Importance of Place in Art: Minerva Teichert’s Temple Mural

The disposition of Minerva Teichert’s mural in the Manti Temple is currently a hot topic in Mormondom. The original proposal was to document it and then destroyed it. Church officials have since decided to preserve the mural but relocate it to a different location. I don’t think that is a good solution either.

I occasionally have the chance to travel to Madrid, Spain, and when I do, I visit the Prado (art museum). My favorite room contains the “Black Paintings” of Goya. I stare at them, and wonder what the hell was he thinking or imagining. In his later years, Goya drifted into madness. He covered the interior walls of his house with the “Black Paintings.”

One of Goya’s Eclectic “Black Paintings;” Most Are Very Gruesome

They were eventually removed from the walls, and transferred to the Prado. At the museum, they have a graphic that illustrates where the paintings were situated in the house. I wish they would have left the paintings in the house just as Goya painted them, and then allowed visitors access. Separated from their original location, they lack Goya’s feelings and obsessions. Setting is important. Or as they say in real estate: Location, Location, Location.

My point is that the setting of Teichert’s mural is important. The mural needs to stay in the Manti Temple. It was created for a purpose specifically for the temple. I’m glad the Church is preserving it, but a better solutions is to leave it where it is. And make it available to the public.

Even though I find the temple ordinance unfathomable, it an important component of Mormon history and cosmology. Making the Manti Temple into a living museum would seem like a very viable option. It could trace the history of Mormon endowment ceremony, and preserve the current version of the live session. There must be an alternative to gutting the Manti Temple. Time for some creative thinking.

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Developments at Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

I love Murchison Falls National Park. There is a lot to like. A wide variety of African animals. Some observable by vehicle, others by boat. The falls themselves are impressive for their raw power. And Red Chilli Rest Camp is a fun place to sleep and eat.

Giraffes Posing for Tourists in Murchison Falls National Park

Part of the experience used to be crossing the Nile River on a small ferry. Unfortunately that part of the experience has been obsoleted by a recently constructed bridge. And the 40 access road from Masindi is being improved. As are roads inside the park. The park’s isolation is disappearing.

This Ferry Used to Be an Important Entry Point to Murchison Falls Wildlife Viewing

Also, oil has been discovered in the regions surrounding the northern areas of the park. This is likely to have a negative impact on the park.

Crocodiles along the Nile River in the National Park

Poaching is a problem, as it is in many African parks. But there is a NGO working the mitigate the problem: Snares to Wares. Snare are a preferred method for trapping the animals.

Since 2015 [Tutilo] Mudumba, [Ugandan wildlife biologist], has participated in snare-removal operations in the park as the co-director and co-founder of Snares to Wares, a nonprofit that engages community members to transform recovered snares into intricate sculptures of African wildlife. In addition to developing skills as artisans, Snares to Wares employees earn an income that allows them to afford other protein sources, as well as basic needs such as medicine. The program currently employs 620 artisans and typically sells more than 800 sculptures a month, mainly through gift shops in the United States.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/these-traps-once-snared-ugandas-wildlife-now-theyre-art

Help protect the diversity in the world’s ecosystems is truly a complex problem.

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Picnic Tables for the Navajo Mountain Chapter

Using donated metal legs, volunteers from Playgrounds Everywhere in St George assembled 5 picnic tables for the Navajo Mtn Chapter, Navajo Nation. Each is 6′ in length. We selected 2″x10″ douglas fir for the table top and benches. The cost for materials was $233/table with powder coating and $108 without.

Powder Coating 0%54%
Wood (Douglas Fir) 6831
Wood Stain 7 3
Nuts and Bolts2512
Cost Break Down with and without Powder Coating
Powder Coated Picnic Table Legs

Powder coating the legs was over half of the cost. Given this expense, I’m not sure we will chose to powder coat again. It didn’t seem to add enough value.

