President Oaks Steps in It Again

In a June 11, 2019, commencement address at BYU-Hawaii, President Dallin Oaks made more disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ+ community.  According to

In a transcript of his speech, Oaks, next in line to lead the church, lamented the “culture of evil and personal wickedness in the world,” including the “increasing frequency and power of the culture and phenomenon of lesbian, gay and transgender lifestyles and values.”

This sounds like a far-fetched conspiracy theory:  “increasing power of the culture . . . of lesbian, gay and transgender . . . values.”  Is he talking about their search for equality, equal rights?  Or, what some refer to as the radical gay agenda?

LDS Leaders Tilting at the Windmill of Gay Conspiracy Theories

Unfortunately, a few week earlier Elder Jeffrey Holland in an address to Seminary and Institute teachers comes to a conclusion similar to that of Oaks:

Broadly speaking, Zs [ages 7-21] are always “wired” to some sort of device. They have perhaps been exposed to “flagrant, destructive pornography” at early ages. They tend to support gay marriage and transgender rights as part of everyday life. “Because of this sociability, the thin line between friendship and condoning behavior begins to blur.”

He states there is a “thin line between friendship and condoning.”  Since most of us know someone or have a relative who is gay, this statement is deeply problematic.

I’m not sure what “condoning” means in this context.  Does it mean that I can’t allow a gay relative to sleep in same bedroom as his partner?  Or that I shouldn’t attend a lesbian wedding?  That’s just silly, and not very friendly

Holland seems a late arrival to homophobia.  In the past, he has been a darling of progressive Mormons.  So his strident remarks are somewhat unexpected.  But not those of Oaks.  He’s been consistently spewing homophobia.  Much like racist GAs spread anti-black nonsense in the 1960’s.

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Flags and Their Meaning

My son and his family recently had a small dinner party for 7 of his friends from the Philippines.  My son served an LDS mission on Mindanao, and still feels connected to the islands.  This is one of the wonderful affects of serving a foreign mission.  To welcome his guests, my son hung a large Philippine flag from his front porch.

Flag of the Philippines

His twin, brother who lives in Washington D.C., has both a Canadian and Chuukese flag displayed in his house.  His daughter (my granddaughter) served an LDS mission in Montreal and his son is currently serving in the State of Chuuk (a small group of islands that is part of the Confederated States of Micronesia, located SE of Guam).

Flag of the State of Chuuk (Pronounced Chooook)

When my daughter’s family purchased a house in Alpine, UT, it came equipped with a flag pole.  During June of this year, they flew a Rainbow flag in honor of Gay Pride month.  And then in July, they switched to the Betsy Ross flag.

Rainbow Flag

Then came the controversy over the Betsy Ross flag.  With Nike withdrawing from the market shoes with a 13-starred flag on the heal.  This action was taken at the recommendation of one of their advisors, Colin Kaepernick.  He alleged it was occasionally used by racists.  An allegation which, on review, seemed exaggerated and not particularly relevant.  After all, the Betsy Ross flag was displayed prominently at President Obama’s inauguration.  The flag is an important part of our nation’s history.  And just for the record, my daughter and her family are not racists.

Betsy Ross Flag

I have a frame to display flags in my back yard.  I typically alternate between the U.S. Coast Guard flag, the Ugandan flag, and the French flag.  I served 3+ years in the Coast Guard and they treated me well.  I work 2 months each year in Uganda and love its residents.  And I served an enjoyable (but frustrating) LDS mission in France.  The flags are my remembrances of my past, present, and future.

U.S. Coast Guard Flag

That gets me to the blue flag, a black and white flag with a blue stripe, symbolizing the “thin blue line,” the demarcation between the police and chaos.  The flag was intended as an expression supporting our men in uniform.  Unfortunately, this flag was co-opted by neo-Nazi organization at a ugly demonstration in Charlottesville, Va.

Blue-Line Flag

About a month ago, I saw a large blue-stripe flag flying on a Orem City fire truck.  I was concerned that it might be misinterpreted and was going to contact the fire department, but never did.  I only saw the blue-line flag flown that one time.  So the issue for me is dead.

