All five of the models have its strength and weaknesses in defining the Church. The Church is so complex that even all five of the models together do not fully explain its meaning. However, each model helps us to understand the others more deeply and provides an overview on what the Church is.
Driving Rights or Representation?
On September 26th, Saudi Arabia announced a new law allowing women to drive. Until then, it remained the only country to repress women from driving, and activists constantly protested against the rule. For example, in several occasions from 1990 to 2011, Saudi women illegally drove out to the streets, and as a consequence were persecuted and fired. The biggest supporter of this activist movement, Muhammad bin Salman, wanted to loosen the Kingdom’s social repression in order to change Saudi Arabia’s repressed society.
Saudi Arabia’s repression is especially extreme because of its Islamic influences. For example, Sharia; the Islamic law demands male guardianship for all women. Sharia allows a female’s related male companion such as her father, brother, son or husband to make critical decisions for her. Adult women under the law of Sharia are required to obtain permission from a male guardian to perform basic necessities such as renting an apartment and filing legal claims. Furthermore, women are not allowed to freely access health care, travel, marry or exit prison. The inequality of Sharia can easily lead to abuse of women in the household.
Although victories such as earning the right to drive and the right to vote for municipal elections are significant victories, the fundamental problem is yet to be solved. Furthermore, with women’s inability to perform basic necessities, Saudi Arabia’s Vision2030 program seems impossible. Saudi Vision2030 acquires to put Saudi Arabia at “the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, the investment powerhouse and the hub connecting three continents.” When the country’s reliable source of oil expires, Saudi Arabia will need the entire population to keep up its economy. Saudi women are intelligent and educated, therefore with the allowance of women to participate in the economy, the government can truly benefit. Not only in Saudi Arabia, but equality of genders in all countries are a priority.
Trend-setter Pope Franics
To non-Catholics, the importance of the Pope can be ambiguous. The formal definition of the Pope is “the bishop of Rome as head of the Roman Catholic Church.” As a critical successor of St.Peter, the Pope guides the Catholic Church from the Vatican City. Most recently, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 28th, 2013, the Papal Conclave 2013 gathered to elect Archbishop of Buenos Aires as the new Pope.
The Archbishop took the name of Francis and started his reign on March 12th, 2013. The name Francis inherited its holy meaning from St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis of Assisi was born under a silk merchant and a noblewoman in France. He enjoyed a prosper life during his youth with wealthy friends and entertaining leisure activities. However, his benevolence remained even when he was helping his father at the market sell clothes. One instance is when suddenly a beggar appeared and asked for alm. At the end of the deal, St. Francis of Assisi provided an act of charity and gave the beggar everything he had. Unfortunately, St.Francis of Assisi was scolded by his parents and friends for his kindness. Later in his life, he joined the military and was held captive for a year. During his captivation, he saw visions of biblical scenes and the conversion gradually took a bigger impact in his life. Later, he wanted to spread the Gospel to more people. Although some of his expeditions such as the one to Morocco failed, he succeeded to land in Egypt and spread the word of God. Now, he is infamous as the patron saint of animals and the poor.
Ever since his inauguration, the new Pope has been truly controversial. According to Cnn.com, “He urged priests around the world to be more accepting of gays and lesbians, divorced Catholics and other people living in what the church considers "irregular" situations.” Without changing the traditional doctrine of the Church, Pope Francis has opened the doors to more people in the community than his predecessors. Along with his acceptance, the Pope is famous for his adaptation to technology. The newly elected Pope Francis is on Twitter as @Pontifex. With 17.9M followers, the Pope’s account is filled with inspirational quotes. His famous quotes include but are not limited to,
“For those who are with Jesus, evil is just a provocation to love even more.”
“Seek the Lord in prayer: He is the one who has called you.”