Attaching Legs to Table Top
Finished Picnic Table

This week we finished all 5 tables and delivered them to the Navajo Mountain Chapter. The project was spearheaded by a St. George friend–Bret Berger. But a lot of people helped including Bret’s spouse (Robin) and neighbor (Tim) and by mother’s caregiver (Sherrie) and her spouse (Craig). But Bret did the heavy lifting.

Five Completed Picnic Tables

Because we could only get 4 tables on the trailer we rented, we still have one in St George.

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Constructing a Latrine for a Batwa Pygmy Group in Central Africa

Located in the foothill of Rwenzori Mountains above Kasese, Uganda, is a small Batwa Pygmy community. They were relocated there in an alleged attempt to protect mountain gorilla habitat. They have struggled in their new location. In an effort to improve sanitation, Playgrounds Everywhere and Rwenzori Children’s Initiative are constructing a latrine.

Pit for the Batwa Latrine
Delivering the Bricks for Lining the Latrine
Completing the Septic Pit Component of the Latrine

Work continued on the housing over the latrine and toilets.

Construction on the the Housing Over the Latrine Pit
Finishing the Exterior for the Batwa Latrine
Working on the Roof of the Latrine
Painting the Batwa Latrine

In the above photograph, the Batwa Latrine is approximately 80 percent complete. It is now completed, and all that remains is the turnover ceremony.

Completed Latrine
Label on the Front of the Batwa Latrine
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Working on New Designs for Playground Equipment

I’m always interested in doing something different. This is frequently frustrating for my colleagues. They often like continuing with the status quo for a time, stopping to smell the roses. My continual dreaming is sometimes off putting.

To date, we at Playgrounds Everywhere, with our cooperators, have fabricated and installed a variety of playground equipment including: swing sets, monkey bars, monkey rings, seesaws, tire climbers, 2-bar slides, combination soccer and basketball goals, tether ball standards, elevated forts, and outdoor musical instruments. The majority have been installed in isolated locales in Peru and Uganda.

Andean Quechua Children’s Organization has been working on two prototypes for potential future projects: an animal rocker and a new design for a seesaw. The new products can be hopefully be fabricated in-country, by local artisans and fabricators.

Rockers used to be a popular item on playgrounds in America. They consisted of a metal sculpture of an animal attached to a large coil or spring. Modern versions are more stylized and frequently less interesting. Returning to the days of yore, we are looking at animal designs. Animals found in Peru. Our first idea is a puma.

Artist Concept of Puma Rocker

A prototype made of fiberglass and resin by a Cusco artisan is nearing completion.

Puma Statue Fabricated by Cusco Artisan
Prototype after Adding the Hand and Foot Holds
The Playground Rocker Progresses
Installing the Puma Rocker at a School near Calca, Where We Are Testing Its Durability

We currently install seesaws. But we are looking at a slightly new design. One that was inspired by East Africa Playgrounds. It involves using a tire as the support for the arm.

Concept for the Tire Seesaw
Testing Potential New Design for a Seesaw
This Prototype Is Constructed Using a Wooden Arm and 2 Tires

We are continually looking for useful ways to incorporate old tires into our playground designs. The world is awash in old tires.

We are also looking for new designs for swing seats. Based on a spider web design popular in the United States, Asnake (in Ethiopia) has come up with the design shown below.

A Circular, Woven Swing Seat Being Tested in Ethiopia
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Working on the Design for a Playground Elevated Fort

In the last couple years, we have been working on the design for a playground elevated fort. Our initial try was at Queen of Peace Junior School in Mbale, Uganda. This fort has a climbing wall, 2 double-rail slides, and stairs. The slides, in particular, proved to be wildly popular.

Elevated Playground Fort at Queen of Peace Junior School

The materials for fort are wood, pipe, metal, and plastic handholds. It was recently repainted, as seen above.

Our most recent effort is at Byana Mary Hill Junior School and Orphanage in Masaka, Uganda. It has 5 2-rail slides, a climbing wall, and 2 slopped ladders. Construction was recently completed by Gabriel Arahi, a Ugandan colleague. It is made of the same materials as the elevated fort in Mbale.

