Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Welcome to "Mormon From Manhattan: Viewpoints of a Latter-Day Saint New Yorker": An Introduction

Welcome to “Mormon From Manhattan: Viewpoints of a Latter-Day Saint New Yorker.” In this post, I explain the topics I plan to address, how this blog is different from other blogs about the faith of the Latter-day Saints, how I am qualified to write about this, and aspects of my personal life. (I shall continue to address issues involving the interface of the LDS faith and some details of my personal background. Note: As of March 30, I adopted a policy of posting entries of a maximum 800 words (not including references and so forth); thus, posts on this blog are just a bit longer than an Op-Ed piece in a typical newspaper.

Topics Addressed in This Blog

I shall address general topics related to the faith of the Latter-day Saints, including: LDS beliefs and practices, philosophy, ethics, doctrine. Images of Mormonism in popular entertainment and the media. Responses to Anti-Mormonism. Items appearing in the LDS blogosphere and cyberspace. Mormons and Mormonism in the news. My experience being a Latter-day Saint. Here, I shall consider items that are of particular interest to Latter-day Saints. Issues involving the interface between the LDS faith and society at large I shall consider in my blog devoted to general social issues, “On the Mark: Social Commentary From a Reflective Perspective.”) I plan to send posts to this blog once or twice a week (excluding vacations and conference trips.)

How This Blog Is Different

There are a lot of blogs about the Saints, which is a wonderful thing. I bring to this one a knowledge of other faiths and spiritual traditions (including esoteric traditions) and scriptural languages; a point of view based geographically in the American Northeast; and, the perspective of a convert, raised in another faith, with family members from many other religious traditions.

How I Am Qualified to Write About the LDS Faith

First and foremost, of course, I am an observant Latter-day Saint. I conducted a private practice in psychotherapy, primarily with an LDS population, for 16 years (and published some of my early reflections on this work). Subsequently, I have been recognized for my work in the psychology of worldviews (the assumptions that people have about reality), the psychology of religion, and the psychology of self-transcendence. I have also published articles about the LDS faith in Sunstone and Dialogue.

My Personal Background
I understand that readers may be curious about what sorts of perspectives inform my opinions. Here are some items about my background:
  • Name: Mark Edward Koltko-Rivera.
  • Demographic characteristics: 52 years old; married, with four grown children from a former marriage.
  • LDS background: Convert. Returned missionary; served an honorable mission in the Japan Okayama Mission (1978-1980). Have served in two bishoprics and on a stake high council. Have served for much of the last 8 years as the teacher of the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School. Currently serve as a ward missionary.
  • Home town: The Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City.
  • Where I’ve lived: New York City (Manhattan; Astoria, Queens; the Bronx). Florida (Winter Park, just north of Orlando). New Jersey (Newark). Pennsylvania (Haverford and Bryn Mawr). Connecticut (New Milford and West Hartford). Japan (Hiroshima, Okayama, Matsue, Matsuyama, Tokushima).
  • Ethnicity: Polish and Puerto Rican.
  • Education: Graduated from St. Stanislaus, B.M. School (now defunct), New York City, 1970. Graduated from Regis High School, New York City, 1974. Graduated from Haverford College with a BA degree, majoring in psychology, 1981 (affiliated with Class of 1978); many classes taken at Bryn Mawr College. Graduated from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education with an MS in Ed degree, majoring in counseling, 1984. Graduated from New York University with a PhD degree, in counseling psychology, 2000.
  • Religion and Spirituality: My religion is the faith of the Latter-day Saints (LDS, known popularly as ‘the Mormons’). Within this faith, I have found it comfortable to situate myself within the Sunstone and Dialogue community (named for two independent LDS publications, in which I have published several articles; I have also presented at the Sunstone Symposia in Salt Lake City, Washington, DC, and Boston).
  • Presence on the Internet: I write "On the Mark: Social Commentary From a Reflective Perspective" where I address social issues in general, my life and its lessons, and spirituality. I also write "Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend," where I address issues of interest to Freemasons. I shall address issues involving the interface between society in general and the LDS faith on "On the Mark"; I reserve issues of primary interest to Latter-day Saints on this blog, "For Latter-Day Saints: Topics in Mormonism." Anyone is welcome to read or comment on any of these blogs (subject to the rules, below).
Although directed at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, anyone is welcome to read and comment upon these posts. The rules for those who leave comments: No personal attacks. No profanity. You are welcome to disagree with me, and quite vigorously at that, but infringements of the rules means I shall delete you and bar you from future commenting. Beyond that: Welcome.

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