Mayor Hancock, Elder Priday and friends at the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square’s Christmas Concert

It was a big weekend for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, and Denver South Area Public Affairs Director Craig McIlroy accompanied Mayor Hancock to Salt Lake City for a red carpet weekend. Activities kicked off with a tour of the Bishop’s Central Storehouse.

Shawn Johnson and Mayor Hancock prepare care packages

Not your average service mart, Mayor Hancock was blown away by “so expansive an undertaking.” With the idea that so much of the needed goods are paid for through members’ fast offerings, Pastor Del Phillips, who accompanied Mayor Hancock, said he felt inspired to implement Fast Sundays and Fast Offerings with his congregation. Home to thousands of pounds of food, its own trucking line, and many unique features that enable the Church to be first on the scene at natural disasters, the Bishop’s Storehouse is an impressive sight.

Elder Priday shows Mayor Hancock the Light the World giving machines

Next on the agenda was lunch at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The team got to visit the charity vending machines unique to the Christmas season and used in connection with Light the World. Buyers can choose to give a goat, fresh water, or a myriad of other necessities to people in need around the world. After Mayor Hancock’s introduction to these vending vehicles for good, maybe Denver can be home to a giving machine next Christmas.

 

Mayor Hancock receives instruction at the Family History Center

After lunch, Mayor Hancock was introduced to Salt Lake City’s Family History Center. With one on one attention, he and his associates had access to millions of records, including access to the Freedman’s Bureau. On the trip with Mayor Hancock was Shawn Johnson, Director of Community Relations. She reports being pleased to “have the opportunity to dig deeper into [our] family’s roots.”

Saving the best for last, Mayor Hancock, Elder Priday and their teams rounded out their evening with dinner and a show. Dinner was hosted by Elder Wilford W. Andersen, General Authority Seventy. He presented each couple with their own “Faith in Every Footstep” sculpture. Dinner was followed by the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square’s Christmas Concert. This was a highlight for multiple reasons. Earlier that day, the USOC announced Salt Lake City as the US nominee for a future Winter Olympics games. Mayor Hancock was able to congratulate Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski in person at the conference center.

Elder Wilford W. Andersen, General Authority Seventy hosts Denver guests for dinner before the show

 

Tale of Two Cities – Denver Mayor Hancock and SLC Mayor Biskupski meet

The biggest highlight was of course hearing Christmas music sung by the Tabernacle Choir. While beautiful in and of itself, the icing on the cake was enjoying special guest artist Kristin Chenoweth sing. Her first number received a standing ovation. Brother McIlroy reported, her presence was “breathtaking from start to finish.”

One year ago, Elder Priday and Brother McIlroy first met Mayor Hancock in his office. Since then, their relationship has blossomed with joint ventures in community service, working together on a faith council, and attending musical events together. Said Elder Priday, “We were able to have substantive discussions with the mayor and his team that will build significant goodwill and relationships for the Church in this area for years to come. It was apparent that they had been touched by the Holy Spirit.”

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Colorado Gives

 

For all who have volunteered time, talent or energy to others in need, it’s easy to understand the feeling of wanting to do more. You might wish for deeper pockets or unlimited resources to make your giving more significant. Today is the day where a bit of that wish comes true. December 4 is Colorado Gives Day, which means that as each of us goes online to give, our donations have potential to be magnified by the $1 Million Incentive Fund. You can help through ColoradoGives.org, a year-round, online giving website featuring more than 2,300 nonprofits. Last year brought in $36 million in a 24-hour period.

Wondering where to start? Below are a few JustServe partners who stand in extra need and would benefit from a boost on this day of giving.

 

 

Volunteers of America

The Volunteers of America provides a variety of year-round support to those in need. Areas that need the most right now include serving meals at a daytime shelter and helping with yard clean up for senior citizens. They also have several volunteer from home ideas that include writing letters to veterans, decorating bags for meals on wheels, or even putting together a craft kit for low income preschool students.

Catholic Charities

In like manner, Catholic Charities offer a variety of services and can use volunteers to help pull together. Current opportunities include helping at a women’s shelter, either serving dinner, decorating cookies, or hosting a movie night. You can also host a Christmas party for residents of Catholic Charities housing, or adopt a family for Christmas.

 

Lutheran Family Services

Lutheran Family Services (LFS) is the largest refugee resettlement agency in the Rocky Mountain region. Every year LFS responds to needs of 30,000 people. One simple but constant need is for diaper donations. Clients often have large families and always need diapers. You can also help with creating baby baskets for refugee families who are either expecting or have just had a new baby.

In this season of giving, and as we Light the World, we hope you will consider joining in this day as Colorado Gives.

