Mormon leader Thomas Monson dies aged 90

Monson led Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2008 and his low-profile presidency promoted missionary work and greater transparency

Thomas S Monson, who served in top leadership councils for the Mormon church for 50 years and became its president in 2008, has died. He was 90.

Monson was a church bishop at 22 and in 1963 the Salt Lake City native became the youngest church apostle ever, at 36. He was a counselor for three church presidents before assuming leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monson died at his home in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins. The next president was not immediately named, but the job is expected to go to next longest-tenured member of the churchs governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Russell M Nelson, 93, per church protocol.

Monsons presidency was marked by his noticeably low profile during a time of intense publicity, including the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney. His most public acts were appearances at church conferences and devotionals as well as dedications of church temples.

He will be remembered for continuing the religions push to be more transparent about its past; his emphasis on humanitarian work; and lowering the minimum age for missionaries.

He will also be remembered for leading the faiths involvement in the passage of a gay marriage ban in California in 2008. At his urging, Mormons were vigorous campaign donors and volunteers. That prompted a backlash against the church that included vandalism of church buildings, protest marches and demonstrations outside church temples nationwide.

In subsequent years, the church began utilizing a softer tone on the issue. In 2015, the church backed an anti-discrimination law in Utah that gave unprecedented protections for gay and transgender people while also protecting religious freedoms.

But the religion came under fire again in the fall of 2015 when it banned baptisms for children living with gay parents and instituted a requirement that those children disavow homosexual relationships before being allowed to serve a mission. The changes were designed to avoid putting children in a tug-of-war between their parents and church teachings, leaders said.

Thomas Monson attends a corner stone laying ceremony at the Draper Utah Temple in Draper, Utah, in 2009. Photograph: George Frey/Reuters

The revisions triggered anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of LGBTQ-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders calls for more love and understanding for LGBTQ members.

Monson also continued the churchs push to be more open about some of the most sensitive aspect of the faiths history and doctrine. A renovated church history museum reopened in 2015 with an exhibit acknowledging the religions early polygamous practices, a year after the church published an essay that for the first time chronicled founder Joseph Smiths plural wives.

Other church essays issued during Monsons tenure addressed other sensitive topics: sacred undergarments worn by devout members; a past ban on black men in the lay clergy; and the misconception that Mormons are taught they will get their own planet in the afterlife.

The growth and globalization of the religion continued under Monson, with membership swelling to nearly 15.9 million, with more than half outside the US. There were 71,000 church missionaries serving around the world at the end of 2016.

Mormons considered Monson a warm, caring, endearing and approachable leader, said Patrick Mason, associate professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University in California.

He put an emphasis on the humanitarian ethic of Mormons, evidenced by his expansion of the churchs disaster relief programs around the world, said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.

Monson often credited his mother, Gladys Condie Monson, for fostering his compassion. He said that during his childhood in the Depression of the 1930s their house in Salt Lake City was known to hobos riding the railroads as a place to get a meal and a kind word.

President Monson always seemed more interested in what we do with our religion rather than in what we believe, Mauss said.

A second world war veteran, Monson served in the navy and spent a year overseas before returning to get a business degree at the University of Utah and a masters degree in business administration from the church-owned Brigham Young University.

Before being tabbed to join the churchs governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Monson worked for the churchs secular businesses, primarily in advertising, printing and publishing including the Deseret Morning News.

He married Frances Beverly Johnson in 1948. The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Frances died in 2013 at the age of 85.

Monson was an avid fisherman who also raised homing pigeons, specifically, roller pigeons who twirled as they flew. He was known for his love of show tunes, Boy Scouts and the Utah Jazz.

The man expected to take Monsons seat, the 93-year-old Nelson, has been a church apostle since April 1970. Nelson will choose two new counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve who will join him to form a three-person presidency that is the top of the religions governing hierarchy. Monsons two counselors were Henry Eyring and Dieter Uchtdorf. They will go back to being regular members of the Quorum unless they are chosen again.

