Thursday, September 13 was an inspiring night. Thanks to the joint efforts from the Front Range and Columbine stakes and the Colorado Catholic Conference, 400+ attendees gathered for a Religious Freedom Forum in Columbine. With a full line-up of speakers, Colorado Mormon Chorale’s powerful patriotic numbers, and a timely message – the combined result was one to remember. Attendees learned the importance of standing for religious freedom, and increasing the ability to do so. Presenters tied together both examples of early leaders who created a framework to protect our freedoms, and the efforts that continue to maintain said freedoms. Elder Thomas Priday, Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opened the evening, sharing gratitude for the opportunity for multiple faiths “to come together in unity.”

Rebecca Jenson, Public Affairs Director, North America Central Area, stands at attention during “The Star Spangled Banner”

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we are reminded regularly of our civic duties. Elder Bednar said recently, “There is a paradox in religious freedom — if I want my religious freedom to be protected, then I must protect the religious freedom of those who believe in a basically different way from my own. This is our task. And it will be our ongoing challenge. Religious freedom is more than a right; it is a duty.”

The message is clear, but from time to time we can all use some bolstering in our determination. Brother Gary Truman, of the Front Range Stake Public Affairs committee, pointed out we should ask ourselves what values our laws should reflect. He continued, religion is more than a belief system, and “how one acts in the world is a direct reflection of one’s faith.” Of course this won’t be without opposition. Do we have the strength to speak up? Early Christians were willing to undergo beatings, yet in this day some can’t handle tweetings. He reminded us that, on the “path of advocacy, we may be called judgmental, we may be called bigots, just make sure it is never deserved. Sometimes people will use language to obfuscate the issue. Remember that we are speaking of principles rather than personalities.” Should it be this way? Isn’t religious freedom for one religious freedom for all?

Audience members raise hands to indicate their youth

It’s exactly so. Steven Collis serves as the Religious Freedom Specialist for the North America Central Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the keynote remarks of the evening, Brother Collis involved the youth, and with an interactive approach, taught us all both the complexity of religious freedom and our next steps to fulfilling our duties. He said, “We need to be able to say, “I’m willing to stand up for anyone’s beliefs,” and mean it.” In securing fairness for one belief system, we help pave the way to fairness for all.

The varieties of religious beliefs, including claiming “none” as a religious affiliation reaches far and wide. Doctrinal differences should not be creating enemies. We need to all learn about and participate in advocating for religious liberty – with each other. As Brother Collis asserted, “the enemy is not the person who believes something different than you. It’s not the person who is passionately on the other side of an issue. The enemies are the people who don’t understand these principles of religious freedom and aren’t willing to stand up for them.”

The Colorado Mormon Chorale ended the night with a favorite arrangement of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” All calls to action and conviction were further driven home with the familiar lyrics, so eloquently sung, “As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free.” And that is what we intend to do.

Note: Jennifer Kraska, Executive Director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, was scheduled to speak at Thursday’s forum and couldn’t attend. Her prepared handouts detailed the starting resources regarding legislators, elections, and the voting process. In addition, three things she suggests we all do are: 1) Pray 2) Take action and 3) Stay informed. 


There might be a reason why it seems members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t spend much time on the question: Are Mormons Christian? Perhaps it’s because it feels like an obvious conclusion. A straightforward definition of Christianity is believing Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. And we do. With that, the discussion seems over. However, even as a child, I remember being challenged on this topic by classmates, and as an adult, it still comes up. It made no sense to me how a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could be seen as anything but Christian. Yet in the meantime, I’ve learned that there are some Christians who have a more specific definition of Christianity, and that is where we might diverge. Here are the important basics:

  1. Latter-day Saints do not accept the creeds, confessions, and formulations of post–New Testament Christianity.
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not descend through the historical line of traditional Christianity. That is, Latter-day Saints are not Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant.
  3. Latter-day Saints do not believe scripture consists of the Holy Bible alone but have an expanded canon of scripture that includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

In unequivocal terms, we as members of the church assert belief in God, our eternal Father, his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. Some creeds call for a belief in the Holy Trinity, where it is understood that all three are without form and are one. We do not believe in a trinity. From there, other distinctions include adoption of the Nicene creed and the belief that all prophets and revelation from God are contained in, and do not extend beyond, the Bible. However, we believe The Book of Mormon to be the word of God, and is a book of scripture written by prophets about the coming of the Savior. We also believe in modern prophets and subscribe wholeheartedly to continuing revelation.