 


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.” (more…)


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 (more…)


 

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 Thursday, June 21, hundreds of people gathered at Temple Emanuel for an evening of education and insight. The arrival of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) has seen popular attendance. It has also meant an influx of peripheral activities as people seek avenues to learn even more. Thursday’s event, brought about through the combined efforts of Colorado Council of Churches, JEWISHcolorado, Temple Emanuel and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints highlighted three experts, both local and out of state. Dr. Donald Parry, BYU professor of Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls, Dr. Samuel Boyd, CU professor of Judaic Studies, and Dr. Rick Hess, professor and Old Testament scholar at Denver Seminary were the evening’s panelists.

While Dr. Hess gave an overview of the origins and discovery of the scrolls, he also taught about the caves, the Qumran community, and the translations as they tie into our current codex. Dr. Boyd shared his passion for the Bible and how the scrolls influence our understanding of it. Of the thousands of scrolls and fragments found and translated, a portion of them are Biblical text, another portion are commentary on the text, while a third portion are writings related to the day. Between all of these sources, Dr. Boyd taught that what we understand about the Bible still leaves a lot of room for learning. (more…)


Dr. Dana Pike lectures a full crowd on the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 

Thursday, May 3 marked the beginning of what will be a continuing series of forums about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Local interest in the scrolls has grown with the arrival of several scrolls from Israel, as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hosts the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. Drs. Rick Hess, Dana Pike, and Craig Blomberg taught a standing room only crowd in the chapel on Denver Seminary campus in Littleton. Dr. Dana Pike, Department Chair of Ancient Scripture in the College of Religious Instruction at Brigham Young University gave an overview and background of the scrolls. Dr. Rick Hess, distinguished professor at Denver Seminary, followed with a lesson on the significance of the scrolls with regard to the Old Testament. Dr. Craig Blomberg, also a distinguished professor at Denver Seminary, rounded out the instruction with insight into how the scrolls tie in with the New Testament.

All three professors are members of the Society of Biblical Literature and interact regularly on topics of mutual interest. The three pointed out similarities between the oldest known Hebrew biblical texts created in 1008 AD and our present day Old Testament. With the exception of the book of Esther, all books of the Old Testament are represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  We learn more about specific importance as we see that multiple copies of select books of the Old Testament were found.  The top three most commonly found texts belong to Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah.  Interestingly, these three Old Testament books are also the most frequently referenced books of the Old Testament as one reads through the New Testament.

The presentations were followed with panel members asking one another questions, generating further discussion. The Q&A portion of the evening was conducted by Craig McIlroy, Director of Public Affairs for the Denver South Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition to the friendly banter and questions among panelists, audience members were able to pose questions of their own, and the evening concluded on a positive note.

from left to right: Rev. Annie Arnoldy, Tom Reiners, Dr. Craig Blomberg, Dr. Dana Pike, Dr. Rick Hess and Craig McIlroy

The next day, presenters were hosted by Reverend Annie Arnoldy of St. Andrew United Methodist church of Highlands Ranch. They were joined by Tom Reiners, a lifelong member of the Methodist church. A retired rocket scientist and Dead Sea Scrolls enthusiast, Mr. Reiners serves as a docent at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and takes tours of the exhibition. He added color commentary relevant to the exhibit. The four panelists gave the 450+ attendees a full evening of information and insight. In addition to Mr. Reiners’ contribution, Dr. Pike added further to his presentation, sharing a bit of his experience in Jerusalem.  His unique history includes being on the team of 70 plus translators who were invited by Israeli scholar Emmanuel Tov to help translate and publish the scrolls. He shared personal account of the 11 caves in which the 950 fragments were found, and the close connection he experienced with history.

More seminars similar to the two that took place last week are scheduled in the near future. Forums are scheduled for June 21 at Temple Emmanuel, June 22 in Parker, June 23 in our Arvada, and June 24 in Boulder.  Check back for details forthcoming.


In a planned “Day at the Capitol,” clergy and faith leaders met on Thursday, April 26, 2018. With a goal of uniting faith communities to engage and act in the political sphere, Catholic Charities organized a gathering of local pastors and clergy. In attendance were Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, among many others. Deacon Geoff Bennett, Vice President of Parish and Community Relations for Catholic Charities spearheaded the event and began the morning with the vision for the group. He invited all to set aside doctrinal differences, “…agree on foundational issues, and tell our legislators that these things are important to us.” Stake presidents, priests, and other attendees shared thoughts on how to carry out this ecumenical vision. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila spoke next, further driving home the point about Christians’ needs to be active, informed constituents that help enact change. Quoting de Tocqueville, Archbishop Aquila taught, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” The meeting concluded with a presentation from Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, and president of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors (NASCCD). She helped educate the group about legislative advocacy, what it looks like, and how it’s carried out. The group concluded with a walk to the capitol, where they hoped to meet with local legislators. However, as Kraska taught, with politics you learn to be patient and flexible. Large crowds of teachers protesting salaries also chose Thursday to walk on the capitol; they arrived in such large numbers that religious leaders’ agenda took a back seat. Despite the change of plans, participants shared enthusiasm and gratitude for the meeting.

Elder Priday and Archbishop Aquila