Suicide Among Mormon Church Members

Over the weekend, a long-time colleague, committed suicide.  As I look back, this is the sixth individual that I’ve known (none well) or been somewhat acquainted with that has done this.  Four were in their 30s and 40s, and 2 were older.  The two older ones may have euthanized themselves.  Both were in pain, and one was quite old.

At least 2 of the younger ones suffered from depression.  Two were married, one had children and grandchildren, and the other had 4 children still living at home.  Of the 4 who were not married, 3 were in midlife.  All were members of the LDS Church.  I’m not sure about their activity rates, but I’m sure all were still affiliated with the Church.

I realize this is a small sample size, but I wonder about the half who were unmarried and in their 30s and 40s?  Of course, we care about them all.  Depression is an ugly disease.  But I particularly wonder about those that were not married.  I hope they have found the peace that they so obviously needed.

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Comments About Mormon Missions, Part XV (Rocky Spiker)

by Heidi HallThe Tennessean, Nov 19, 2014

NASHVILLE–Theatergoers here are getting a low-key dose of real proselytizing when they come for the sold-out Broadway tour of The Book of Mormon.

Mormon Missionaries Greeting Theater Goers in Nashville

Mormon Missionaries Greeting Theater Goers in Nashville

Rocky Spiker–Elder Spiker to his colleagues–holds open the door as ticket holders rush to get out of the cold.

“You know the book is always better,” he tells them, eliciting chuckles.  Or, “We’re real Mormon missionaries.  Come talk to us after the play.”

His fellow missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear suits and ties and hand out stacks of the Book of Mormon or cards offering free copies.  And they plan to come to every one of the performances through Saturday, capping off their run with an open house Sunday night at one of their wards in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville.

Mormons have staged similar campaigns across the USA.

Note:  Other unique missionary experiences can be read here.

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Historian John G. Turner’s Take on Mormon Theosis

In a recent post at, historian John G. Turner provides some interesting background on Lorenzo Snow’s couplet:  that “as man now is, God once was.  As God now is, man may become.”

Snow received a patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith Sr. in 1836 which promised that he would “become as great as you can possibly wish–EVEN AS GREAT AS God, and you cannot wish to be greater.”  Snow later recalled that on his way to England in 1840, he “saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man.”  He then formed the couplet, which he felt explained “Father Smith’s dark saying to me.”

With all due respect to Lorenzo Snow, Brigham Young should receive a least partial credit for the formation of the “Mormon couplet.”  In February 1849, at a meeting of “the Presidency, Twelve, & Seventies,” Lorenzo Snow “laid out his opinion as to Jesus Christ being of a different grade than prophets or more than our Bren [brothers?] he is God the father, & not our Elder Brother.”

Young responded–according to minutes kept by Robert Campbell–that “it came to me in England.  As God was we shall be.  As we are so God was.”  Thomas Bullock’s minutes of the same meeting phrase Young’s response as follows:

“As he was, so are we now/

As he is now, so we shall [become?].

The language of Young’s couplet is strikingly similar to Snow’s, and the source is apparently much earlier.  It seems probable that Brigham Young brought forth Mormonism’s language into his own memory.

At first, I was confused about the dates above.  But in “Comments,” Turner explains further:  “I do think that Brigham’s formulation (and reference to receiving a revelation in England) predates Lorenzo Snow’s.”

Several other commenters on bcc mentioned the possible connection between theosis and Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory.  The latter has been ignored or dismissed by contemporary LDS Church leaders.  On bcc, DQ wrote the following:

Out of curiosity, on the spectrum of “theosis is linked to AG (Adam-God) doctrine and therefore theosis is equally as suspect” or “theosis having early linking to AG doctrine makes AG potentially more credible” where do others fall?

I realize we can say one theosis is right and AG is wrong as a third option, but when I read a lot of early teachings I can’t escape its underlying linking.

I’ve always liked the LDS theosis doctrine.  Sixty years ago, it was a much more prominent teaching in the Church.  I sincerely hope that it isn’t shuttled aside like Adam-God.

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It’s Time to Stop Trashing Hugh Nibley! Just Stop!

In Mormon circles, it’s de rigueur these days to trash Hugh Nibley.  We need to stop!  Instead of trying to have a debate with a scholar who cannot defend himself, we need to listen to his message.  His message may not be perfect, but so what?  His message is important and we need to listen.  Two areas that have been recently over discussed are:  (1) his 1983 address-turn-article titled “Leaders to Managers” and (2) his criticisms of affluenza and capitalism.


