LDS Church’s Historic Racism

In a recent column in the, Robert Kirby opined:

The LDS Church will spend until Kingdom Come living down our past discrimination toward black people.  We earned the finger-pointing and the hypersensitivity, thanks to our past behavior.

We can prove that we’re trying to get past it by being more careful when it comes to the color pallet we use for sin.

Responding to Kirby’s opinion column, James M. Evans, in a letter to the editor, rationalized:

All religions in America and around the world have had some level of racial discrimination in their past.  Today, the lens through which a church’s past is discussed in the media has everything to do with whether that church is seen as religiously conservative or progressive.  For example, LDS Church membership went from being primarily all white in the 1800s to a majority of its 15.6 million members being nonwhite today. And if the LDS Church was seen as progressive, it would be heralded as a champion of racial inclusion for this fact alone. But since it is seen as religiously conservative, this fact is overlooked and we end up with articles like Kirby’s.

There is so much wrong with Evans defense that it’s hard to know where to start.  But here goes:

  • The “only true church,” should have been above discrimination.  To say that others did it, so it was okay for the LDS Church, it is a poor defense.
  • While the rest of the United States was starting to clean up its act in the 1960s, the LDS Church didn’t start until 1978, well over 10 years too late.
  • The LDS Church still hasn’t cleaned up it racial discrimination problems.  Some members are still blaming God for the priesthood and temple ban.  There has been no apology.  There has been no overt admission that it was Brigham Young’s prejudice that lead to the ban and that subsequent Presidents went along with it until 1978.
  • Evans points out that the LDS Church is now global, but he forgets that the leadership is lily-white and acts more like a provincial organization that a global one.
  • Etc.

Kirby’s observations are perfectly accurate and members of the LDS Church need to deal with its past history of racism in a forthright manner.  Not continue to come up with lame excuses.

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He’s a Exemplary Mormon: Branch President George Akera

George Akera is the Branch President in Masaka, Uganda.  He hails from northern Uganda, an area that until recently was racked by a horrible and bloody insurrection.  As a result, Prez Akera served in the Ugandan military for 8 years.

LDS Branch President George Akera

LDS Branch President George Akera

As a Branch President, George is a wonderful and caring individual.  He has set up a computer center in one room of his LDS chapel.  This center is designed to help the local members and non-members improve their technical skills.

He recently invited me to his home near Masaka where he and his young son were preparing to temporarily house 7 orphans during a summer break from a rural boarding school that he helps support.  He also showed me the units he was constructing on his property to provide a home for elderly Church members who have nowhere to go, a hospice of sorts.

To help finance his various various projects, George has started a piggery.  He proudly showed off his latest arrival, 7 small piglets.

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Homage to Robert Kirby: Mormonism Most Influential Theologian

Who is (or was) the most insightful observer of Mormonism?  Is it Richard Bushman?  Is it Terryl Givens?  Is it Elder Dallin Oaks?  Was it Elder Bruce McConkie?  Is it Jan Shipps?  Is it Michael Quinn?  Was it President Joseph Fielding Smith or Boyd Packer?  Where do I look for spiritual and intellectual guidance?

Robert Kirby, that’s who.  For those who don’t live along the Wasatch Front, Kirby is a humorist for the Salt Lake Tribune.  Every Saturday he pens a religion (mostly Mormon) column.  And his opinions and lampoons are almost always right on the money.  He regularly skewers the self-righteous and thin-skinned members of his faith.  But more importantly, he has inspired opinions on LDS policy known, either pro or con.

Robert Kirby Receiving Inspiration

Robert Kirby Receiving Inspiration

His observations are always very insightful.  Here are five examples.

On a recent Saturday, he discussed Mormonism racist past.

The LDS Church will spend until Kingdom Come living down our past discrimination toward black people. We earned the finger-pointing and the hypersensitivity, thanks to our past behavior.

We can prove that we’re trying to get past it by being more careful when it comes to the color pallet we use for sin.

In the past, on the subject of his LDS temple marriage, Kirby expressed concern that many of his friends and family were excluded from his nuptials.

It seemed a great irony that my church–with all that emphasis on families being forever–was also patently divisive when it came to excluding families from gathering together on a momentous day.

He is also worried about possible boredom in celestial kingdom:

It was a beautiful day when we got married but also vaguely troubling.  Looking around the sealing room in the temple, I realized just how much the celestial kingdom was going to suck if I had to spend it without the company of some of the people I loved the most.

Kirby has also made suggestions about how tithing should be handled?

Technically, the entire world belongs to our Creator (yes, even if said creator is a series of random events), but it’s still your choice to pay tithing on what and to whom you think you should.

And commented on the subject of prayer:

Prayer is important, but it doesn’t always have to be done in a groveling manner. Prayer can also be couched every bit effectively as an argument, a demand, or even akin to hostage negotiation.  Just keep the line of communication open.

Fortunately, Kirby is not a biblical literalist.  But is a firm believer in evolution, and an eloquent defender of Darwin:

While evolution is generally regarded by the deeply religious as the primary province of scientists/atheists, I’ve always taken great spiritual comfort in it.

I love the echoes of time found in rocks and museums.  There is something about the evidence of a billion years of life at work.

There’s cosmic beauty in the millennial march of creatures that keep their place in a rising order.  They lived and died, taking only what they needed and surrendering everything to those yet to come.

In his theological observations and opinions, Kirby is almost never wrong.

Kirby has explained why he is the way he is (argumentative, cynical, hyper-observant, theologically gifted, and funny all at the same time):

It’s my brain.  It tries to think both sides of an issue at the same time.  It’s a noisy process that generates a lot of internal discussion about the nature of God and the cosmos and the meaning of life.

