To read all the blogs from BYU Studies 50th Anniversary Symposium, click here.

Ten live bloggers covered the BYU Studies Symposium this past weekend, and below we have only a few highlights from the intriguing talks they recorded. Scan the titles, see what you are interested in and then find much more at the link given above.

Friday Morning

Wilford Woodruff’s 1897 Testimony in Context: New Discoveries
by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, BYU

Richard Neitzel Holzapfel spoke on Wilford Woodruff’s March 12, 1897, testimony-the first testimony of a Latter-day Prophet to be audio recorded. Of all the experiences Woodruff had and all the doctrines he knew, what did he choose to record for posterity, both in writing and on the first sound recording? He emphasized his testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and that fact that Smith revealed priesthood ordinances and conferred priesthood keys on the Twelve.

Throughout Wilford Woodruff’s life, he frequently referred to the last meeting the Quorum of the Twelve had with Joseph Smith before leaving on their missions and Smith’s martyrdom. Yet Woodruff, one of the best diary keepers in Church history, recorded little about this event on March 26, 1844: “A rainy day. I met in council with the brethren.” Joseph Smith’s diary mentions he was in council from 9:00 to 12:00 and again from 2:00 to 5:00, and William Clayton’s diary also notes a meeting on that day.

Later, during the succession crisis following Smith’s death, Woodruff began to speak about the charges Joseph Smith gave to the Twelve in that meeting. For the next fifty-four years, he regularly referred to this event. If it was so life-changing and truly established the authority of the Twelve to lead the Church, why did Woodruff omit the details of the meeting from his diary? Holzapfel shared what seems to be an insignificant journal entry from his own diary as an example: “Went on date to Wilkinson Center.” When talking about that date, he fills in more details from his memory. That is because he later married the woman whom he took on that date, so what seemed insignificant took on added meaning.

Perhaps Woodruff did not recognize the true significance of the meeting until Smith’s martyrdom. However, a more likely theory is that no one took minutes because of the sacred nature of so many of Smith’s teachings. In his recorded testimony, Wilford Woodruff did not address his witness of the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, or anything else that was not disputed at the time. He was partly responding to rumors and questions regarding the origin of the endowment. But he was also preparing his testimony for future, unseen generations. As the last Apostle living who had been in the meeting with Joseph Smith, he felt a responsiblity to encapsulate what he felt was the Smith’s legacy—priesthood, temple ordinances, and the resulting blessings. Through his teachings and revelations, Joseph Smith clarified why the Savior taught that “great shall be your reward in heaven”–not that heaven itself is the reward. Joseph Smith and Wilford Woodruff believed there is more and that it had to do with eternal families and exaltation.

While historians prefer to work with contemporary sources, often these sources are fragmentary and participants’ recordings of memories after the fact must be used to help fill in the gaps. Holzapfel argued that Woodruff’s memories of that important meeting are reliable, even if they are colored and shaped by retrospect, because the core of the story never changed, including the date, the participants, the location, and Joseph Smith’s appearance (his face shone “like amber”). He especially recounted Joseph Smith placing the burden of the kingdom on the Twelve’s shoulders, warning them to bear off the kingdom or be damned.

Hozapfel pointed out, “Our memory challenges us on nonessential points. but on events that change our lives, our memory is magnified.” Wilford Woodruff was not a detached observer in that Nauvoo meeting but a participant in something that deeply affected himself and his understanding of his life’s mission. Holzapfel said, “It’s not surprising that his memory would allow him to recall specific points about that day throughout his life.”

Finally, Holzapfel revealed an exciting possibility. Wilford Woodruff recorded the same testimony twice, on two different dates, in order to get a better sound recording. Why, then, did the Church have a third cylinder in its archives? Holzapfel read a statement from George Q. Cannon, explaining that both he and Joseph F. Smith also recorded their witnesses that they were present to hear Wilford Woodruff’s testimony. What if the third cylinder holds the only recording of George Q. Cannon and the earliest recording of Joseph F. Smith? If there is a way to extract the audio from those cylinders and re-record them, it will be exciting to find out what they hold.

Joseph Smith and a Relational Definition of Sin
by Josh E. Probert, University of Delaware

“Joseph Smith questioned the foundation of Protestantism that salvation is an event that takes place between two people alone, namely God and man. He replaced this ethic of individualism with one of community, interrelatedness, and interdependence and made religious community the condition of the possibility of salvation.” Although Joseph would agree with the biblical notion that sin “ruptures one’s relationship to deity,” he built upon this idea and added to it.