In the first, Nibley makes a strong bifurcation between managers and leaders.  He implies that managers are not so good, and that the ideal should be to have more leaders, individuals with vision.  Walker Wright in discussing the 1983 article makes a strong accusation:

While Nibley may have had both church and university bureaucracies in mind at the time of his remarks (perhaps even correlated Mormon culture as a whole), he nonetheless engages in a kind of rhetorical irresponsibility when discussing the supposed differences between leadership and management as well as the nature of business.  Not only do I believe Nibley is mistaken, but I believe his views are potentially damaging to the progress of Zion.

Talk about hyperbole.  While we may not agree with all of Nibley’s “extreme” points, it is important that we (including LDS Church leaders) understand his message.  The Church and other organizations are overrun with managers, but we seem lacking in leaders with a clear vision of where the Church should be headed in the 21st century.  Our current managers are reacting rather than leading.  I suspect that President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland have a vision, but somehow it is getting lost in all minutiae and effluvia that we are currently obsessing over.  What was Christ’s message?  Let’s read the NT and go there.

We are talking about a continuum.  Extreme managers at one end and leaders with vision on the other.  Those in leadership roles need to be somewhere along that continuum.  Nibley is arguing that they need to be closer to the visionary terminus.  That idea is certainly defensible and hardly deserves the harsh criticism of Wright et al.  And it is not “potentially damaging to the progress of Zion.”  In fact, our over-institutionalized Church is sadly in need of “leaders.” Instead of trashing Nibley, let’s see what we can learn from his writing.

On the second issue of affluenza, “the bloat, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with Jones,” we really shouldn’t be over analyzing Nibley here either.  Building bigger and bigger houses and buying more and more adult toys is obviously a problem, as is unbridled capitalism.  What case do you want to argue here?  That we should be free to stomp on the poor and that it is okay to construct 4 expensive homes and own 2 Escalades and a Mustang, and “secretly” lampoon those in the lower financial rungs?

Nate Oman, in his overly pedantic paper, summarizes Nibley’s concern with free-market capitalism:

Broadly speaking Nibley’s indictment of the market has three parts.  First, he attacks what he calls “the Work Ethic.” a set of perverse moral habits and beliefs reinforced by market exchange.  Second, he denounces the inequality created by trade and commerce.  Finally, he argues that market exchange rests on the harm and exploitation of the weak and the innocent.

Oman tries unsuccessfully to refute each of these 3 parts.

I travel to east-central Africa on frequent basis, principally to the countries of Uganda and Ethiopia.  From my observations, the second and third indictments are certainly a defensible position, and I have written about some of the ugliness.  So Oman’s arguments don’t ring true with me.  Wealth is increasingly accumulating in hands of a very small percentage of the world’s population (the 1 percent).  And with money, brings power.  So Oman can quote all the scriptures and GAs he wants, there are still no Christian justifications for these social inequities and market obscenities.

Again there is continuum with laissez-faire capitalism (free trade) on one end and agarian socialism at the other end.  I’m pretty sure that Nibley would be very happy with some serious movement toward the latter and a reevaluation of our personal priorities away from affluenza.

As I have stated over and over again, soon over half the members of the LDS Church will be living in developing countries.  Oman aside, we as LDS churchmembers should be doing more, a lot more.  And not just for members.  Instead we are squandering our heritage.  Let’s honor Nibley, not trash him!

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Comments About Mormon Missions, Part XIV (Anziano Jensen)

By Menachem Wecker, Religion News Service

For the past eight months, young Mormon missionaries have trekked to a busy corner of Via Rizzoli and Via Calzolerie [Bologna, Italy] each Sunday to draw in chalk.

At a time when “tracting,” or going door to door handing out church literature, is no longer seen as effective, Mormon missionaries are trying new methods of getting their message out.

[Anziano "Austin"] and his colleagues tend to draw representations of “gospel dispensation,” or stories from scripture about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.  “Or,” he said, “we outline the phases of the plan of salvation, explaining our life with God before this life until what happens when we die.”

Some missionaries encourage passers-by to contribute their own writing and drawings.

As one might expect, Jensen and his colleagues get a range of responses.  Some are disinterested; others hang around for in-depth conversations.  Still others he said, add their own “vulgar or degrading material that distracts from or ruins our drawings.”

The chalk drawings are not unique to Bologna.  Mormon missionaries have used the technique in New York and Colorado, said Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the LDS Church in Salt Lake City.