La Semana Santa
In Seville, all spirits come alive during the holy week-La Semana Santa. The week before Easter(late March to early April), people in white cloaks and face-covering cones walk down the narrow roads of Seville towards the main cathedral, while crowds laugh and chatter. Starting on Psalm Sunday, Nazarenos carry giant candles, and biblical figures, walking in funeral-like strides. This Christ related tradition has come to represent the religious and secular spirits of Spain. In its origin in the 15th century, the festival has served as a visual compilation to different parts of the Bible. In the present days, people gather to reconnect and bond with neighbors whether you are religious or not.
The festival has its root in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, large floats called Pasos carry figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. Pasos can also contain the scenery of the last supper, or the twelve disciples. Usually, men called Costaleros carry the float in sync on their shoulders for the aesthetic of the biblical figures walking. Costaleros consider carrying Pasos as an incredible honor. The floats are accompanied by drums and music, with Nazarenos dressed in white cloaks and cone like hats. The crowds are dressed respectfully, often in their Sunday best.
Although the event celebrates the resurrection, the festival started in 1521, when Marques de Tarifa returned to Spain from the Holy Land and insisted on the stations of the cross being celebrated. It advanced in the 17th century when Spanish brotherhoods organized themselves into groups. In modern days, the festival identifies the city. Furthermore, the celebration boosts its economy. Hotel rooms are fully booked, and the economical impact is up to $351 million. The city officials claim that this 450 years old tradition is not waning, instead it connects multiple generations to their homes.
If you’re from Seville, La Semana Santa will reconnect you with the beautiful city. If not, as a tourist no matter how religious, a week in Seville during Semana Santa can be a great opportunity to learn Spanish, and their culture- while having fun!
On Fairy Stories by J.R.R Tolkien is the single most inspiring article I have recently read. His logic can seem somewhat offensive at first, however it later persuades the readers to correlate the Resurrection story of Jesus and fairytales. The similarities provide a deeper understanding of the nature of the Resurrection story; Jesus died for our sins on the cross, and ascended into heaven on the third day. Tolkien makes three major points to explain his logic.
First of all, fairytales are not just for children. The modern society assumes that there are special connections between children and fairytales. However, the two were connected through domestic history. Fairytales were put in nursery rooms, because the adults did not care for their misuse. The truth is, some adults, and some children are innate with the taste for fairytales, and are naturally attracted to them.
Human beings are especially attracted to fairytales because it provides an "Escape from Death." The utopian settings in fairytales provide an escape from the fear of death and the end of life on Earth. Apart from the fugitive escape, fairytales possess the "Consolation of an Happy Ending." No matter how adventurous, or dangerous the tragedy, plots take a sudden joyous turn after the tragedy happens. Tolkien refers to this turn as the Eucatastrophe. Eucatastrophe is a sudden turn towards the good, which happens after a dire situation, and most importantly the good always wins.
Last but not least, all stories have an “Inner Consistency of Reality.” All authors sub create a world that derives from, or flows into reality. The incredible, or unrealistic joys in fairytales are “A Sudden Glimpse of Underlying Reality or Truth.” The world characters live in are not completely random, or irrelevant, but a continuation of the reality we live in.
The Resurrection story of Jesus is a larger kind of story which embraces all the essence of fairytales mentioned above. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. After the crucifixion, Christians are dire, however the ascension of Jesus is the sudden turn towards the good. In addition, it contains a happy ending, and the “Inner Consistency of Reality.” In God’s kingdom the greatest does not oppress the weak. Forgiven, or salvaged man is still man, and stories still go on. As Tolkien mentioned in the Resurrection story, “legend and history have met and fused.”
Although the story of Jesus and fairytales are not entirely the same, personally, the correlation makes it easier for me to approach the gospels. At first, the word Bible seems difficult to approach, however the applied sense of friendliness in fairy tales captivates my attention. It is easier to decipher the true meanings of the Resurrection through the categories of audience, Eucatastrophe and reality.
