This morning, members of the University Hills Ward were joined by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for sacrament meeting. Expressing thanks for their friendships, Mayor Hancock spoke fondly of Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, “who has been a dear friend…and has really wrapped his arms around me and my family” and President Peter Krumholz of the Denver Stake. He spoke highly of his brothers of faith and Craig McIlroy, a “wonderful brother friend in Christ.” Brother McIlroy serves as Public Affairs Director for the Denver South Area, and is a member of Mayor Hancock’s faith council. He joined the mayor’s companions Nigel Daniels, Special Aide to Mayor Hancock, and Reverend Shawn Johnson, Director of Community Relations, in the congregation.
With his personal story of faith and optimism as an example, Mayor Hancock spoke of his shared belief in and love for Jesus Christ. An ordained deacon in the Baptist church, he spoke of his gratitude to participate in the sacrament with ward members today. Speaking of a trip he took years ago to Jerusalem, he shared what was the most “profoundly powerful trip” of his life. He spoke fondly of the way “all the stories came together” by being in Israel, the joy of feeling the spirit of Christ, and His sacrifice for us.
In looking at the journey that has led to this point in life, Mayor Hancock attributes his faith to the example of his mother and the hand of God. Her tenacity and resilience during his formative years inspired him to work hard. Additionally, seeing the hand of God along his life’s path has brought him to a place of “pure joy and celebration of the power of God.”
In an illustrative metaphor, Mayor Hancock compared the obstacles that we overcome in the battle of life with Goliath, and the faith we use to go forward as David. “If we have faith in God, if we have the strength to follow his word, we will get through it.” As one of ten children, he watched the struggle for survival his mother exhibited in raising the kids alone. He wondered what kept her going and how she kept coming home.
Recognizing that we may all look or feel under qualified or unprepared for the task at hand, Mayor Hancock encouraged parishioners to follow the example of David and choose to say, “I will go.” David shed the ornate armor. Mayor Hancock taught that we too can choose to place faith in God, not worry about what man can give, only the tools God has blessed us with, and say, “I’ll go just as I am.” He shared testimony of taking the same steps of faith in action, and finding that at the end of the day God says, “I got you.”
Mayor Hancock closed by sharing gratitude for members of the Denver Stake and their help with Denver Days. He thanked the congregation for their recent service at Inspiration Point and for the time to worship together today. He stated, “I know that I am a child of God. I am honored to be with you as a man of faith. Thank you for your faith and service to this great city.”
Lisa Badal grew up in Westminster in a musical family. By age 8 she was playing both the piano and the violin. She played both instruments competitively throughout her childhood.
When she went to school at Brigham Young University he majored in Music Education with the violin as her main instrument.
To her shock, when she returned to Colorado about 7 years ago she discovered there were no orchestra programs in the 27J school district. She turned to her husband and said, “One day I will change that.”
Several years passed, and I started accompanying the choirs at Prairie View High School. Through my involvement with the school system, I learned that many teachers had tried to start orchestra programs, but when the middle school would start something, it would fizzle out because there were no orchestras in the high school, so why even bother? Then the high school tried to start something, but there was no feeder program in the middle school, so why bother? It became clear that we just had to start somewhere. Then 27J announced that we would be switching to a 4-day schedule and that students would have Monday off. I thought, “This is our opportunity. There will be a whole district full of kids with nothing to do on Mondays, and I can teach them to play string instruments.”
That effort led to this unique interview with the local CBS affiliate:
Blackham knew it would be a sacrifice to give up his guitar and music while on
his mission, but inspiration he felt in the Denver Temple gave him peace, “Give
it to me and I can make it so much more.” With the help of other inspired
elders and sisters, Elder Blackham was able to lend his talents to what became
a beautiful musical presentation, “Meet the Missionaries.”
Presented by the Colorado Denver North Mission, “Meet the Missionaries” toured the northern front range giving 14 performances between February and April. The program is a fun, energetic, and inspiring performance. Through fifteen songs intermixed with video, four elders and four sisters shared their musical talents, their love of the Savior, and what it means to be a missionary.
President and Sister Savage both served as missionaries in Denver in the early 1980s and had the idea to renew a similar musical program that was a success on their missions. Around the same time the Book of Mormon musical came to Denver. Elder Blackham and Elder Brown pulled out their guitars and began singing on 16th Street in downtown Denver, replying to curious onlookers that they weren’t in the musical, but were the actual missionaries. From there 11 original songs were written by Elders Blackham, Brown, Fenske, and Hasse. In 2018 “Meet the Elders” went on tour.
On Saturday, April 27, 2019, members of the Denver, Front Range and Arvada Stakes–joined by ten full-time missionaries–participated in a special Denver Days kick-off event at Inspiration Point Park.
