Thursday, November 13, 2008

In the Service of Others

Mormons have received a lot of media attention lately, and not all of it has been good. We've taken a lot of heat for our beliefs during Mitt Romney's bid for presidential candidacy, in the aftermath of the raid of the FLDS compound in Texas--a group which has no affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most recently because of the involvement of Mormons in passing Proposition 8.

But the stories which indicate that Mormons really do believe in being "benevolent...and in doing good to all men [and women]" (Articles of Faith 13) are largely overlooked.

Joseph Smith, whom Mormons regard as a Prophet of God, once said, "Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." (1)

Here are some notable illustrations of Joseph Smith's point.

A group of food scientists at Brigham Young University have developed a process whereby small, local tortilla mills in Mexico can fortify tortillas with vitamins and minerals "that are too often absent from Mexican's diet." Read more about their work here.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has presented 750 wheel chairs worth 100,000 dollars to the Department of Social Welfare for distribution to disabled persons in three regions of [Ghana] this year." According to this report, here, "last year, the church presented 600,000 wheel chairs to 60 countries world wide and provided some relief items to 52 countries as humanitarian gesture."

The state of Georgia is known to many as the Peach State. But recently Georgia charities found their shelves rapidly emptying as more people hurt by economic troubles and bad weather came for assistance. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "The Mormon church sent 70,000 cans of peaches to charities in metro Atlanta. Apricots, too." Those peaches came from Utah and Idaho where orchards experienced bumper crops. "The fruit was picked and processed by church members at church facilities, packed in boxes in Salt Lake City, and shared among churches for their needy. There were still tons left over." So they were sent to Georgia where they were greatly needed and appreciated.

The forgoing are but a sampling of ways in which Mormons are seeking to reach out beyond themselves to people of all ethnicities, nations, and religions to "bless the whole human race."

Additional Stories:

BYU student-designed device to help poor East Africans coax oil from coconuts. Read it here.

BYU and Empower Playgrounds install electricity-generating merry-go-round in Ghana. Read it here.

And Who is My Neighbor?: Highlights of humanitarian endeavors during 2007. Read it here.



1. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, Deseret Book Company, 1979, pg. 174.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On Prop 8

The Los Angeles Times reported, here, that “as of Saturday morning [November 8th], the [California] secretary of state reported 5,661,583 votes in favor [of] and 5,154,457 opposed [to Proposition 8].” That’s a total of 10,816,040 votes.

According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are 749,490 Californian members of the Church, ages 8 and up. (See here)

Let’s pretend all those Californian Mormons are of voting age (which they aren’t), and that all of them voted yes on Prop 8 (which they didn’t). What percentage of all who voted on Prop 8 (either for or against) could have been Mormon? 6.9%. What percentage of all who voted yes on Prop 8 could have been Mormon? 13.23%.

That’s hardly a majority in either case, yet those are the maximum percentages of Mormon participation if (1) all 749,490 Californian Mormons were of voting age, (2) all Californian Mormons voted, and (3) all Californian Mormons voted in favor of Prop 8.

So why is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being “being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election”?

“Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

“While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

“Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.” (Church Issues Statement on Proposition 8 Protest)

The day after the citizens of California decided on Prop 8, a majority of which were not Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement:

“Most likely, the election results for these constitutional amendments will not mean an end to the debate over same-sex marriage in this country.

“We hope that now and in the future all parties involved in this issue will be well informed and act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different position. No one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information.”

“...Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians. Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

“Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.” (Church Responds to Same-Sex Marriage Votes)

I fully respect others’ right to entertain different opinions, and I hope others would respect my right to the same. Angry marches, vandalism of church buildings, or attempts to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches which exercise their “right to speak out on important issues” but do not cross the line to endorse candidates or parties do not bespeak love or tolerance on the part of those who speak so much of deserving love and tolerance.

If my math is correct, the Mormons as a group did not swing the vote in favor of Prop 8 at the ballot boxes by any stretch of the imagination. That many, many other people of all faiths, races, and creeds supported Prop 8 indicates that the traditional definition of marriage is not important to Mormons alone, but to a much larger percentage of California citizens.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Persecuted?

Today I read that some consider it ironic for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be encouraging its members to defend the traditional definition of marriage. According to one,

This is a church that has been persecuted for its flavor of Christianity, for its past marriage practices, for its past religious practices. And here they are turning around and persecuting another group of people...

However, I'm failing to see the irony. Perhaps it's because no honest person in good conscience can compare the Church's involvement with promoting Proposition 8 to the persecutions heaped on the Mormons in the 19th century because of their religious beliefs.