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Fierce row over plans to publish antisemitic texts by French writer Cline

French publisher Gallimard says it will publish 1930s pamphlets by Louis-Ferdinand Cline, who called for extermination of Jews

A fierce row has erupted in Paris after a major publisher announced it would produce a new collection of the violently antisemitic hate pamphlets by novelist Louis-Ferdinand Cline.

French publishing house Gallimard has insisted it will go ahead with the publication of the 1,000-page collection of 1930s pamphlets by Cline, who called for the extermination of Jews. The publication date is not set but Gallimard has insisted its intention is to frame the texts and put them back in their context as writings of a great violence, marked by the antisemitic hatred of the author.

But Serge Klarsfeld, the celebrated French lawyer and Nazi-hunter who was hidden from Nazis in Nice as a child during the occupation, has demanded the publication be stopped, threatening legal action if Gallimard continues.

Cline continues to be hailed as one of Frances most brilliant writers for his 1932 novel Journey to the End of the Night, regarded as one of the greatest French works of the 20th century. But his reputation has been tarnished by his rabid, antisemitic, pro-Hitler wartime pamphlets.

Aided by the French collaborationist Vichy government, German authorities deported about 78,000 French Jews to death camps during the occupation from 1940 to 1944. Cline fled France at the time of the Normandy landings in 1944 and was later sentenced for collaboration in his absence, was spared prison and was able to return France.

When Gallimard was reported to be about to publish the collection of Clines anti-semitic writings this spring, the government stepped in. The prime ministers delegation in charge of fighting racism, anti-semitism and anti-LGBT hatred last month made the rare move of summoning the publisher. It urged it to include, in any new edition of three anti-semitic texts written between 1937 and 1941, notes giving the full context drawn up by specialists, including historians. The editor is understood to have rejected this, claiming that notes by a literary expert on Cline would suffice.

Then Klarsfeld, who founded the group Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France, stepped in to demand publication be stopped.

Klarsfeld who previously called Cline the most antisemitic Frenchman of his day, said his pamphlets had influenced a whole generation of collaborationists that sent French Jews to their deaths. Although the lawyer supported historians studying the texts, he said that presenting a shiny new edition of Clines abject writing in bookshops would be intolerable and no amount of footnotes could temper that.

The pamphlets have been out of print since 1945 and Cline, who died in 1961, had said he didnt want them re-issued. But his widow, now aged 105, recently U-turned and signed over the rights.

A furious row has raged in literary circles between those for and against publication. The literature professor Henri Godard argued that brushing the pamphlets under the carpet would create an unhealthy situation and it was better for readers to be aware of and critically assess them as full published texts. Some argued that pirate editions were available for sale or online and that Gallimard was seeking to publish in France a collected volume already produced in Quebec, Canada in 2012 although Le Monde warned that the Canadian editions notes were insufficient.

The historian Pascal Ory argued: We have to confront these texts directly armed with scientific criticism, otherwise they would be online with no context.

But others shot back, saying the repackaging of Clines violent anti-semitic texts by a major publisher like Gallimard would give them a veneer of respectability and could white-wash Clines role in the war.

Although Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf is being reprinted in France in March, some historians have said there is a vast gulf between a historic document like that and Clines rambling hatred.

Four historians wrote a furious opinion piece in the Nouvel Obs magazine arguing that any footnotes were unlikely to be consulted much and that the exercise risked at best voyeurism, at worst nostalgia, or the sanctification of appeals to murder wrapped up in a chocolate box of prestige.

Some politicians on the left joined Klarsfeld in saying that because courts have acted against far-right writers as well as French comedian Dieudonn Mbala Mbala for antisemitic comments, it was untenable to then allow a major literary publisher to re-issue antisemitic texts.

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Moscow-led church in Ukraine refuses to bury boy from Kiev branch

Death of a baby crushed by a man jumping from apartment block exposes religious divide in the Orthodox Christian country

The death of a baby crushed by a drunk man who committed suicide by jumping out of an eighth-floor apartment in Ukraine has exposed the religious divide in the Orthodox Christian country.