Mormon Mission Street Art in New York

Mormon Mission Street Art in New York

And this sort of creative missionary approach is becoming increasingly popular, said Matthew Bowman, a history instructor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and author of the 2012 book “The Mormon People:  The Making of an American Faith.”

“Essentially, there’s been a growing decentralization of mission practices and an encouragement for local mission leaders to be more innovative,”  Bowman said.  “This is an attempt to find better strategies.”

Note:  Other unique missionary experiences can be read here.

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Easy to Construct (DIY) Teeter Totters (Seesaws)

Teeter totters are easy to construct and can be an important feature in primary school playgrounds.  Below are three designs that might prove useful depending on the resources available:

The first is an all-metal design currently available from a Salt Lake City manufacturer/vendor (Component Playgrounds).

Commercially Available Teeter Totter

Commercially Available Teeter Totter

Pivot Point on the Metal Teeter Totter

Pivot Point on the Metal Teeter Totter

The second is an all-wood design that I saw on the Galapagos Islands.

Wooden Teeter Totter in a Playground on a Galapagos Island.

Wooden Teeter Totter in a Playground on a Galapagos Island.

The third is a wood-and-pipe design that my friends and I have installed at various locations in the Navajo Nation.

Installing a Wood-and-Pipe Teeter Totter in the Navajo Nation

Installing a Wood-and-Pipe Teeter Totter in the Navajo Nation

Teeter Totter with Old Tires  Under the Seats (Tires Usually Face the Other Direction)

Teeter Totter with Old Tires Under the Seats (Tires Usually Face the Other Direction)

The fourth is a wood-and-wheel design (in this case, irrigation sprinkler wheel) that we are currently prototyping.  While the previous three are realistic for developing country applications, this one is a bit more problematic because of the possible difficulties of locating appropriate wheels.  Besides sprinkler wheels, maybe large cable reels or something similar might work.

Teeter Totter from 2004 "Burning Man"

Teeter Totter at 2004′s “Burning Man”

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3-D Printing Can Help Alleviate Poverty

This blog has consistently hyped technology as one of the most promising solutions to the problem of poverty.  However, there is one technology whose potential I have previously failed to recognize:  3-D Printing.

With a 3-D printer, an operator plugs in a virtual blueprint for an object, which the printer uses to construct the final product layer by layer.  Several types of these printers exist, using a variety of materials as the “ink.”  The most popular models work by extruding a filament of molten plastic.  The print head makes repeated passes over the item being printed.  It thus builds a 3-D structure.  Other “inks” are also being used including clay which are used in the construction of homes.

Commercially Available 3-D Printer

Commercially Available 3-D Printer

The recent migration toward 3-D printing in the developing world deserves highlighting for several excellent reasons:

1.  3-D printed solutions are often far more affordable to low-income people when compared to the most affordable alternatives.  This is particularly true in landlocked countries like Uganda where it is very expensive to import materials and products.

2.  Most 3-D templates are open source.  Small businesses can quickly take advantage of existing templates developed by others and can learn from their mistakes.  Open source templates also allow for rapid iteration.

3.  Training local people to use 3-D printers allows for a level of decentralization that was previously not possible.  These printers combined with mobile internet access, will enable developing economies in Africa and elsewhere to create a new manufacturing model that overcomes the obstacles associated with traditional manufacturing, like poor financial and logistical infrastructure.

An amazing variety of products can be made with 3-D printers.  Contour Crafting is using the technology to build homes.  The company plans on using 3-D printers to improve substandard housing conditions in the developing world, and provide dignified emergency housing for people in disaster situations.

Plastic Bank, which recently launched in Peru, is another company with a 3-D printer idea.  If low-income people pick up plastic and bring it to Plastic Bank huts, they can exchange it for food, clothing, and other items.  They also have access to 3-D printing training and facilities so they manufacture their own products from plastic.

A group called Water for Humanity plans on using 3-D printers to custom-build composting toilets and rainwater harvesters.  They will be looking for suitable local entrepreneurs in developing countries and will train them on how to build, use, and maintain the printers.

But 3-D printing also brings up concerns.  For example one comment writer on Ted asks:

With a dose of corruption and a pinch of money, what’ll stop extremists from designing and manufacturing firearms in a basement?  Unless violence is eradicated from the human genome, it is best if useful, life-changing technologies are left underutilized.

Others wonder what 3-D printing might to do existing manufacturers.  Might it have the potential to destroy certain industries.  All technological innovations have unexpected impacts.

These are real concerns and they need to be addressed.  But for the moment, the upside of 3-D printing, particularly in developing countries, is far greater than the downside.

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