For example, how many people have been tarred and feathered by the Mormons? I haven't read about any in the news, but many Mormons, including Joseph Smith, were tarred and feathered by angry mobs.

How many have been driven from their homes because they support same-sex marriage? Or how many have been robbed of their property? Or how many have been beaten, raped, or unjustly imprisoned for months on end?

Or how many can relate to the experience of one of my ancestors, Martha P. Thomas? She recorded:

When in 1839 the mobs came upon us in force and drove us away from our home with the loss of all we had save five children, a small yoke of cattle, one old wagon, the clothes we wore and one pair of shoes, all we had for our children....The leaders of the Church were imprisoned, my husband with them. We had to leave in a great hurry on account of the mob and to save our lives, many of our friends, the Saints, being killed.

Because of violent persecutions the Mormons were forced to leave New York, Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, and it wasn't even a full decade after they settled in Utah but what the Mormons were again the target of persecutions at the hands of corrupt individuals. How many proponents of same-sex marriage can make such a claim?

Again, we are reminded that

...under dreadful conditions, the Prophet Joseph Smith suffered in Liberty Jail for months while the mobs drove the Saints from their homes [in Missouri]. The words liberty and jail do not fit together very well.

...The Lord told the Saints to seek redress from the judges, the governor, and then the president.

Their appeals to the judges failed. During his life, Joseph Smith was summoned to court over 200 times on all kinds of trumped-up charges. He was never convicted.

When they sought redress from Governor Boggs of Missouri, he issued a proclamation: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good.” That unleashed untold brutality and wickedness.

They appealed to President Martin Van Buren of the United States, who told them, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.”

...The final paragraphs of their third petition addressed to the Congress of the United States [read]:

“The afflictions of your memorialists have already been overwhelming, too much for humanity, too much for American citizens to endure without complaint. We have groaned under the iron hand of tyranny and oppression these many years. We have been robbed of our property to the amount of two millions of dollars. We have been hunted as the wild beasts of the forest. We have seen our aged fathers who fought in the Revolution, and our innocent children, alike slaughtered by our persecutors. We have seen the fair daughters of American citizens insulted and abused in the most inhuman manner, and finally, we have seen fifteen thousand souls, men, women, and children, driven by force of arms, during the severities of winter, from their sacred homes and firesides, to a land of strangers, penniless and unprotected. Under all these afflicting circumstances, we imploringly stretch forth our hands towards the highest councils of our nation, and humbly appeal to the illustrious Senators and Representatives of a great and free people for redress and protection.

“Hear! O hear the petitioning voice of many thousands of American citizens who now groan in exile . . . ! Hear! O hear the weeping and bitter lamentations of widows and orphans, whose husbands and fathers have been cruelly martyred in the land where the proud eagle . . . floats! Let it not be recorded in the archives of the nations, that . . . exiles sought protection and redress at your hands, but sought it in vain. It is in your power to save us, our wives, and our children, from a repetition of the bloodthirsty scenes of Missouri, and thus greatly relieve the fears of a persecuted and injured people, and your petitioners will ever pray.”

There was no pity, and they were turned away.

In 1844, while under the avowed protection of Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death in Carthage Jail. Words cannot express the brutality and suffering the Saints had endured.

Can any of the supporters of same-sex marriage truly say that they have suffered like persecutions at the hands of the Mormons?

The injustices suffered by the Mormons rank right up there with those suffered by the blacks and the Native Americans; same-sex marriage proponents have yet to even see a hint of suffering at the hands of the Mormons.

It's one thing to fight for your beliefs, but it's another thing entirely to resort to false analogies and distortions of history to advance your cause.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween

Deb and I celebrated Halloween a little early this year with the ward we're serving in. We were in Fairview, UT, with Deb's maternal grandparents last night so we didn't dress up. Here's some pics for you to enjoy of our sweet costumes.



Deb as a 70s snow bunny, Nate as a used-car salesman.



The mustache is real, sort of. I really did grow out my mustache for a week but I'm so blonde that you could hardly see it. The trick in darkening it up? Mascara!


Would you buy a car from this guy?



So, here's to dressing up for Halloween. Three years ago at a friend's, now brother-in-law's, birthday party, when Deb and I first officially met, she and her roommates weren't very impressed with my 'plain-clothes, undercover cop' costume. I thought it was genius, but it didn't win me any points with Deb at the time: it wasn't until nearly a year later when we met for a second time that I made any sort of good impression.