What does this mean to members of the church? We might understand a bit better why some say we aren’t Christian. It doesn’t mean we agree. For we are. Religious scholars, citing the above differences may say that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not part of traditional, reformist or historical Christian sects. Scholars recognize, however, they’re referencing the creeds, reformist histories, and closed canon type of Christianity when they do. But when said in front of, and repeated by, the average lay person, this can bring confusion. With the simple definition of Christianity as belief in Jesus Christ, we as members of the restored church of Jesus Christ find that we are still answering the question that never seemed germane.

There is a lot to be said for the simplest approach being the best approach. Truly, if we as a group asserted that Christians are people who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, instead of overanalyzing semantics, we have room to grow together. As is evidenced by the multitude of Christian religions, the interpretation of doctrine varies. But does that matter? For as Jesus said, “be one, and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” What would happen if we embraced all whom declare themselves to be followers of Jesus, and included each other in Christian conversation?

Perhaps if I had the panache to eloquently converse with the early naysayers in my life, or even the current ones, I could simplify the discussion with my emphatic witness that I believe in and follow my Savior Jesus Christ. I’m humbled by his life of service and the sinless sacrifice that he offered for our eternal benefit. I rejoice in his resurrection and the hope of his Second Coming. Despite the doctrinal details where we differ, our hope is that, as disciples of Christ, we can come together in the virtuous application of a Christian life.


Last month the Reporter-Herald published an article reviewing the recent trek of 235 local youth from the Loveland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wyoming. What follows is the article from the Reporter-Herald:

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Mormon teens from Loveland follow pioneer trails

Reporter-Herald Staff
A group of 14- to 18-year-olds and their leaders from the Loveland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear pioneer-era clothing and

A group of 14- to 18-year-olds and their leaders from the Loveland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear pioneer-era clothing and push handcarts as they re-enact what pioneers went through on the historic Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail and Mormon Pioneer Trail in Wyoming. (Christopher Gilmore)

Loveland teens follow historic trails

More than 235 local youths and their leaders recently re-enacted their pioneer ancestry by trekking 30 miles in Wyoming.

The 14- to 18-year-olds and their leaders from the Loveland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donned pioneer-era clothing and pushed handcarts across 30 miles of the historic Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail and Mormon Pioneer Trail in Wyoming.

The group trekked through the summer heat to cross historic sites, including Martin’s Cove, Sweet Water River, Sage Creek and Rocky Ridge, according to a press release from the church. At each location, missionaries from the Wyoming Trail Mission taught the youths about the history of pioneers and how the West was settled.

As part of the re-enactment, the youth were separated into 25 groups, or “families,” which each included a “Ma and Pa,” adult leaders who made sure the teens were safe and hydrated, and helped them share the work in pushing the handcarts and setting up their tents each evening.

Each night at their campsites, the youths engaged in fun, historically accurate activities, such as square dancing and tug-of-war.

“By re-enacting their pioneer ancestors, the group experienced firsthand the faith and determination of the pioneers,” the release said.

Lorayne Jacques, who acted as a “Ma” for one of the “family” groups, said 500,000 to 600,000 pioneers made the historic trek West; 70,000 of them were Mormon pioneers.

“The trek taught us to appreciate the sacrifices of our pioneer ancestors so we could have what we have today. In our modern world, we really don’t understand how hard life was and that our ancestors deserve a lot of respect,” she said.

“I thought it was really cool,” Emily Call, a senior at Colorado Early Colleges Fort Collins High School, said in the release. “Especially when we were going up Rocky Ridge and there were places when the handcart would keep stopping, and we’d keep trying. It was really eye opening, when we were doing it in the summer with clear trails and nice shoes, and pioneers were doing it without shoes and had eaten maybe a little flour. It was really inspiring to see what they went through.”