Tolkien, J. R. R. Poems and Stories. Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics captivated us with outstanding performances. Women’s figure skating was one of the highlighting moments of the olympics, with each heroes representing their countries. Although, not represented at the Winter Olympics, Zahra Lari is a hero of UAE. She is the first figure skater from UAE to compete internationally, and she changed ISU’s set strict rules.
Zahra Lari born on March 3, 1995, is an Emirati figure skater, who wears a hijab to represent her religion on ice. She told CNN, "I began skating when I was 12 years old, after watching the Disney movie 'Ice Princess'." She trained at the only rink in Abu Dhabi, located in Zayed Sports City. Her junior international debut was in 2012 at the European Cup. She made history; she was the first Arab woman to skate in front of an international audience and judge panel. Unfortunately, the judges gave her a deduction for an outfit violation, due to safety and rule violating factors. Later, Lari resolved the issue with ISU(International Skating Union). After analyzing the safety of hijabs while performing ice skating elements, ISU later changed the rule, allowing headscarves to be worn during performances.
Lari’s skating career is continuous. Ever since her debut, she has been competing in various events around the world. According to CNN, Lari claims, "My goals go beyond being the first person to represent the UAE at a Winter Olympics, I want to compete at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and the World Championships. These competitions are my current goal." While persuing her skating career, Lari is also finishing her degree in environment health and safety at Abu Dhabi University.
No object eclipses passion. Passion and hardwork combined is unbeatable, and furthermore, can change the rules. This also applies to the government. With the government passionate about its country and people, any law is fluctuable.
Significance of Jerusalem
On December 6th, 2017 President Trump stated a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He added, “This is no more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.” The claim has upsetted the Middle East peace efforts and other countries around the world, since it was an unexpected step in the Israel-Palestine peace agreement. Trump argued that the claim was “a long overdue step to advance the peace process.” In February 2018, Trump added “"By taking Jerusalem off the table I wanted to make it clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and as for specific boundaries, I would support what both sides agreed to.”
Jerusalem is the controversial city for not only politics, but religion also. The holy city is significant for Christians, Jews and Muslims, for various reasons.
First of all, Jerusalem is the city where Jesus ministered, was crucified and resurrected. Christian values such as Incarnation, Scripture and Salvation are based on Jesus’ ministry and resurrection. Therefore, there is a historical connection between the holy city and Christianity. In addition, the Christian bible mentions the importance of Jerusalem not only in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament also. For example, 1 Kings 11:32 writes, (but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel.”
Judaism is closely tied to Jerusalem also. The holy city has been valued as the spiritual homeland of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE. It has been considered the center of the world, where God resided. The city still remains significant to Jews, and was considered into the Jewish religious law. For example, Jews outside Jerusalem have to pray facing its direction. Textually, Jerusalem appears in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) 669 times and Zion (which usually means Jerusalem, sometimes the Land of Israel) appears 154 times.
Muslims are also tied to Jerusalem. Michael Dumper, PhD, Professor of Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter, in his 2013 book titled The Politics of Jerusalem Since 1967, wrote: "The common Arab-Muslim narrative tells of the ancient history of the city. In contrast to the Jewish narrative of 3,000 years for the City of David, the Arab-Muslim narrative clings to 5,000 years for Arab Yevus…” Muslims have significant ties with Jerusalem historically, especially the prophets David, Solomon, Elijah and Jesus. It was also Muhammad’s first prayer’s direction.
One can not associate Jerusalem with one specific religion only, however the significance of Jerusalem endures in multiple faiths. It is most important to preserve the city, peacefully. One’s political view should not affect the lives of millions of people. History and beliefs should be respected in making political decisions.
Landler, Mark. “Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's Capital and Orders U.S. Embassy to Move.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/world/middleeast/trump-jerusalem-israel-capital.html.
Jazeera, Al. “Trump: Jerusalem Is off Negotiation Table.” Trump News, Al Jazeera, 12 Feb. 2018, www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/trump-jerusalem-negotiation-table-180212052249924.html.
“Jerusalem in Islam.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_in_Islam.