Those Who Leave Mormonism

In a recent misbegotten rant to young LDS singles in Tempe AZ, Elder Jeffery R. Holland unleashed the following:

Don’t you dare bail.  I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word.   But I am.  What on earth kind of conviction is that?  What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that?  As if none of this ever mattered, as if nothing in our contemporary life mattered, as if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint”?!  Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that.”

While I can understand his frustration, the leadership needs to shoulder some of the responsibility and blame for the recent exodus of members.

And in an equally troubling commencement address at BYU, Elder L. Whitney Clark warned graduates:

The faithless often promote themselves as the wise, who can rescue the rest of us from our naivete. . . .  We should disconnect immediately and completely from listening to the proselytizing efforts of those who have lost their faith, and instead reconnect promptly with the Holy Spirit.

For a church that has 75,000 missionaries out proselytizing non-members and inactives, the above advise is disingenuous and more than a little paranoid.  It is an overreaction to the current exodus of members from the Church.  Another overreaction is the BYU’s current policy to immediately expel once Mormon students that leave the Church.  Surely, if Mormonism is the “only true church,” it can surely survive defections and friendly discussions.

Instead of advising youth not to leave and warning them against discussions with the “faithless,” perhaps the leadership should give the members much better reasons for staying.  Two good reasons that I can think of are:

  • The Relief Society’s program to help refugees
  • The Church’s recently announced global educational initiative

Helping your global neighbors is an idea that resonates with most Mormons.

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Now Would Be a Great Time for the LDS Church to Apologize over Past Racism

With the recent racially-based shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas, now would be an ideal time for an LDS Church apology for its past racism.

The LDS Church has disavowed any scriptural basis for past discrimination:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

And with the recent difficulties, LDS Church members are again discussing race, and the evils of slavery and segregation (see

The ramifications of slavery on the fundamental unit of society [the family], everything Americans did to justify slavery and perpetuate it with the construction of racism, are so profound they are with us to this very day.  Most white people do not want to think about the lasting, generational impact of slavery: reconstruction, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, redlining, poverty, the war on drugs, and ever-present police brutality, but Mormons should start thinking about all of those things as the destroyer of families and start standing up.

The destruction of the family is not just happening now, it’s been happening for hundreds of years, and you weren’t paying attention until it happened to people you know, in your culture.


If there be faults in our history, they be the mistakes of men. Condemn them not for their imperfections, but do not deny their imperfections!  Moroni says we should rather give thanks to God that he makes manifest unto us their imperfections because, more often than not, they are our imperfections, too, smuggled into us through the course of history.  And once we realize that fact we might, collectively, begin to learn to be more wise than they were.  But we cannot learn from imperfections of the past if we refuse to admit they even exist or if we avoid being more specific about what they are.

Now is the perfect time for LDS Church leaders to apologize.

Posted in mormonism, Organizational Dynamics, Religion, Social Justice | 3 Comments

LDS Church Educational System to Cover the Globe

When the LDS Church announced in February that it is going to expand its educational system around the globe, I didn’t know whether to cheer or moan.  The idea is great, but I wondered about how it would be launched and who would organize and run it.

According to Corey Barnett writing for World Religion News:

Elder Kim Bryce Clark, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Commissioner of Church Education announced last February during a meeting that was held at Brigham Young University, that this coming fall the Church would launch a new initiative to provide religious and secular education courses to the Church members wherever the Church is organized.  The new Doctrinal Mastery program was launched last month during the 2016 Seminaries and Institutes Annual Training Broadcast that was held at the Salt Lake City Conference Center Little Theater.  Elder Clark, during the event, said that this initiative would bring education to the Church members all around the world, in the “Lord’s way.”  “It’s a greater work than we’ve ever done before…  The Lord is working in power to strengthen teaching and learning in his true and living church.” The new initiative would take the Church members into new educational and spiritual terrain.