How about the standard American flag?  I don’t personally display it.  The Boy Scouts used to have a fundraiser where they’d post the American flag on your front lawn on major holidays.  I didn’t participate.  I served in the military but I’m not a super-patriot.  Boundaries between nation are so arbitrary.  I try to be respectful of all country flags.

While I’m not in favor of flag burning, I dislike politician using it as a political issue.  Ex-senator Hatch was infamous for patronizing Utahns by trying to pass anti-flag burning legislation.  During the 40+ years he was in Congress, America had much more important issues, and this was just a diversionary tactic.  Trying to convince the electorate that he was actually doing something.  I also find the proposed legislation to require all American flags to be made in America silly and patronizing.  Again, America has much bigger issues, particularly now.

Flags are important.  Hopefully, they remind us of the principles that our countries are founded on.  Hopefully, they are not used to divide us.  To insulate us from the rest of humanity.  What happens in my country affects the world.

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Hand Washing Units: A Needed Addition to Our Playground Equipment List

For the last 10 years, we have been installing playgrounds in primary schools in 10 countries spread around the world.  And we’ve installed a wide variety of equipment.

A Typical Hand Washing Station

For future installations, we are going to start installing hand washing stations also.  Although not directly connected to a traditional playground, hand washing stations are critical for school sanitation.

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Ebola Now Threatens Uganda

Eastern Congo is currently experiencing the 2nd worse Ebola outbreak in history.  Over 1,500 have died.  Fighting the epidemic is being hindered by lawless conditions in the area.  International health workers have been hesitant to work there because of unsafe (violent) conditions.

Recently in Uganda, 2 people have died from Ebola.  They died in a hospital near the Congolese border.  Ugandan border areas is on high alert trying to keep the epidemic from spreading outside the Congo.

One of the areas where we work in southwestern Uganda are the southern Rwenzori Mountains.  We have been assisting many of the mountain village schools.  Unfortunately, the villages abut the Congo border.  And the boundary is very porous.

A Schoolhouse in the Rwenzori Mountains, Southwestern Uganda

Ten days ago, our coordinator in the Rwenzoris indicated that all schools were required to have 2 hand washing stations, one at the entrance and another at the latrines.  Since the mountain schools are very  poor, our NGO agreed to assist.

A friend found sturdy hand washing units in Kampala, and had 28 of them shipped to Kyarumba, located in the foothills of the Rwenzoris.  Our local coordinator is going to get them delivered to the mountain schools.  Since many of the schools are in roadless areas, the villagers will be carrying them up to their schools.  Our coordinator is also insuring that training on the importance of hand washing is provided.

Loading the Hand Washing Units on a Truck Bound for Kyarumba

Hand Washing Stations Being Assembled and Cleaned in Preparation for Delivery to Village Schools

Even if the Ebola outbreak doesn’t reach into Uganda, the hand washing units will be valuable for fighting other diseases endemic to the region.

Chripus Mbusa Providing Training on the Importance of Hand Washing

Note:  More info to come.

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Uganda Treats Refugees with Respect, So Why Can’t We?

According to Haydee Diaz, who works with Catholic Relief Services, Uganda has been successful in handling large numbers of refugees from the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.  In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, she bemoans the way the USA is treating the refugees at its door:

What a jarring contrast between the success in [Uganda] and what is happening in my own country [USA]: immigrants dying while trying to reach safety, and thousands of children held without their parents in overcrowded facilities short of food and bathrooms, as government lawyers argue that “safe and sanitary” conditions are difficult to provide or are not the government’s responsibility. The United States acknowledges that the migrants need better care, but claims it’s impossible to keep up with the crush of arrivals at the southern border. The White House blames Congress. Some members of Congress are outraged by what they call inhumane detention policies.

Ironically, Uganda is one of the poorest countries in Africa.  It is roughly the size of Oregon and is landlocked.  Diaz continues:

Uganda’s economy is smaller than New Hampshire’s, with a gross domestic product of $26 billion compared with the $21 trillion of the United States. If one of the poorest countries in the world — with help from the United States — can shelter more than 1 million refugees, educate their children and teach parents a trade, why can’t the United States at least provide safe temporary facilities for those fleeing horrors in Central America?

An excellent question.

I’ve visited Bidi Bidi, the second largest refugee camp in the world, which is located in northwestern Uganda.  It is a haven for refugees fleeing war-torn South Sudan.  I’ve discussed it’s unique characteristics here.