A Moscow-led church in the central city of Zaporizhia refused to bury the one-year-old boy killed on New Years Eve because he was christened by a rival church overseen by Kiev.

Local media reported that the boys bereaved father punched the priest in anger in an incident that has prompted renewed acrimony between the two branches of Ukraines main faith.

The Ukrainian church splintered into rival Moscow- and Kiev-led branches when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The bad blood between the two has been heightened by the war in eastern Ukraine between Russian- and Kiev-backed sides that has killed more than 10,000 people in nearly four years.

The Moscow-led denomination is much larger and is dominant in Zaporizhia a city of more than 700,000 people that was founded more than 1,000 years ago and is now an industrial hub.

The family of the boy, who was killed as he was being led out of the apartment building by his father, belong to the Kiev Patriarchate.

His father, Roman Polishchuk, said the priest of the Moscow-led church they turned to told the family he could not perform the burial ceremony.

The priest said our baby was unchristened and our church was a sham, Polishchuk told the local news site Forpost. My wife cried and threw herself before him on her knees, but this did not help.

The priest, Yevgen Molchanov, said the father punched him and a small brawl broke out inside the church before the family was forced to leave. The parents eventually took the babys body to the church where he was christened to perform the burial rights.

Molchanov said he had no choice because those were the rules of his faith.

I am very sorry. I feel for those people, he told Forpost. But there are certain lines I cannot cross. A child christened by the Kiev Patriarchate remains unchristened … And the Kiev Church itself is a hoax.

A spokesman for the Kiev Patriarchate said such incidents had happened before and only fed frustrations among the faithful in Ukraine.

There is no official document from the Moscow Patriarchate saying this must be the case, Yevstratiy Zorya wrote on Facebook. This is all completely arbitrary and based on some verbal orders that are issued under the guise of secret canons.

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Recipe found in medieval mystics writings was probably for ‘dragges’

Margery Kempe was known for religious fervour, and a list in the manuscript of her pioneering autobiography has been analysed as a prescribed cure for her fits

It is a case that has intrigued historians, psychiatrists and theologians for the last 80 years, but an academic has found what may be the oldest known attempt to diagnose Margery Kempes erratic religious behaviour. A recipe for medicinal sweets, written 600 years ago in the back of the medieval mystics memoir, has been deciphered by Dr Laura Kalas Williams and the Exeter University-based researcher is convinced that it reveals an attempt to prescribe a cure for Kempes notorious fits of devotion.

Though the recipe, written in the final portfolio of the 1438 manuscript, has long been known to scholars, it had hitherto proved impossible to read. Dr Andrea Clarke, the British Librarys lead curator of medieval and early modern manuscripts, suggested multispectral-imaging technology be used to reveal its secrets. Kalas Williams and two colleagues, Professor Eddie Jones and Professor Daniel Wakelin, were then able to decipher the ingredients and discovered it was a cure for flux, defined in the Medieval English Dictionary as a pathological flowing of blood, excretions or discharges from any part of the body, or dysentery.

The recipe translates as containing: Sugar with aniseed, fennel seed, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger [to make the] confection and to [then] beat them together in a mortar and heat them in the manner of food and drinks and dry first and last eat. Photograph: Board of the British Library, Dr Andrea Clarke and Christina Duffy

Kalas Williams said she was convinced the recipe was a response to the mystics various bouts of illness as well as her copious crying. I dont think [the recipe] has been written there randomly, the academic said. The book tells us that at one point, she suffered a terrible episode of flux (probably dysentery) and was given extreme unction, thinking she was going to die, so the presence of this recipe at the end seems more than a coincidence.

A middle-class mother of 14, Kempe lived in Norfolk from about 1373 to 1440. After the birth of her children, she took a vow of chastity, and for the rest of her life undertook pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Italy and Germany.

Described by Kalas Williams as the Marmite of medieval mystics, she was infamous for loud cries and boisterous weeping in church and dramatic displays of religious devotion, which included mystical visions that placed her at the heart of the action during the nativity and crucifixion. They also made her as many enemies during her lifetime as they did followers; she was arrested for heresy and narrowly missed being burned at the stake.

Kalas Williams admitted her thesis was controversial. Scholars have speculated about the significance of the recipe since the manuscript was rediscovered in 1934. Though medieval books often feature arbitrary jottings because parchment was expensive, no other random notes appear in the manuscript, which was dictated by the mystic between 1436 and 1440, initially to her son. There are many other annotations in the book, but all of these directly engage with the words on the page, in dialogue with the content, the academic said. This makes it improbable that the recipe is a random, thoughtless, annotation.

The original manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe. It is thought to have been finished and bound between 1442 and 1450. Photograph: Board of the British Library, Dr Andrea Clarke and Christina Duffy

Initially, the recipe was thought to be for a drink to cure the flux, but the thermal imaging revealed it to be dragges herbal sweets used to refresh the palate and cure a variety of ills. The ingredients sugar, aniseed, fennel seed, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger were luxuries at the time.

The manuscript, which is the only surviving copy of the memoir, thought to be the oldest autobiography by a woman in the English language, has proved controversial since it was rediscovered in the 1930s. Many attempts have been made to explain Kempes profuse weeping, collapsing and roaring while under the influence of her visions. As well as epilepsy, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, it has been posited that the mystic suffered postpartum depression, as her first extreme religious experiences and demonic torment followed her first difficult pregnancy.

Kalas Williams dismissed attempts at diagnosis as anachronistic and preferred to use Kempes memoir to understand the medieval view of womens bodies and health. For me, Kempe is a tenacious figure, determined to be heard in a culture where womens voices were not supposed to be heard, and brave enough to express her emotions publicly and viscerally, added the scholar, who is writing up her findings for academic publication later this year.

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Cliques, Careers, And Cults: How Groupthink Influences Us Every Day

Humanity is complex, to say the least. Why we act a certain way or believe a certain thing is entirely up to us. Or is it? Were all susceptible to picking up habits from our friends and family or making choices based on what we think will please others the mostbut does that mean were fully in charge of our own decision-making? Since weve partnered with the Hulu Original Series The Path (Season 2 streaming now on Hulu) a show that dives into the center of a controversial cult movement accused of brainwashing its followers, weve decided to investigate further to see if were all really victims of groupthink after all.

At one point or another, everyones parents gave them the same lecture about peer pressure: If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

Although your parents probably didnt know it, what they were introducing you to at the time was the concept of groupthinka phenomenon coined by Dr. Irving Janis as being when a group collectively makes decisions that undermine mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgement of the individuals in the group.

Most of our behavior and decision-making can be traced back to being influenced by the people around us. Certain levels of groupthink are prevalent in almost every aspect of our livesfrom cliques in high school cafeterias to upper-management making the big decisions in the workplace.

Its a dangerous mindset to be made part of. And its everywhere.

The problem with groupthink is that it treats a group of people as a homogeneous unit. When it comes to coming up with decisions or solutions ( when the group is under pressure), the desire to keep the group at unanimity overpowers the necessity for alternative thinking or thoughtful discussion. Typically, then, the decision will be left to those in chargeand rarely is that decision the best possible option nor does it benefit everyone.

It forces the members of the group to lose their individuality and voice.

Christen Clemson, author of , describes how schoolyard cliques actually feed into the perpetuation of groupthink later on in life. The construction of boundaries between different groups creates homogeneous cliquesthe more dominant personalities of which typically make all of the decisions for everyone in the group.

Clemson argues that although its nonsensical to try to demolish cliques in schoolsas it is an indisputable part of an adolescents social developmentit is important to discourage groupthink as soon as possible, because issues like eating disorders, bullying, racism, and other problems can arise from groupthink mentality in cliques.

These are serious problems, the effects of which dont just disappear after you pick up your high school diploma.

Bob Ebeling was an engineer working on the Challenger, and recalls in an interview with NPR how he witnessed the effects of groupthink firsthand in the workplace. He and four other engineers had strongly advocated for calling off the Challenger mission the night before, but were shut down by NASA officials.

The Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff.