The initiative has 6 parts:

  • Secondary education,
  • English language instruction,
  • Pathway academic start,
  • Technical and skill-based training,
  • Undergraduate degrees, and
  • Masters degrees

Significantly, religious instruction will foundational to the new education initiative.

I spend about 2 months a year in developing countries, principally Uganda, and an additional 2 months a year in the Navajo Nation.  An educational and training program for both members and non-members of the Mormon Church seems like a wonderful and exciting initiative.  Half the members of the Church are now living in developing nations.  Most are under educated.

The Church has buildings around the world that are underutilized.  It also has a very educated membership.  Many are boomers, like myself, that are now retiring.  There is a huge pool of available teacher and administrator talent.  Internet and communication technologies are advancing rapidly.  Media options a proliferating.  What could possibly go wrong?

LDS Chapel in Masaka, Uganda

LDS Chapel in Masaka, Uganda

The global education program is being organized and run by the Church Educational System and that bureaucracy has a very checkered history.   I worry about the commingling of religion and secular education.  It is an uncomfortable marriage.  I would personally prefer that they be kept separate.

There is also the issue of proselytizing.  I would prefer that religious indoctrination be completely separated from secular education and training programs.  The LDS Church needs to do this because secular education is important by itself, not because it is a missionary tool.  If the LDS Church does this right, great things can happen.  If they do this for “innoculation” or to inflate membership numbers then it will not fulfill its full potential.

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Topaz, Utah: Let It Never Happen Again

by Sean Means, Reporter [1]

Topaz, [Utah] for those who didn’t learn it in history class, was one of 10 internment camps built by the government of the United States of America during World War II. More than 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their homes on the West Coast and moved into these camps, based on a policy rooted in fear, racism and political expediency.

The Barracks at Topaz during World War II

The Barracks at Topaz during World War II

In the panic that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on Feb. 19, 1942, signed Executive Order 9066. In it, he gave the Secretary of War broad powers to declare “military zones” from which people could be excluded. The order’s wording doesn’t specify Japanese Americans, but the intent was clear — and led to the forced evacuation of thousands of people from the West Coast.

Standing on one of the broken concrete slabs at Topaz on Monday, the Fourth of July, I thought about the people who once lived there.

They were Americans (two-thirds of them were citizens, having been born here), struggling to raise families and run businesses and claim a small piece of the much-vaunted “American Dream.” And they did so while enduring a thousand slights from racist laws and attitudes.

These Japanese Americans were forced to sell their homes and businesses, at low rates to opportunistic white buyers, before being transported to the middle of nowhere. And all this because of a government order motivated by racism and xenophobia. (In 1983, a commission created by Congress determined the internment program had no legitimate military or security justifications.)

After walking around the site for a while, my family and I drove into Delta, a few miles east, and visited the Topaz Museum. The tiny, still-in-development museum features a re-creation of typical living quarters for a family, and numerous pieces of artwork created by people who lived in the camp — indications of how the unwilling residents tried to make the best of a horrible situation.

Behind the museum is a rebuilt barracks, made from tarpaper walls and a plywood floor. I couldn’t stand inside the barracks for more than a few minutes before I started sweating from the July heat. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live there, through sweltering summers and snowy winters, for three years.

Topaz is a reminder that, even in “the land of the free,” Americans and their leaders can be driven by the worst impulses to do awful things. And if you think such actions are relics of a less-enlightened past, you haven’t been keeping up


[1], 6 July 2016

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Women Dominate a Mormon Baptism, Except . . .

Recently I attended the baptism of a granddaughter.  It was memorable, not only because it was my granddaughter, but also because of maximum participation by women (and girls).  All three pre-baptism talks were given by women:  the Primary President, a cousin (a teenager), and my daughter (not the mother).  The youth chorus was dominated by girls (four are my granddaughter).  The closing player was given by a grandmother.

It’s too bad the witnesses to the baptism couldn’t have been women.  It’s too bad the meeting couldn’t have been conducted by the Primary President.  But hopefully, there will continue to be progress.