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Book Review (Sort of): “The Legend of Hermana Plunge”

I was curious to read Angela Liscom Clayton’s (aka Angela C. and Hawkgrrrl on the Internet) memoir Hermana Plunge, which provides detailed recollections and opinions regarding her LDS proselytizing mission to the Canary Islands.  I was interested in comparing her experiences in 1989 and 1990 with those of my own, having served in Belgium and France in the mid-1960s.  Interestingly enough, one of her boyfriends was serving in the Netherlands, and the occasional comparisons Angela makes of their two missions was interesting, particularly since the Dutch mission also included Flemish Belgium.  This comparison is under-explored in the book.  But since she broke up with the guy, her information about his mission was probably limited.

Angela is very opinionated and makes numerous comments about her mission structure and fellow missionaries.  She is particularly critical of the male missionaries who she felt put leadership objectives above proselytizing work.  She also thought that the possible correlation between strictly following mission rules and baptismal results was overemphasized and spurious.  Additionally, she expressed her disappointment with the lack of female leadership.  But to her credit, she apparently had an over-sized influence on the affairs of her mission.

Compared to my 60’s mission, Angela’s mission was crazy successful.  According to her book, she and her companions had 20 baptisms and taught 814 discussions.  In Benelux, it was not unusual for a missionary to go home without baptizing anyone.  I only baptized 2, and one wasn’t my fault (but a young adult we found and taught was later baptized by the missionaries.  So I guess I can claim 2 in good faith.)  Angela’s boyfriend’s experience seemed to come closer to mine than her’s.  And it should be remembered that I had almost 30 months (back then there was no LTC or MTC and we were given an extra 6 months to learn the language) in the mission field and Angela had 16.  I doubt anyone in the Franco-Belgian Mission gave more than 200 lessons in their 30 months.

The one thing about Angela’s mission that was particularly difficult to understand is the Alvin R. Dyer baloney; I was surprised that it was still around.  According to wikipedia:


The baseball baptism program was a disaster and had been discredited by the time I was in the mission field.  But Dyer’s book Challenge was still being circulated.  But it was certainly not emphasized.  If my memory is correct, Dyer preached testify at the door.  If your testimony is rejected, move on.

The fact that some of Dyer’s ideas were still in fashion in the early 1990’s is deeply disturbing. Apparently the idea that God has already prepared people for the gospel and that all missionaries have to do is find them was still in favor, at least in the Canary Islands.  That is crazy.  In Angela’s mission, there seemed to be a very short time between initial contact and baptism.  That doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea.

I highly recommend Angela’s book.  For me anyway, it was fascinating reading, particularly if you want a realistic look at mission life at a particular period and place in time.

Note:  The hard copy I purchased from Amazon had many typos.

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Jane Goodall: One of Time’s 100 Most Influential (2019)

By Leonardo DiCaprio

I admired Jane Goodall long before we ever met. I knew of her landmark work with chimpanzees in Gombe. I had read about her, read books written by her, but it was only when I got to spend more time with Jane a few years ago that I truly felt I was in the presence of one of the most impactful and important leaders on the planet. She chose to go to Tanzania at the age of 26 to study chimpanzees, and the research she conducted there, in the jungle at the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, ended up changing behavioral science forever.

Time’s Portrait of Jane Goodall is Reminiscent of the Mona Lisa

Since then she has committed her life to environmental protection. Even now, at the young age of 85, Jane spends nearly every day spreading optimism and raising awareness worldwide; hers is a powerful message to protect the inherent rights of every living creature, to provide hope for future generations and to sound an urgent call against the greatest environmental threat of all—climate change. Anyone who has heard her speak, or heard her story, has been mesmerized by her life’s work and moved by her philanthropic legacy.

Postscript:  At Time100’s inaugural banquet, Jane Goodall challenged members of her audience to use their ability to think big to come up with a bold plan to conserve earth’s limited resources and species–and fast.  Though she brought toy animals on stage as visual aids, her subject was serious.  “Deniers of climate, I want them to go to the Antarctic where the sea ice is melting faster than ever before,” she said, “and dump them in the middle of it.”

Webmaster’s Note:  I met Jane Goodall on an island chimp reserve in Lake Victoria.

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