The Protestant worldview of self-scrutiny and being saved by grace may have driven Joseph into the Sacred Grove, but the religion that grew from Joseph’s encounter with Deity was one based on relationships, particularly covenant relationships. Joseph’s revelations, says Probert, resulted in an effort “to make concrete an impulse manifest across the millennia of Christianity, namely the desire to construct the city of God, . . . Zion.”

Community was not just for this world either. Joseph recast heaven, too, as a place of “eternal work among eternal associates” and not merely a destination where the Saints experience “a beatific reprieve from the cares of this world in which all surround the throne of God and do nothing but chant, ‘sanctus, santus, sanctus.'” Joseph believed in a heaven where “the same sociality, which exists among us here will exist among us there” (D&C 130:2).

Probert suggests we need to better understand “what Joseph Smith was getting at when he taught that friendship is one of the ‘grand fundamental principles of Mormonism.’ It is at least clear that he was arguing for something more robust than inviting the Whitneys and the Kimballs over to the Mansion House for a game of loo and whist.” Friendship, community, and relationship provide a different context for sin.

Sin becomes more than merely the breaking of a rule; it is the violation of a covenant community. This idea that sin occurs within relationships leads to Probert’s pivotal point: “This contextualization of sin helps provide a measure of stability in the subjective relativity of defining what is and is not sin. One can use behavior’s effects on relationships as a rubric. In a most important way, seeing sin as behavior that damages saving relationships gets us beyond Pharisee-like judgment of others for things that do not matter and reorients our focus to love, especially the agape-type love that was central to primitive Christianity.

Looking for God’s Hand in History
By Brian Q. Cannon, Brigham Young University

Brian Cannon, professor of history at BYU, described “providential history,” which is written with the assumption that God governs human events; the writer identifies the hand of God in wars, politics, disasters, and discoveries. From the 5th to the 17th century, the dominant histories of the Western world were providential, modeled on the Bible. In the Enlightenment, writers such as Voltaire derided providential history because it depended on the supernatural rather than reason and naturalism. In the early 1800s providential history made a slight comeback, but by 1900 it was completely disregarded.

In the 1930s, 40s and 50s a small group of American historians and philosophers responded to the cataclysmic developments of their era – the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War — by returning to providential history. Then in the 1950s, Princeton professor Harris Harbison expressed a moderate view regarding the relationship of Christian belief to historical scholarship. He expressed caution in seeing a literal intervention by God in events and identified the “essence of a Christian understanding of history” as “the strange paradox that God both reveals and conceals Himself in history.” A historian might look for God with “a sense of pondering and wondering more than of either dogmatizing or doubting” (“The Marks of a Christian Historian,” 355).

Historian George Marsden wrote, “The very nature of spiritual reality is mysterious, so that we have only the most general notions of its meanings.” “One of the most common mistakes of Christian thinkers has been to fail to recognize the limits of their own knowledge of the mysterious spiritual realm. For instance, Christians have often confused the belief that the Holy Spirit is working in history and in our lives with the ability to tell precisely how the Spirit works” (The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, 82, 95-96). Other historians warn against assuming any ability to write about God with the authority and inspiration that biblical historians did.

But latter-day scripture and prophetic discourse provide Latter-day Saints with inspired sources that other Christian historians could only dreamed of. These documents both enrich and complicate the work of the thoughtful LDS historian.

Friday Afternoon

The Challenge of Creating a Christian Vocabulary in a Non-Christian Land by Van C. Gessel

Van C. Gessel, Professor of Japanese, spoke on the challenges of creating meaningful Christian communication in languages that have no Christian vocabulary. John the Evangelist suggests that our problems with language began “in the beginning” with “the Word.” There was and is a celestial language, but the Fall corrupted our ability to communicate. The things in heaven cannot ever be fully expressed by mortal language, which is a thing of the earth. Professor Gessel uses the example of Japan to illustrate this point.

