South Sudanese Refugees Flood into Northwestern Uganda

This year (2014) alone, it is estimated that over 150,000 South Sudanese refugees will flood south into northwestern Uganda (the area around Arua).  This is the result of the fierce tribal and ethnic warfare going on in South Sudan.  Analyses of arrival profiles show that women and children continue to represent the vast majority of the new arrivals.

Most the new refugees are being settled in areas northeast of Arua.  In most cases, they are being somewhat integrated with Ugandans already living in the area.  According to a recent United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report:

In order to ensure peaceful co-existence between the new arrivals and the host communities, basic services that are provided to refugees, such as health, water, sanitation, schools, are also made available to communities surrounding the refugee camps.

The UN is responsible for providing financial, health, and other support to the refugees, while the Uganda government is providing camp and community security.

An example of the integration of locals and refugees is found in the schools.  Robert Kagabo, a graduate student at the University of Utah who is studying the Rhino Refugee Camp, notes that at one school (Quiver Primary and Secondary) there are 385 refugees and 88 non-refugees attending.  While the boy/girl ratio for the non-refugees is about 50/50, for the refugees it is closer to 90/10.  There is a serious problem with under enrollment of girls.

The refugee schools have all the problems typically associated with education in developing countries:  lack of electricity, little in the way of sporting and playground equipment, paucity of school supplies and equipment, and poor teacher salaries.  Two areas where NGOs that I work with should be able to help are with recreational equipment and solar lighting.  In January, a colleague and I hope to get to Quiver school and help install a large swing set and a volley court, provide soccer- and volleyballs, and assist with the installation of solar lighting.  While at the school, we also hope to see what can be done to encourage more girls to attend school.


If you would like to contribute to our project involving playground equipment (swing sets in particular), you can click here.

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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.

Posted in mormonism, Personal Essays, Religion | Tagged , | 4 Comments

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!

Posted in Africa, mormonism, Organizational Dynamics, Personalities, Religion, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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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