Kathryn Hardy, who organized the pioneer trek with her husband Jody Hardy, praised the teens. “It was no small feat, hiking almost 30 miles with handcarts. And the kids had positive attitudes and many stepped up and help in areas where there was a little weakness. I’m super proud and impressed with them. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

A group of 14- to 18-year-olds and their leaders from the Loveland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear pioneer-era clothing and

A group of 14- to 18-year-olds and their leaders from the Loveland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear pioneer-era clothing and push handcarts as they re-enact what pioneers went through on the historic Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail and Mormon Pioneer Trail in Wyoming. (Christopher Gilmore)


 

Two young scouts make their way to their next activity

He’s not a bad kid. He’s actually a pretty good kid. But over the last several months, as my son Landon approached his twelfth birthday, I’ve wondered exactly how hairy the highly anticipated teen years would be. What I didn’t realize was the change that could take place in a short 5 day time period during the summer. You could almost call it a priesthood “enhancement.” From July 23-28, 19 stakes from the greater Denver area participated in an Aaronic Priesthood Encampment at Peaceful Valley Ranch, and my son was one of the lucky ones who went.

To begin with the end, you might want to know that at the end of the week, he celebrated his first night back in his own bed by waking early to attend a 7 am stake priesthood meeting.  He came home singing. There was no sulking or dragging about after a week of sleep deprivation. As I heard the phrase “Rise up O men of God!”(and every subsequent lyric) reverberate throughout our home, my heart rejoiced along with his. Here are the blessings I have seen:

 

“Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things.”

It’s a big time commitment to leave before dawn on Monday and stay through Saturday morning. So many other things can pull at your schedule. yet the opportunity to spend all day, every day surrounded by faithful priesthood holders who have set aside their agendas to be at encampment is priceless.

 

“Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of Kings.”

Rain pours over Peaceful Valley Camp

 Over the past 2 years of preparation for the camp, church leaders selected a theme and plan that was inspired. “Qualified for the work,” from Doctrine and Covenants 4, became the theme, and from sunup to sundown, this was at the forefront of activity.

All the boys can report that the weather did not hold off for this week of camp. There were times when it was rough. But for all who stuck it out, their offering of “mind and strength” paid off in “heart and soul.”

 

Boys and their leader pause for a “groupie”

“Rise Up, O men of God, in one united throng.”  What happens when 19 stakes of young men, their leaders and their fathers gather under the direction of priesthood leadership? One benefit is strength. Our boys know they are not alone. For 51 weeks of the year, every time they walk down the halls of school, skip parties they know don’t hold their standards, or leave sports tournaments before Sunday’s championship games, they’re reminded that they are different. But for 5 days, surrounded by each other, they could unite in faith and brotherhood. Encampment rang in the day and closed out the night singing these very words. Every day. Twice a day.

 

“Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.”

Hundreds gather under a beautiful Colorado sky for a fireside

Their days and nights were bookends of brotherhood. Every morning started with a devotional. And every evening featured  inspired fireside speakers. Luckily my son is my talker. He tells me all sorts of things. I heard a bit about shooting, hiking, and adventure activities. But the events I heard about in greatest detail were the nightly firesides. Guest speakers and musicians ran came from a variety of backgrounds. A couple included former NBA player Jimmer Fredette,  and Bill Tolbert, whose personal experience with the Challenger is a story worth hearing. Another speaker shared his story about surviving a bear attack. He taught those listening about the benefits of listening to the Holy Ghost, and the tender mercies and miracles found even in terribly hard things.

 

A scout gets a photo op with leaders, including Charles Dahlquist and Elder Thomas Priday

“Rise up, o men of God! Tread where his feet have trod. As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up o men of God!”  Leaders at Camp included President Stephen W. Owen,  Young Men General President, Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, and Charles Dahlquist, national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, and former Young Men General President. What a privilege to have them among the ranks.

One day my son and his quorum friends happened to eat lunch with these leaders, and the ensuing conversation added more fuel to the young boys’ fires. As these new deacons talked with, answered and asked questions of their own, they were reminded once again of the awesome responsibilities that come with being a priesthood holder. Their 15 minutes with fellow brethren who have long before started on the path of discipleship wasn’t spent discussing the weather (though they could have. The rain – oh the rain!). Instead, they discussed who in their quorum needs fellowshipping, what they are doing to help, and other topics on a similar vein. As Landon recounted the story, I offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the example of righteous men, even at a simple lunch.

 

Qualified for the Work

My son came home ready to pitch in. He came home ready to lead out. He sits on his bed every night, writes in his journal and reads his scriptures. As I see these new habits come into place, the same we’ve been modeling and talking about for years, I see how his time at Camp is helping qualify him for the work. Certainly, all who attended heard the message, and I know at least one young man was inspired to “Rise up!”