The situation is a typical example of groupthinkwhere the leaders themselves arent necessarily bad people (NASA, of course, didnt want to kill the seven astronauts on board), but good people who make bad decisions. And the whole group suffers for it.

But sometimes, there are groupthink cases where the leaders bad. Arguably one of the most damaging and widely recognized perpetrators of groupthink is cults.

The intentions of different cults vary, but the generic definition for the term refers to a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object. According to Dr. Max Wexler, cults are founded by individuals who, through the use of ordeals, draw a loyal, elite group of followers.

To a higher degree than your high school Queen Bee or the NASA officials who went through with the Challenger expedition, cult rules utilize intentionally destructive and psychologically manipulative tactics to get their members to do what they want.

According to Dr. Wexler, cultic decision-making is entirely faulty. This level of internalized groupthink is incredibly destructive and problematic. Cults set up an environment that sheds old behavior guidelines and creates new expectations and emerging norms in order to establish an airtight homogeneous state within the groupeliminating all possibilities for members to feel comfortable even considering that the decisions being made could be wrong.

A central question that surrounds cults is: How do these leaders lure their followers in?

Cults are appealing because they promise ideals and values that, on a surface-level seem positive and infallible. They offer close-knit friendships, opportunities to feel needed and wanted, andarguably the biggest selling pointan identity.

For those who struggle socially or who feel lost in their lives, it appears to be the perfect solution to all of their psychological needs. We, as humans, are social creatures, and the cultic environment offers a powerful incentive for us to join and immediately feel accepted and welcomed. Its the inclusivity we all crave.

However all of the positive promises of cultic life are simultaneously manipulated into ways to control members.

This promise of inclusivity demands that you sever ties with your family and friends. This promised identity requires you to unquestioningly follow the beliefs and practices of the chosen leader. The promise to finally feel accepted and needed comes with an ironclad rule about essentially trading in your individualism and personal liberties for the greater good of the community.

Its what Dr. Wexler calls enthusiastic conformity. The members internalize the idea that what happens within the group is all that mattersthe outside world and their rules do not apply to them. They idolize their leader for creating a community for them to fit into, and return the favor by never examining or questioning the leaders beliefs or decisions.

This type of brainwashing preys on people who crave acceptance, which deep down is most of us.

The appeal of cults makes sense, but what convinces people to stay after theyve joined? Dr. Adrian Furnham explains that cults deliberately induce powerful emotions like fear, guilt [and] also pride as a means for retaining memberships. Its a further manipulation of our basic emotional and psychological necessities.

The groupthink phenomenon is found in almost all sectors of life. Its deeply rooted in the basic human desire for acceptance and validation, and is a force that drives all of us. Our natural need for socialization sways us in our decision-makingparticularly in our decision to be heavily influenced by others.

Groupthink gives us a false sense of stability. And to combat it, we have to learn to adjust to the idea of just being comfortable with ourselves first.

Season 2 of The Path is Now Streaming on Hulu. New Episodes Wednesdays.

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Pope Francis: better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic

Pope criticises double life led by some members of his own church during the sermon of his private morning mass

Pope Francis has delivered another criticism of some members of his own church, suggesting it was better to be an atheist than one of many Catholics who he said lead a hypocritical double life.

In improvised comments in the sermon of his private morning mass in his residence, he said: It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life.

There are those who say, I am very Catholic, I always go to mass, I belong to this and that association, the head of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic church said, according to a Vatican Radio transcript.

He said some of these people should also say my life is not Christian, I dont pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, [I lead] a double life.

There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal, he said. How many times have we all heard people say if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has often told Catholics, both priests and lay people, to practise what their religion preaches.

In his often impromptu sermons, he has condemned sexual abuse of children by priests as being tantamount to a satanic mass, said Catholics in the mafia excommunicate themselves, and told his own cardinals to not act as if they were princes.

Less than two months after his election, he said Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.

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Jakarta governor election a ‘litmus test’ of Indonesian Islam

Incumbent Ahok, a Christian from the ethnic Chinese minority, fights to retain office after a campaign charged with racial and religious intolerance

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