Do LDS Proselyting Missions Change Attitudes Toward the Poor?

According to David Evans at writes:

In a recent research paper, economist Lee Crawfurd seeks to answer this question by comparing missionaries who served in a predominantly high-income region – Europe – with those who served in low- and middle-income areas – Africa, Asia, or Latin America. The missionaries assigned to these different regions look very similar on a range of relevant characteristics, such as the number of languages they speak or the number of countries they’d visited.

Here is what he finds:

“We find that returned missionaries who were assigned to a low-income region are more interested in global development, years after their assignment. They are also more likely to continue to volunteer. But we see no difference in support for government aid or immigration, and no difference in personal donations.”

Here’s a bit more detail:

“We find the largest effects on interest in development for those assigned to Africa. We also see a positive effect on attitudes towards official aid for those assigned to Africa (but not Asia or Latin America). Third, those assigned to Africa are more likely to donate to international charities, more likely to volunteer for international causes, more likely to have a career in global development, but less likely to support a political campaign.”

LDS Missionaries in Ghana

It is interesting that LDS missionaries that serve in Africa develop the greatest empathy toward the poor.  This can, in part, be explained by the fact that by UN standards, Africa is the poorest of the continents.

My comment to the above post was:

If missionaries did more service work in developing countries, I’m sure that would further shape their feelings about the poor. And it would help members better understand Prez Monson’s 4th mission of the Church (Care for the Poor and Needy).

The Church needs a much greater commitment to service missions and working with the “poor and needy.”

Posted in Africa, Mormon Mission Experiences, Social Justice | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Assisting Refugees on Our Southern Border

By Steven Burt (

Today, thousands of women and children are fleeing Central America and seeking asylum in the United States.  I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s representing some of them at the South Texas Family Residential Center as part of the Dilley Pro Bono Project, alongside a dedicated and diverse group of volunteers, including my friend and fellow Utah attorney, Engels Tejeda.

Under any circumstances, I would have found these women strong and inspiring, and their children bright and hopeful.  That they possess these qualities is stunning given the persecution they suffered before leaving their home countries, and the harrowing
journey to make it to our borders.  We would be lucky to have them as part of our
communities, where they could teach us a great deal about priorities, perspective and
resilience.  We would be sentencing some of them to lives of suffering, persecution
and death were we to send them back.

We should treat the women and children in Dilley the way we would want to be treated. We should put ourselves in their tattered, worn-down shoes and ask ourselves “what would I have done under those circumstances?”  And if their cause is just, we should do for them what we would want done for us.

We can do better. We must do better.  We owe it to the women and children in Dilley, Texas (and elsewhere).  We owe it to the memory of our ancestors. And we owe it to ourselves.

Posted in humanism, Social Justice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

More Playground Work in the Rwenzori Mountains (Kyarumba)

In November of 2018, we traveled to the community of Kyarumba, located at the southern end of the Rwenzori Mountains in southwestern Uganda.  The reason for the visit was 2 fold:  1. install more playground equipment and 2. learn more about the coffee growing business and make a purchase from local growers.

We installed 2 swing sets, both in the hills above Kyarumba.  The first was west toward the Congo.  The road up was rough but Zane, the driver, was able to make it.  The 4-seat swing set was installed at Bulighisa Church Nursery School.  The villagers turned out and helped with the installation.  We were also able to check out the educational facilities inside the church.  The school needs blackboards, desks, and benches.

New Swing Set at the Bulighisa Church Nursery School

The second swing was installed to the north at the Nyamutswa Nursery and Primary School.  There is no road to the school, so the villagers carried the pipe and corner connectors up to the school site.  We were able to get to the site on small motorbikes called boda-bodas, although we had to walk on 2 steep sections of trail.  We transported the cement, swing seats, chain, and other part on the bikes.  Again the villagers turned out to help with the installation.  The schoolrooms at this school were in terrible shape.  And the adjacent church had no roof.  This school needs everything.

Installing a Swing Set at Nyamutswa Nursery and Primary School

We installed monkey bars at 2 locations that already had swing sets.  The first at a school located down the road from Kyarumba, Kedrose Primary School.  The second at Trusted Nursery and Primary School which is located in the hills between Kyarumba and Kasese.  We were able to drive to both sites.

Installed Monkey Bars at Kedrose Primary School

Monkey Bars at Trusted Nursery and Primary School

We also made repairs and added swing seats at a school playground on the outskirts of Kyarumba.