Christian translators in Japan have long attempted to steal, borrow, and pillage words from Japanese to describe Christian concepts, but the results have been mediocre. The phrase “god,” for example, draws up in the minds of even Japanese Christians imageries of the local deities that the Japanese have worshipped for centuries. This is hardly a situation Christian missionaries would find desirable. When Alma O. Taylor was translating the Book of Mormon into Japanese in the early twentieth century, he mainly adapted and adopted existing terms used by previous Protestant missionaries in their own translations of the Bible, rather than trying to create new terms.

Professor Gessel identified four problem areas in religious translation that Christian missionaries, including LDS missionaries, in Japan have tried to address. The first problem area is words that were appropriated from existing Japanese religious vocabulary. For the original Christian missionaries in the 1500s, Buddhist terms were the only source of religious terms available. However, this often resulted in confusing and incorrect beliefs. For example, the word “dainichi” was used to mean god. But missionaries realized that while this term could mean the body of Buddha, it could also mean the Buddhist concept of emptiness. Other words were then used but each had its own problems. This method of imposing new meanings on existing words was spectacularly unsuccessful in most cases.

The second area involves using foreign terms to express Christian vocabulary. This often resulted in an incomprehensible torrent of Babel sounds and contributed to the strongly held belief by the Japanese that Christianity is an “un-Japaneseable” religion. Some examples of these types of words include sute-ku and wa-do, which are used respectively for the LDS terms “stake” and “ward.” Professor Gessel noted that partly because of these language barriers, Christianity remains to many Japanese what raw fish is to many Americans-slippery and unpalatable.

The third category is words, phrases, and grammatical expressions that can easily be misinterpreted, or interpreted in multiple, sometimes contradictory ways. The current Japanese translation of the LDS scriptures contains a scripture guide to help define difficult terms, but unfortunately ambiguities still exist. For example, the term used for “Heavenly Father” can mean “the Father of the spirits of all mankind” or “the Father of all mankind, who is a Spirit.” The difference between these two interpretations is critical in LDS doctrine.

The fourth problem area is terms that just don’t communicate, “no way, no how,” as Professor Gessel said. In fact, some words that have been adapted into use actually impede rather than foster communication. The term “kan’in,” for example, is used for the word “adultery,” but it is an archaic word that no one uses or knows. The word for “atonement” is plagued by similar problems. It’s translation is closer to “compensation.”

Professor Gessel ended on a positive note, saying that we should not be pessimistic about proselyting in foreign lands. It is by the grace of God that we can and will succeed in our imperfect but imperative attempts to share the gospel with every nation, kindred, and tongue. The Spirit will give utterance and fill in all the linguistic gaps that are left after we have done all we can.

Applying Modern Source Criticism to Accounts of the Book of Mormon Plates by Larry E. Morris

Larry E. Morris claimed that some of the events of the Lewis and Clark expedition can be called into greater question than the existence of the golden plates. He outlined how historians determine the reliability of sources, namely: if the source is firsthand or secondhand, the time lapse between the event and the recording of the event, provenance, the witnesses’ physical and social ability to make sound observations, biases the witnesses may have had, and contradictions or corroborations in other records. Morris compared the three witnesses’ and the eight witnesses’ testimony of the golden plates to journals from the Lewis and Clark expedition because they come from a similar time period, and in both instances there are only a handful of witnesses.

While no one knows when or how the Lewis and Clark journals were written, there is evidence that Clark’s journals were written months after the fact whereas witnesses of the plates recorded their witness quickly. While contemporaries of Joseph Smith and Lewis and Clark had reasons to be biased, it’s significant that when witnesses of the plates became biased against Joseph Smith, the did not go back on their witness of the plates. The greatest reason some events from the Lewis and Clark expedition could be called into question is that we don’t know how reliable their translators with the Indians were, and Indians provide contradictions in some of their accounts. ?

“I’ve a Mother There”: Status, Roles and Existential Appeal of Heavenly Mother in Mormon Discourse by David Paulsen and Martin Pulido

David Paulsen and Martin Pulido’s presentation, “A Mother There” begins by tracing the idea that the identity of a Mother in Heaven has been kept hidden due to the sacred nature of her name, attributes, and character. There is a tradition within the Church that explains how Heavenly Father shields and protects Heavenly Mother from the profane oaths and blasphemies of this world. Some scholars, feminist thinkers, anthropologists, and the like, find such a view offensive or at least problematic. They blame the Church for promulgating an attitude that places the divine feminine “in a role of a silent and unseen helpmate and mother” and a woman “not quite up to taking care of herself.” Some even complain that the Church has helped along the idea that the men will be out having adventures creating worlds while the women stay home with the babies. “Our investigation leads us to conclude these claims are mostly false,” say Paulsen and Pulido.