Additional photos from the week can be seen here: 

Photo credit: Royd Despain


On August 11th, the Denver Colorado Stake comprised of a number of LDS congregations in the city, participated in the city of Denver’s annual city celebration of community and service — Denver Days.

Five years ago Mayor Hancock set aside the first week of August as a week to encourage neighbors to get to know their neighbors by hosting block parties, picnics, and service projects with the focus on small organic gatherings.

The church members teamed with Denver Parks and Recreation to mulch, weed, pick up trash, and paint a large city park adjacent to a Denver LDS Church Building. With the help of about 50 members from the stake and 20 missionaries from the Denver North Mission, we spread 24 yards of mulch, used 1 gallon of paint, and collected 165 gallons of debris.

One of the highlights of the morning was a visit from the Mayor of Denver, Mayor Michael B. Hancock. He spent about 30 minutes visiting with members, missionaries, and local LDS leaders including Stake President Peter Krumholtz, public affairs leaders, and Elder Thomas T. Priday of the area Seventy.

It was a morning of hard work and many smiles from all who participated, old and young!

In response to the service from church members, Denver Parks and Recreation sent the following kind words. Continue reading


On Thursday evening congregations and believers from various faiths gathered together at Holy Family High School in Broomfield Colorado to learn more about Religious Freedom.

An estimated 515 total people were in attendance made up of members of Sikh, Latter Day Saint (Mormon), Catholic, Muslim, and other faiths that were invited to attend.

The purpose of the event was to help attendees to better understand what religious freedom is and what threatens it while equipping individuals with specific ideas and insights as to how to promote and defend religious freedom.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder at this event with our friends of other faith—in considering how we can each effectively promote and defend religious liberty with conviction and civility.  As the tide of evil rises all around us, so must our confident voices fill the air so those within our circle of influence (including those in the minority who may be especially vulnerable to baseless attacks against their personal expressions of religious conscience) know they are not alone in this great cause. -Jonathan Toronto, Attorney, Global Membership Chair of J Reuben Clark Law Society, and Director of Public Affairs, LDS Church, Denver

The event included a panel of three presenters who also took audience questions. Those panelists included

  • Steven Collis – Chair, J. Reuben Clark Law Society, Denver Chapter, and Chair of Holland & Hart’s National Religious Institutions and First Amendment Practice
    Group
  • Montse Alvarado – VP and Executive Director of the Becket Fund
  • Deacon Geoffrey Bennett – VP, Parish and Community Relations, Catholic Charities (Archdiocese of Denver)

Standing for the religious freedom of people of all belief systems is becoming one of the most important causes of our time, not just in the United States but globally. An event like this—with Catholics, Muslims, members of the Church of Jesus Christ, Sikhs, and so many others—shows that we can all stand together to protect this very important freedom. I was grateful to see such an outstanding turnout. -Steven Collis

Participants learned from the presenters the history of religious freedom in this country, examples of current and ongoing threats to religious freedom, and specific actions steps that can be taken daily and in response to specific issues today.

Elder Priday, Area Seventy, was in attendance and kicked off the event with a discussion about how all believers need to come together to protect our right to worship in part by showing tolerance and understanding for all people.

As believers in God, we have a responsibility and duty to stand for truth, but in a way that is never disrespectful or resentful toward others.  The Lord Jesus Christ invites His followers to show love and to seek peace.  We all lose in an atmosphere of hostility or contention. -Elder Thomas T. Priday

Stay connected with ColoradoMormons.com and our Facebook page for future events like this throughout the state!


On July 10th 2018 Tyler Ker of Aurora Colorado was honored in a court of honor for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. Tyler is a member of the Sable Ward and congregation which is located in the East Aurora area.

Eagle is the highest rank awarded to a young man and requires many hours of service, merit badges, and work in the community and in leadership with his troop. Notable in Tyler’s journey to Eagle was his Eagle project at which he designed and built shelving units to house instruments in the bad wing of Gateway High School during the summer of 2015.  Continue reading


Each year the Colorado Rockies select one home game to be “Mormon Night At the Rockies.”

This year’s game was well attended as members of the church statewide were able to purchase discounted tickets.

The Colorado Mormon Choral sang the national anthem, conducted by Kent Jones. This has become a wonderful tradition each year.

Also 3 young men from Boy Scout Troop 372 of the Alameda Congregation in Aurora presented the colors. Continue reading