The LDS Church needs more Robert Kirbys.  More members who will frankly express their opinions.  More insightful humorist to keep us humble.  More clear thinking theologians.  As one historian pointed out:  Mormons don’t have a theology, they have a history.

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Installing a Small Playground High in the Andes Mountains

While my grandson Rees and I were in Sacred Valley, Peru, in October 2016, we visited a small primary school high in the Andes.  We promised, in the future, to install playground equipment.  In early December, the Cardenas-Torres family returned to the village of Huancco Pillpinto.

Play Area at Huancco Pillpinto the Day We Visited

Play Area at Huancco Pillpinto the Day We Visited

With funding from my family, David C-T and his family, plus their friend John, installed a small swing set and climbing tower.

Huancco Pillpinto Swing Set and Climbing Tower

Huancco Pillpinto Swing Set and Climbing Tower Being Installed

Students and Villagers Say Thank You

Students and Villagers Say Thank You

The C-T family is in the process of setting up an NGO to help mountain village schools in the Andes.  There organization is called the Andean Quechua World Organization.

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Water History Chisled in Stone

Here are two prominent examples of water history that either etched or illustrated in stone.  The first is from a tombstone (in essence it’s 2-D).  It describes the difficulties an engineer had with the construction of a Roman aqueduct (NG History, Nov/Dec 2016, p 56 and 60):

Among the very few sources to shed light on how aqueducts were built is a Roman funerary monument found at the city of Bejaia in Algeria.  This commemorates the life one Nonius Datus, an engineer, and recounts the difficulties he encountered in carrying out his work.  The long text, written after the aqueduct’s completion around A.D. 152, describes how the city’s inhabitants lobbied for an improved water supply.  The process was not as speedy as might have been hoped.  Datus planned the aqueduct’s route around 138.  However, the work was not completed until 152, following a series of setbacks which the monument describes in detail.  Most crucially, the teams of workmen who started excavating the two sides of the tunnel did not meet where they were supposed to.  On another occasion, bandits attacked the site and Datus escaped by the skin of his teeth, naked, battered and bruised.

Even more intriguing is a large rock at the Saywite archaeological site in the highlands of Peru.  It illustrates the workings of an Inca water supply system:

About 47 kilometers east of the city Abancay, in southern-central Peru, lies the archaeological site of Sayhuite or Saywite, described by historians as a center of religious worship for Inca people, who held rituals and ceremonies for the worship of water. The site’s main attraction is a big granite block whose upper surface is ornamented with complex and mysterious figures resembling a three-dimensional relief map of an ancient city.

Saywite Monolith Located in the Highlands of Peru

Saywite Monolith Located in the Highlands of Peru

The Sayhuite Stone is about two meters long and four meters wide. The rock is carved with more than two hundred figures of geometric and zoomorphic shapes, mostly felines, reptiles, frogs, and serpents, that are sculpted into the likeness of a topographical hydraulic model, complete with terraces, ponds, rivers, tunnels, and irrigation channels. The relief map is on the upper surface of what appears to be the bottom half of a huge boulder. The rock is located on top of the hill called Concacha, where it is believed to have been transported since it is not a natural outcrop.

Many scholars and scientists believe that the Sayhuite Stone is a scale model of the Inca empire, and its various regions are represented by the carved figures of animals and other motifs. For instance, the jungles are represented by land animals such as monkey, iguana, jaguar, etc. while the coastal areas are represented by animals like pelicans, crab, shrimp, octopus etc.

While the precise meaning and purposes of this relic remains a mystery, some researchers believe that Sayhuite Stone was used as a scale model to design, develop, test, and document the properties of water flow for irrigation and other water projects, and to instruct ancient engineers and technicians in the concepts and practices of the craft. The rock also appears to be modified several times with new material, either altering the paths of the water or adding new paths altogether. The experiments might have been carried out by pouring actual water over the stone or even liquid mercury, as researcher Dr. Arlan Andrews suspects. There are notches carved along the edge of the stone to allow the liquid to pour out.

To view a 3-D model of the Saywite monolith click here.

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Innovative Design for a Playground Slide

There is an artistic playground designed by Isamu Yoguchi in Atlanta GA that was constructed in the 1970s.  It was recently renovated with money provided by the Herman Miller Foundation.  Yoguchi’s design for a playground slide is quite innovative.

Nogluchi Slide in Atlanta's Playscapes

Nogluchi Slide in Atlanta’s Playscapes

Side View of Yoguchi's Atlanta Playground Slide

Side View of Yoguchi’s Atlanta Playground Slide

Yoguchi's Small Slide and Ladders

Yoguchi’s Small Slide and Ladders

I thought of possible permutations:  (1) replacing the metal slides with colored plastic ones and (2) using a stock water trough for the slide launch.

Possible Launch Pad for a Playground Slide

Possible Launch Pad for a Playground Slide

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An Artistic Design for a Swing Set

There is an artistic playground designed by Isamu Yoguchi in Atlanta GA that was constructed in the 1970s.  It was recently renovated with money provided by the Herman Miller Foundation.  Yoguchi’s design for a swing set is very intriguing.

Yogushi's Altlanta Swing Set

Yoguchi’s Atlanta Swing Set

This design is a bit large and bulky.  So I wondered about a smaller, simplified design.

Possible Simplified Design

Possible Simplified Design for Half of It

I also have concern about the strictly horizontal supports.  Maybe it would be better with A-shaped end supports.  Below is another Yoguchi example.

Another Yoguchi Swing Set Design

Another Yoguchi Swing Set Design

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