Posted in Africa, Playground, Social Justice, uganda | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Island’s Water Supply and the Siting of the Moais

By Jason Daley (Smithsonian Magazine)

Archaeologists have figured out a lot about the moai, the giant stone heads found on Rapa Nui or Easter Island, a tiny dot of land in the Pacific Ocean administered by Chile. They know what quarries the stone came from, how they were transported across the island and even how they got their distinctive hats. But one big mystery has remained—why exactly were the giant statues placed in certain spots around the island?

Moai of Easter Island May of Marked Water Supply Sites

One group of researchers believes they have an answer.  Nicola Davis at The Guardian reports archaeologists theorize the location and size of the moai and the monumental raised platforms many of them sit on, called ahu, indicate the presence of fresh water on the island, which has no above ground streams or rivers flowing across it.

The theory emerged when the researchers used spatial modeling to explore the relationship between the locations of 93 of the ahu on the eastern half of the island and available resources. The team looked at the location of marine resources, mulched gardens where crops like sweet potatoes were grown and water resources including wells and seeps where drinkable but brackish freshwater flows out of the ground near the coast at low tide. The study appears in the journal PLOS One.

Wherever water seeped out of the coast, the team found platforms for statues. And in areas in the interior where there were platforms but didn’t seem to be any water, they found the remains of ancient wells that tapped the islands underground aquifers. The size of the statues seemed to correspond to the amount of water available as well. In areas with no water resources, there were no moai or ahu. “Every time we saw massive amounts of fresh water, we saw giant statues,” co-author Carl Lipo from Binghamton University tells Davis. “It was ridiculously predictable.”

Posted in Science, Travel, Water | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

LDS Woman Refuses to Sit in the Back of the Bus (oops Chapel)

In Michelle Quist‘s LDS ward, an apostle puts on an annual Christmas program.  So this year, Michelle showed up 20 minutes early so she and her 7 children could get good seats:

Which is why my spirit fell as I walked into the chapel to see almost the entire chapel cordoned off with white rope.  A friend saw my dismay and explained that the chapel seats were being saved for the 80-plus members of the apostle’s family.  We were welcome to take our seats in the cold, metal chairs lined up in the back.

The class structure apparent every General Conference as family members of the general authorities repeatedly enjoy the best seats in the Conference Center had now come home to my very own neighborhood chapel.  And it stung.

Michelle found a glitch in the roping system, and placed her family on the front row.  She refused to sit in the back of the bus (oops chapel) on the hard metal seats.  Good for Michelle.

Entitlements for General Authorities are seriously out of control.  I object to:

  • reserve seating for GA relatives at general conference,
  • plush seats for GAs at general conference,
  • members standing when a GA enters a chapel or meeting hall,
  • profiting from mind-numbing books,
  • nepotism involving leadership selection, and worse of all,
  • encouraging members to adulate them.

LDS Leaders Enjoying their Entitled Seats

Just to name a few.

Posted in mormonism, Organizational Dynamics, Personal Essays, Religion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Magnificat: A Beautiful Song from the New Testament

The Washington Post recently ran a lengthy story on the Magnificat, the song that Mary sings in Luke 1: 46-55.  The song is more than 2,000 years old and has been an important part of Christian liturgy for nearly all of those years.  Here is the full text of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1: 46-55, NSRV)

Mary’s song presents a strong argument for the LDS Church to develop a liberation theology.  Bring down the rich and elevate the poor.

Beggar by Goya

According to LDS writer Michael Austin:

The Magnificat is a beautiful and self-contained poem that is also a revolutionary prophecy.  Mary generalizes: raising poor and insignificant people to great heights is what God does.  It is the essence of His sovereignty.  And the flip side of this is also important: He reduces wealthy and powerful people to insignificance.  His Kingdom dramatically reverses the organizing logic of human societies.

Pope Francis insists that more needs to be done for the poor:

A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table.

And a few years ago, President Monson added a fourth mission for the LDS Church:  “Care for the poor and needy.”

During this holiday season, we need to look at the teachings that are at the heart of Christianity.  The LDS Church and its members need to do more for the poor.

Posted in catholicism, humanism, mormonism, Religion, Social Justice | Tagged | Leave a comment

Global Extreme Poverty

Recent United Nations’ Report

While global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, one in ten people in developing regions are still living with their families on less than the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day, and there are millions more who make little more than this daily amount.  Significant progress has been made in many countries within Eastern and Southeastern Asia, but up to 42% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa continues to live below the poverty line.

School Children Assembled in Their Classroom

Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood.  Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.

Important facts:

  • 783 million people live below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day;
  • Most people living below the poverty line belong to two regions:  Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa;
  • High poverty rates are often found in small, fragile and conflict-affected countries; and
  • One in four children under age five in the world has inadequate height for his or her age.
Posted in Africa, food, Social Justice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment