The Manhattan New York Temple
Lincoln Center, New York City
At Miya Jima ("Temple Island"), near Hiroshima, Japan, Spring 1980. (I am second from the right.)
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, known more popularly as “the Mormons”). To answer a few frequently asked questions:
- I am a convert of 40 years standing. I did not convert because of dissatisfaction with my birth religion, but because of spiritual experiences before my conversion. I remain a Latter-day Saint because of spiritual experiences since my original conversion. I discuss the specifics of my conversion on my “I’m a Mormon” profile on the mormon.org website.
- I served for two years as an LDS full-time proselyting missionary in the Japan Okayama Mission. I taught in Japanese (except when I taught the occasional gaijin in English). For one-third of my mission, I worked in Hiroshima. (Yes, they built it back up, and yes, a fair number of people were quite angry with us for bombing it: nothing shocking here. What I found surprising was that so many people were receptive to us American missionaries.)
- Since returning from Japan, I have served in a variety of positions in the Church, usually teaching in Sunday School or in Priesthood quorums. I have taught for years as the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School teacher in several wards and branches, where I have taught the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History.
- I have served as a counselor in the bishoprics of the Manhattan Second and Third Wards, and on the Caldwell NJ Stake high council. (A bishop is the head of an LDS congregation, equivalent to a pastor in many other Christian churches; as a counselor in the bishopric, I suppose that I was in a position similar to that of an associate or assistant pastor in another Christian church. A stake is the LDS term for a multi-congregational unit, typically composed of about ten congregations; a stake’s high council might be parallel to a bishop’s advisory council in other Christian churches.)
- Currently I am very happy to teach the Gospel Essentials Sunday School class in my home congregation. This is a class for people who have questions about the Church who are not members, as well as for new members, and members who would like a refresher on the basics of the faith.
My congregation is in the district for the Manhattan New York Temple, which I very much enjoy attending.
I have appeared in Church media. I appear as a rabbi in the video series, The Life of Jesus Christ, specifically in the episode, “Jesus Declares He Is the Messiah” (YouTube version to the right). That is me speaking in Hebrew at the beginning of the episode. A still picture from this episode, with me in the background, appears on the cover of the December 2014 issue of the Ensign magazine, the Church’s English-language magazine for adults, and on the corresponding cover of the Liahona magazine, for those who speak other languages. (Of course, the more important Person is the one in the foreground.)
My LDS faith is vitally important to me. My spiritual experiences have led me to feel, quite viscerally, the reality of my relationship to my loving Father in Heaven. The doctrine has given me a compelling perspective on the meaning of life. The practice of my religion also has made me healthier than I would otherwise be; indeed, I feel that it has saved my life.
I am involved in several efforts to contribute to the life of the Church. These include the following activities (for which new developments will be reported on my Facebook page, “That Mormon Mark"):
- I have published The Rise of the Mormons: Latter-day Saint Growth in the 21st Century (7th Street Books/LVX Publications, 2012), which is available through Amazon in both print and Kindle editions, and through Barnes & Noble Online in print (forthcoming for the Nook). In this book, I explain how the Mormons grew from a tiny group in 1830s New York to being the fourth-largest church in America as of 2012. Beyond that, I explain why and how the Church likely will become the second-largest or even the largest Christian church in the U.S., and the fourth-largest religious body in the world, by 2120.
- I have published Latter-day Saint Women and the Priesthood of God: A Believer’s Exploration (Temple Spire Books/LVX Publications, 2014), which is available through Amazon in both print and Kindle editions, and through Barnes & Noble online in print (forthcoming for the Nook). In this book, I describe how Joseph Smith seemed to be on track to ordaining women to the LDS priesthood at the time of his death. I also explain how there is no scriptural reason not to extend the LDS priesthood to women, making the current restriction of the LDS priesthood to males merely a matter of policy, not doctrine.
- I have published here and there in the LDS press, including independent Mormon publications. Several of these are listed in the section below titled “Selected LDS Publications.”
- “Of Masons and Mormons: The Relationship Between Freemasonry’s Rituals of Initiation and the Latter-Day Saint Temple Ceremonies” (August 20, 2011). Video presentation delivered under the auspices of the Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry 2011 Lecture Series, online at http://vimeo.com/27863838 ; also on YouTube (see right).
Selected LDS Publications
- Mark Koltko-Rivera. (October 1999). Making time for a boy [part of article, “Thanks for the Sabbath School”]. Ensign, vol. 28, no. 10, pp. 17-18. Available online.
- Mark Koltko-Rivera. (Summer 1999). Mormon psychohistory: Psychological insights into the Latter-day Saint past, present, and future. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 71-99. Available online.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (December 1996). LDS perspectives on substance abuse and addiction. Sunstone, issue 104, pp. 46-51. Available online. (Unfortunately, due to a printing error, the footnotes to this article were not printed.)
- Mark Edward Koltko. (1992). Latter-day myths about counseling and psychotherapy. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 32-43. Available online.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (1992). Waiting [poem]. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 68-69. Available online.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (1992). Constrictions, potentials, and margins: Thoughts on Mormon writers. Wasatch Review Internationasl, vol. 1, issue 2, pp. 109-118.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (1992). Criticism to guide our Shakespeares and Miltons: A review of Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and the New Assembly Line Fiction by John W. Aldridge. Wasatch Review International: A Mormon Literary Journal, vol. 1, issue 1, pp. 102-106.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (1991). Just dead [review of Robert Irvine’s novel, Baptism for the Dead]. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 157-159. Available online (less the last page).
- Mark Edward Koltko. (1991). The psychological foundations of the Mormon client in counseling and psychotherapy. AMCAP Journal [published by the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists], vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 1-26.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (Spring 1990). How religious beliefs affect psychotherapy: The example of Mormonism. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 132-141. Abstract available online. Full text available online through ResearchGate.
- Mark Edward Koltko. (April 1989). Mysticism and Mormonism: An LDS perspective on transcendence and higher consciousness. Sunstone, issue 70, pp. 13-19. Available online.