Based on Mayor Michael Hancock’s vision of “a city where neighbors not only [know] their neighbors but as a result [feel] safer and more connected to the communities they call home,” The city created Denver Days, “a program….that encourages neighbors to get to know their neighbors by hosting block parties, picnics, and service projects with the focus on small, organic gatherings.”
Organized by Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Office of Neighborhood Engagement, with further sponsorship support from Comcast Cable, Saturday’s event at Inspiration Point Park commenced with opening remarks from various City officials, including Mayor Hancock, as well as remarks from former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
On April 11, 2019, accompanied by his wife Marva, Elder Thomas T. Priday of the Seventy attended and was among various leaders recognized in opening remarks at the 2019 Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner hosted by Multicultural Mosaic Foundation and Abrahamic Initiative.
This special evening program, held at historic St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Denver, provided a wonderful opportunity for making and deepening relationships with interfaith friends in the community–including many members of the local Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities.
Among the many guests and interfaith leaders in attendance included The Reverend Jim Gonia, bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (and his wife Kim, also an ordained ELCA pastor), Imam Muhammad Kolila of the Downtown Denver Islamic Center, Brother Ismael Akbulut (President) and Gulsum Katmer (Executive Director) of the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, The Very Reverend Richard Lawson (Dean) of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Osnat Fox (senior Israeli emissary) of Jewish Colorado and the Reverend Bonita Bock, member of the Metro Denver Faith Leaders Caucus and former director of Wartburg College West, and emcee of the dinner program.
Amid current headlines about the living and enforcing of Honor Code guidelines at Brigham Young University, Roger E. Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University posted the following essay. We include it here for your edification.
Thank God for Mormons
I’m not a Mormon; I could never be one. I disagree with many teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I disagree with its emphasis on “temple work” and many other things. My own personal opinion is that the LDS Church is not a Christian church, but I have come to know some Latter-day Saints who I consider Christians anyway.
I write this essay in response to an article entitled “Students at Mormon-owned BYU urge code compassion.” (April 13, 2019) The article, written by Brady McCombs of the Associated Press, reported on a controversy about lifestyle code enforcement at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah which is operated by the LDS Church. I have no dog in that fight, as the saying goes. However, I do admire much about the traditional LDS lifestyle.
I have been invited to BYU three times now. Each visit was for dialogue with LDS religion scholars and students. Usually there were other Christian theologians and church historians present for these events. It is clear to me that LDS religion scholars want Christians to recognize and embrace the LDS Church as equally Christian with us. I see the LDS Church moving in the right direction and pray that it keep moving “our way” (toward orthodox Christianity).
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
In the meantime, I wish some of us orthodox Christians would move more toward LDS values and lifestyles. Too often we have simply shifted with the secular and pagan culture around us without serious consideration. We tend to either limp or run to catch up with secular-pagan culture. Mormons (excuse me, Latter-day Saints) are much more cautious about that. The church changes, but with caution and consideration.
My LDS friends at BYU invited me to speak at the university’s November, 2017 celebration of the birth of the Protestant Reformation five hundred years earlier. Other speakers came from many different Christian traditions. LDS scholars spoke glowingly about Martin Luther as BYU students sat enraptured (I assume) by this new admiration for a great Christian reformer. Some of us who have studied Mormon history and theology were amazed at it. This was not my father’s Mormonism! (He was an evangelical pastor who considered the LDS Church a cult.)
During the breaks between sessions of the symposium I wandered around campus. I also stayed overnight on campus in its pristine and extremely comfortable guest house. Everyone hosted me with grace and favor; I felt nothing “cultic” about the place (unlike perhaps at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City). The “vibe” at BYU was conservative Christian. Clean, nice, modest, friendly—all seemed more than normal there.Of course I didn’t go everywhere on campus, but where I walked and observed, both indoors and outside, I saw every student well-dressed, respectful of the academic environment, clean cut, and friendly to each other and to visitors. I asked a group of male BYU students if I could sit with them in the student lounge area and ask some questions. They were eager that I do so.
I asked about their lack of facial hair. They said they are required to shave every morning. I asked if that bothered them and they said no. I asked if they listen to “contemporary Christian music” on Christian radio and CCM CDs. They asked me to name some artists. I mentioned David Crowder and Matt Redman. Yes, they said, and went on to name Chris Tomlin and other giants of CCM.
Each time I have visited BYU I have been impressed by the ethos of the place. I disagree with distinctive LDS doctrines and find no inspiration in the Book of Mormon or other writings they consider Scripture that I don’t. However, in conversation with LDS scholars of religion over coffee (excuse me, non-caffeinated soft drinks), I have been assured that they are moving away from doctrines most critics bring up to prove them a cult and I have become convinced that their leaders are slowly but surely moving toward orthodox Christianity. I pray that shift continues all the way. But, in the meantime, I wish we more “mainline” Protestant Christians would move back toward a greater appreciation for traditional Christian values such as modesty in public attire and reverence in worship. As an outsider to BYU I urge them to hold fast to their admirable code of conduct while showing compassion to those who violate it and truly repent and return to the lifestyle they agreed to live when they enrolled.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined.