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Assisting a Woodworking Shop in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda

Two years ago, I visited the mountain village of Kayrumba, located in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, in southern Uganda.  The instigator of the trip was Hank Pellissier, founder of the Brighter Brains Institute.  One of the organizations that we visited was a fledgling woodworking shop operated by KAAYGO, the Kyarumba Anti-AIDs Youth Group.  The students at the training center were busy using simple hand tools to make a variety of objects, from small trays to large coffins.  The director indicated that the shop was soon scheduled to get electricity.

Crossing the River that Divides Kyarumba

Crossing the River that Divides Kyarumba

By our next visit, 6 months later, electricity had been installed.  We brought with us gifts of a power saw and a power drill.  And explained briefly how they are used.  The group was excited about the expanded possibilities for their workshop.  But several months after this visit, we were notified that the power saw was no longer working and belching smoke.  On inspection, it turned out that the staff, instead of using an extension cord, had poorly spliced an undersized wire into the power saw’s cord.  We had the saw repaired and provided the workshop with an extension cord.

Chrispus Accepting the Power Saw on Behalf of the KAAYGO Workshop

Chrispus Accepting the Power Saw on Behalf of the KAAYGO Workshop

On a subsequent visit, we provided the workshop with a battery-powered circular sander. Battery power provides more mobility and allowed work to continue when the power is out, a frequent occurrence in Uganda.  This tool hasn’t been totally useful.  The   problem is finding sandpaper; a difficulty we are currently working to fix.

On our most recent trip, we provided the workshop with a router and bits.  But more importantly, we determined that the nearby schools had needs that could benefit from the developing skills of the trainees.  Mbusa Chrispus, a co-founder of KAAYGO, developed a list of  potential projects.  The workshop is currently working through the list.  According to Chrispus:

The number of workers and students is increasing at KAAYGO workshop.  From time to time and due to the new innovations, we are now a center of excellence and research to other carpentry projects around Kyarumba and beyond.

The first 2 jobs were fabricating 3-student desks with benches for 2 of the local primary schools.  The next job was constructing an impressive cabinet for one of the school offices.

Desks Fabricated by the KAAYGO Woodworking Shop for Local Primary Schools

Desks Fabricated by the KAAYGO Woodworking Shop for Local Primary Schools

Moving the KAAYGO-made Cabinet to a Local Primary School

Moving the KAAYGO-made Cabinet to a Local Primary School

Most recently, the workshop made 15 benches for the nearby community of Bwera, located on the Congolese border.  Again according to Chrispus:

The project has been so helpful to the carpenters with beneficiary schools and more importantly some community mothers have been engaged in the project to get money for
super meals of their children.

Mother Earning Money for Food at the KAAYGO workshop

Mother Earning Money for Food at the KAAYGO workshop

These projects are fun.  They help the trainees, they help schools, they help mothers, and they stimulate the Kayrumba economy.

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Utah Artist Laura Romero

While in Salinas CA, I spent 3 enjoyable hours in the Steinbeck Center.  The small museum is very well laid out and very informative, and highly recommended, particularly for those who enjoy the writing of Nobel-Laureate John Steinbeck.

After thoroughly perusing the museum, I took a short swing through the the gift shop.  I liked the postcards which illustrated the efforts of Hispanic farm workers.  The artist was Laura Romero.  According to her website:

Looking through a few old family pictures and being told the stories of working the fields from my parents’, has brought me to work on a series of Hispanic field workers, or simply, the field pickers. “Field Pickers” is a body of work inspired by the hardships, past and present, of Hispanic migrant workers; especially my parents and their siblings. Harsh working conditions are portrayed through facial and body expressions which tells of long days laboring through the cold and heat and fighting against both insects and pesticides. My work explores the complex emotional lives of my subjects. Peacefulness, tranquility and humor are all present in the lives of these amazing people.

According to a small placard on postcard rack, Laura Romero lives in Springville UT.



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