Obviously there is a tradition that explains why the divine feminine is hidden, but the tradition does not originate from Church pronouncements. Also, the idea that Mother in Heaven and hence all exalted women will only fill a narrow childbearing role and never encroach on male privileges is, again, one of those mysterious myths that make the rounds in the Church but have little to do with actual revealed religion. In fact, statements from the First Presidency and other general authorities paint a very different picture; Paulsen and Pulido thoroughly culled the sources and compiled all these statements that, in a nutshell, say the following:

1. Heavenly Mother is a Procreator and Parent.
2. Heavenly Mother creates worlds. Future Eternal Mothers will be “prepared to frame earths like unto ours,” in the words of Brigham Young. Creating the earth is not some exclusive priesthood ordinance only the men get to do, but both men and women enjoy the “power to create and organize mortal worlds.”
3. Heavenly Mother is a nurturer, trainer, tutor, and teacher.
4. She is a fully exalted God of like stature to the Father.
5. She is the Queen of Heaven.
6. She interacts vitally with the Godhead (in fact there would be no Son without her).
7. Male Exaltation and Godhood is impossible without her.
8. She is a co-framer of the Plan of Salvation.

I have often wondered, if the “focus” issue plays a role in the sparse talk about the divine feminine. The great operational aspect to the plan of salvation in our lives on this earth is the Atonement. Come to think of it, not much has been revealed about our Heavenly Father either, accept through the Son. So the focus of our faith is on the power and efficacy of the Son’s Atonement.

But I must say that it only makes sense that the above eight points are spot on. To relegate women to a lesser role in the plan of salvation creates serious problems in Mormon theology. All things have there likeness on earth and in heaven, and as far as I can see women are every bit as smart and creative as men. And although there bodies obviously testify to a childbearing role, their minds obviously testify to a creative force that extends beyond childbearing alone. They will thus will be creators of varied kinds in the next life.?

Saturday Morning

The Anointing of the Gods: Sanctification and Authority from Egyptian Pharaohs to Hebrew Priest Kings and Beyond by John F. Hall, Brigham Young University

Because the temples today are sacred and esoteric, we as a community have few chances to learn more about the deep meanings and symbols the temple has to offer. People are probably more nervous than they need to be, and a practice in some quarters is to not talk about what goes on in the temple at all. The result is, you are going to learn very little about temple symbolism in, say, sacrament meeting.

If you want to learn about temple symbols and gain insights into the temple, and if you want to talk about temple themes openly, study the Egyptians and the ancient Jews in the first temple period

John Hall reviews the traditions of the Egyptians rites that trace the theophany of Pharaos. Anointing with oil was a crucial part of this tradition. Interestingly, several parts of the body were anointed to function properly here and in eternity. And this took place on living Egyptians, not just mummies and so forth. An initiate that was traveling on the path to eternal life surpasses seven houses to go into the eighth house. This is a travel from lower states to higher states until the initiate is infused with the eternal life of God. Anointing body are parts are in several different traditions, which make possible, like is depicted at Dura Europos, heavenly ascent.

God’s Machinery: Brigham Young and the Formation of Latter-day Saint Environmental Thought by Bryan V. Wallis

Bryan Wallis seeks to show how Mormonism differs from Judeo-Christian views of nature and the world, which are complex and often contradictory, suggesting, for instance, that human beings “must cultivate enough detachment from the world to understand that they [have] no permanent habitation on earth.” Joseph Smith, by contrast, conceived of a much more amicable relationship between humans and the earth, teaching, among other things, that this earth will be glorified and become the celestial kingdom for those who gain exaltation. Brigham Young drew much of his philosophy about humanity and nature from Smith. Young taught, for instance, that the spirit world, where the spirits of men and women go when they die, is right here on the earth. Young spoke in terms of love for the world: “Let me love the world as He loves it, to make it beautiful, and glorify the name of my Father in heaven.”

In an effort to articulate a uniquely Mormon environmental ethic, says Wallis, various Latter-day Saint thinkers have appealed to the teaching of Brigham Young. The first to do so was Hugh Nibley. Nibley quoted Young on a variety of subjects “ranging from clean air, the role of the earth in the plan of salvation, reverence for God’s creations, nature aesthetics, use of the earth’s gifts, denouncing the myth of the west as a place of inexhaustible resources, and the sin of waste.”

The Science and Ethics of Climate Change: An LDS Perspective
Richard Gill

Richard Gill provides a scientific perspective on climate change. Moses, after seeing the earth in vision, exclaimed that now he knew that man is nothing, something he never supposed. Mormon scripture suggests a metaphor of interconnection for the earth and its systems. He uses the term biogeochemistry, which he defines as the study of how power is preserved or lost within various systems. Only in the last 30 years have scientists understood how global systems are interconnected. Throughout an 800,000-year period recorded in glacial ice, we see evidence of cycles between glacial and interglacial eras. One would expect the transitions between these eras to be smooth and gradual. But the record suggests abrupt transitions, suggesting that changes in one system spill over into other systems, effecting rapid and dramatic change. The various earth systems are very responsive to each other. Changes chemical, biological, and physical systems affect each other.

The 800,000-year high for carbon dioxide of 240 parts per million has been exceeded by current levels of well over 300 parts per million. This is human caused. The earth itself has not been capable of such an increase. Changes in the atmospheric system affects all other systems.

Environmental issues lie at the most fundamental levels of gospel understanding. We are commanded to love our neighbors, but we cannot love others if we do not support actions that will preserve a healthy environment for them.

George Handley

George Handley provides an ethical perspective on climate change from an LDS perspective. He suggests that ethical values are missing from our discussions on environmental issues. Global climate change is an issue of great complexity, which is a cause of confusion for many. Since 2008, those who believe in human-caused climate change have dropped from 71 percent to 54 percent. This is not because the science has changed, but because of political and ideological reasons. There is more scientific evidence than ever for human-caused climate change and 97 percent of scientists accept this position, but there is also more disagreement among the populace than ever.

Because of the overload of information in our modern society, there is a tendency for people to be confused by the sheer amount of information. They would rather quote a sound bite than read a graph. Passive trust in the market, that the market will take care of the greatest number of people, has led many people to ignore its effects on certain portions of society or the environment. The market is inherently amoral, but for some reason society has turned the market’s amorality into a moral good. What defines a good society? Is a good society merely one with the fewest restraints? Climate change is so complex because it suggests that society must be more morally good than the market can facilitate.

Mormonism has yet to produce an official stance on environmental issues. The fact that most Mormons do not consider climate change a moral issue is evidence of a moral failing. Our theology of stewardship over the earth is at odds with the political ideology we espouse that promotes economic growth with little concern for its environmental impact.

Saturday Afternoon

American Religions, Politics, and Pornography: Where is the Moral Majority? By Cheryl B. Preston, Brigham Young University

If you’ve questioned how people of faith can hold any clout in today’s political atmosphere, Cheryl Preston provided convincing statistics: over 100 million North Americans affiliate with Christian churches. Preston claimed we are standing at a crossroads. Right now religious rhetoric is excluded from the public square unless it is framed on secular terms, and the threat may soon arise that any issue with moral implications will be lacking in credibility because of its roots in a belief system. With this threat in mind, Preston asked, how do religious organizations’ moral doctrines on pornography translate, if at all, into political or legal reform?

Churches contribute to public policy through generating belief among congregants–and voters–that pornography is wrong, helping to rehabilitate those who are addicted, and participating in legal activism to restrict access to pornography. However, activism among religious organizations has been relatively low and ineffective. Historically, religious people have organized to create the movie rating system, fuel the civil rights movement, and pass California’s Proposition 8; why haven’t they succeeded in uniting to fight for pornography regulation? Preston provided some likely reasons, including fears of tackling sensitive First Amendment issues, apathy toward pornography in the face of more pressing social problems, an attitude of tolerance for those who do not have religious views, or sentiments that people should exercise freedom of choice to avoid pornographic material rather than fighting to have it restricted. Preston noted that among those who are interested in political activism, perhaps they have yet to find a compelling story to rally around or an effective way to combine efforts.

Keys to Understanding the Law of Moses and Modern Ordinance: Personal and Communal Benefits of Sacred Ritual Action

By Shon Hopkin, University of Texas

Shon Hopkin addressed ritual. Modern society often casts a negative light on those who practice rituals; such people can be viewed as culturally biased or blinded by meaningless tradition. Particularly, many Christians feel that ritual has no place in worship, despite the fact that Jesus Christ participated in Jewish ceremonies and instituted the sacrament. Hopkin argued that rituals are alive and well in the lives of secular and religious people alike. Specifically, a ritual is something we do to bring order out of chaos, whether it’s routinely reading a story to a child each night before bed or writing a to-do list each day. Over time, those routines take on symbolic meaning that can create peace, centering, and order. Likewise, religious rituals provide comfort and grounding in a confusing world. They are landmarks that indicate when one is entering familiar sacred space, and they can become beacons guiding participants to new knowledge and territory.

Hopkin built on the ideas of Victor Turner to explain that most religious rituals have three symbolic parts: a separation from one’s former society, a period of journey or decision-making, and entrance into a new life and community. To show this pattern, Hopkin examined Latter-day Saint, Muslim, Jewish, and Native American rituals. For example, those who find it offensive that only recommend-holding Latter-day Saints are allowed into Mormon temples can recognize this requirement as part of the separation phase practiced by many religions in different ways. Common elements of the journey phase in religious rituals are physical movements, change in dress, acquisition of new identities, battle with an evil entity, and messengers bearing exhortations. In the third phase, participants typically receive symbols of greater authority and new, deeper relationships

Nibley’s Two Views on War
By Duane Boyce

Boyce tackles a deep topic by trying to analyze Nibley’s belief on war. He believes that Nibley’s beliefs changed over the course of his lifetime. He started by believing the theory that “war is a necessary evil” and its okay to go in your defense. Then by the end of his life, war was more of just an “evil.” And Nibley may have been a pacifist. These beliefs were sparked in Boyce after speaking with Nibley’s biographer and in response to Boyce’s question about Nibley’s view, “Is there a point where war is justified?” The answer came, “The Hugh Nibley of today doesn’t think so.”

Boyce looked through Nibley’s writings and determined that the only evidence given that his view point had changed from agreeing with war for defense and becoming a pacifist, lay in these six arguments:

1. Book of Mormon wars were always between bad guys and other bad guys.
2. The Ammonites were the best people in the Book of Mormon and they were pacifists.
3. It is perverse, even Orwellian, to think of war as a means for achieving peace.
4. It is perverse to proclaim “who does not take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”
5. The Nephites would have faced no wars if they had been righteous.
6. God himself fights the battles of the righteous

However, when Boyce went through each one, he found none of them to stand up. He found proof in the scriptures against each one. Therefore, he concludes that if Nibley was a pacifist (not saying that pacifism is a bad reaction to war) these couldn’t have been the reasons and Nibley may have had opinions that weren’t recorded.

The Church in Afghanistan
Kenneth L. Alford

President Benson said the time that “peace shall be taken from the earth” is the time we live in now. The world of the 21st Century has not known a week without war.

We entered Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 and this war has now lasted twice as long as WWII.

Soon after arriving in Afghanistan the Latter-day Saint soldiers would form service groups on their own, seeking each other out to hold church services. This sparked the church to recognize a needed change in this area. It is in an Islamic country for the first time ever as well as being organized into districts for the first time in a war zone.

Alford then highlighted some of the inspiring stories from the soldiers at church:

Major Steve Larsen: There were no working water pumps and as an engineer he was asked to solve the problem. The pumps were Russian and wouldn’t work after normal wiring. After a quick prayer he remembered a lecture from college, enlightening him that Russian wiring was exactly opposite. They still use those pipes for water today.

Corporal Alexandro Rangel: He was the first baptism in Afghanistan (a member of a deployed unit). They needed white clothing for the baptism and a Catholic chaplain offered up two cleric uniforms.

Captain Jon Petty: He spoke how during their thirty-minute sacrament meetings they always had food. Now, in coming back, he says, “the kid’s Cheerios just don’t cut it.”

Church members are highly involved with service projects including donating money to schools and orphanages as well as providing supplies.

There are now five branches in Afghanistan. In the beginning there were 300 members and they’ve grown to 800 members. Through trends, they predict that there will be 1300 by end of year. They have an active duty “combat” Relief Society president. Another great part is their extension of home teaching called “Mormon Battle Program” where each member soldier has another member of the church that keeps track of them.