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new day in Colorado. Governor Jared Polis shared remarks with a standing-room only crowd after signing a proclamation declaring April 12 Colorado Religious Freedom Day. Heralding in the news with prayer and speech were religious leaders representing Jewish, Catholic, Sikh, and Christian faiths. Elder Thomas T. Priday of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducted. An interfaith choir directed by Kent Jones filled the air and hearts of participants with songs of patriotism and gratitude. Local Muslim leaders, who supported the efforts of the day were unable to attend because of their Friday Congregational Prayer, look forward to joining next year.
Rabbi Black of Temple Emanuel opened the event with a prayer soliciting unity. Elder Priday read the proclamation declaring Colorado Religious Freedom Day. Pastor Del Phillips, of the The House Worship Center, and Mayor Hancock’s Faith council, followed with opening remarks. “We not only advertise religious freedom, we practice it. The practice of religious freedom is personified by the presence of so many people here…. We must have the freedom for many types of faith to coexist,” he said. Pastor Phillips further reminded all of the crucial need for a unified front for tolerance. “If men and women of faith don’t know how to demonstrate tolerance, we can’t expect those not of faith to find faith, to respect faith, and to respect houses of worship.” He closed with the reminder for all to “remember when you enter your private space of worship, you are not the only one praising God and praying for Colorado.”
Following Pastor Phillips was Dilpreet Jammu of the Colorado Sikhs. He focused on the equality of mankind, the attributes we share, and the duty to accompany our prayers with action. “We share far more than we differ. All humans are equal. Our actions matter more than words and belief. What matters is you are a human being and you are hungry. If you are suffering, it is my duty to help you.” He reminded faith leaders of their opportunity to promote civility and mutual respect. Jammu also taught about the power of prayer to provide dignity. He said, “Prayer has the greatest power when it is made manifest. You cannot pray away hunger or pray for compassion without action.” He called all to “move beyond words to actions,” and invited those in attendance to Lunger, a meal they will be sharing with all in need, regardless of faith belief.
Deacon Geoff Bennett of Catholic Charities spoke next. Highlighting the power of unity in action, he invited all to do as is said at the end of each service and “Go live this faith outside of our walls.” Without watering it down, he said, we should “practice proudly and recognize that our faith is what brought us together and makes us who we are.” He called for us to see that it is all about relationships and working together. Highlighting the joint efforts of Catholic Charities and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deacon Bennett shared the good works that have been accomplished by working together, to include furnishing an apartment building built in Broomfield for the homeless, and feeding those in need. Deacon Bennett invited everyone to “celebrate each other and work together so our faith becomes contagious.”
Governor Polis’ remarks, noted the day of religious freedom that would heretofore stand in Colorado. He told those gathered “to reflect on and never take for granted what we have.” He said, “We have a welcoming environment for all faiths, whether they have it or not. Our diversity is what gives us strength. We are all better off because of our diversity before the almighty.”
Steve Collis, chair of Holland & Hart’s nationwide religious institutions and First Amendment practice group, gave the final remarks. He taught that a lack of religious freedom is what has led to persecution in the past. He said that religious liberty is more controversial today, and we should treat it with reverence. “We all have religious views,” whether or not we identify with a specific religion. Answers to the questions “Is there a God? “Why am I here?” or “What happens after I die?” are all religious in nature, even if the answer is “I don’t know.” Using an example from the early days of the United States, Collis shared the story of the Quakers. Given their bedrock belief against conflict, they sought exemption from the War of Independence. Instead of forcing them to their civic duties, George Washington assured them that the “conscientious scruples of their members must be respected.” They were able to contribute to the effort without conflict. In like manner, today we need to show civility and respect for others’ beliefs. In direct tones, Collis reminded listeners that “if we lose religious liberty, everyone loses, including those who think they have won.”
Following Collis, the interfaith choir sang “America the Beautiful.” Kent Jones directed, and two soloists were featured, including a veteran Navy admiral who sang the fourth verse. The crowd of attendees were then invited to stand together and sing, “The Star Spangled Banner.” The refrains of our National Anthem echoed in the halls of the state house, as children, leaders, and legislators alike sang together.
Dr. Don Sweeting, President of Colorado Christian University, gave the benediction. In solicitous tones of reverence and gratitude, he thanked God for the ability to be together, called on all for action, and prayed religious civility going forward.
All in all, the event was a smashing success and a wonderful sign of things to come. Next year’s Religious Freedom Day event will be Monday, April 13, 2020. For further information, see ColoradoReligiousFreedomDay.org