Newly-Installed Elevated Fort at Byana Maria Hill Orphanage

Unfortunately, Gabriel ran out of handholds, so I will take more on my next trip to Uganda.

Climbing Wall on Elevated Fort at Byana Mary Hill

Since school is out in Uganda, we haven’t been able to observe the popularity of the second elevated fort.

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Visiting Bryce Canyon in Winter

My mother and I drove from St. George over the mountains to Bryce Canyon National Park. It had snowed in southern Utah the day before. This made for a beautiful excursion. Particularly since it was a luxuriously sunny day.

The road to Bryce winds up Red Canyon. The snow on the orange/red rock formations and the evergreens made for colorful extremes. Our first attempt to get into the national park was unsuccessful. The park’s parking lots were full, and there were cars trapped in the snow. They told us to return in a hour. After a leisurely lunch, we made another run at the park. They were again turning cars away. But just as we got to the front of the line, they opened the park.

The View to the North from Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon

The road was snow packed but doable in my mother’s 16-yr-old Buick. Unfortunately, it was difficult for mother to get a good view because she was unable to leave the car. But the park drive was still very pleasant. As we were leaving, there was an SUV stuck in a snowbank.

The View from the Road to Tropic, Utah

After leaving the park, we drove down the road to Tropic. This gave mother a chance to see the rock formations, the evergreens, and the snow. On the way home. we drove back through Red Canyon. The late afternoon sun intensified the colors, the rock formations seemed to glow.

Late Afternoon Sun of the Red Canyon Rock Formations

Oh, the wonders of southern Utah.

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Wonderful Advice from Richard Bushman to LDS Church Leaders

LDS Church leaders should worry less about doubters and more about how to engage the youth (of all ages) in the work of Christ. I contend that helping the poor, disadvantaged, homeless, etc. is the foundation of Christianity. Mormon scholar Richard Bushman in an interview with Peggy Fletcher-Stack, posted on strib.com, suggests that the Church needs a more global vision:

“We [LDS Church] need a mission that will inspire our young people and everyone who will say, ‘Yes, my church is taking major action to make the world a better place. And I want to be part of it.'”

Unfortunately, this recommendation was made in the last paragraph of the post. I hope readers made it that far. To paraphrase Bushman, we need to give members a compelling reason stay.

Bushman further observes that the Church has the resources to accomplish great things:

“We’ve become a very powerful organization, not just because of our wealth — which is a critical part of power — but because of the very loyal members who are in positions of power, especially in the United States, but more and more in other countries, too. In government, business, scholarships, we have men and women who are right in the center of things. We’ve become influential as a people because there are so many Mormons doing good for their communities. That’s a core strength that is unmatched in the world.”

The LDS Church has the financial resources to do great things. But more importantly, it has a well-educated, well-motivated membership to accomplish great things, to have a global impact for good. Right now, the majority of this work is being undertaken at the local level. With the right encouragement and financial support, these local activities could be expanded by orders of magnitude.

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Two Important Op-ed Pieces This Christmas Season

Two very insightful op-ed pieces were published during this Christmas season. They suggest that instead of feeling trapped by our 2020 conditions, we should look beyond our small world and look at the bigger global picture. There is much good that individuals, institutions, and governments can do. Both op-ed pieces are a call to action.

The first article is by Gregory A. Prince and appears on sltrib.com. While it specifically addresses Mormon Church issues, his message is universal.

“People of goodwill throughout the world, and particularly within religious traditions, need to stand shoulder to shoulder to take on climate change, poverty, global disease, illiteracy, war, domestic violence, racism — the list gets longer with time.

Taking on also means speaking out, something that largely has been missing from the public square for the past four years. Where is the prophetic voice — the voice that calls out wickedness, corruption, dishonesty, and calls people to a higher level of living?”

Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) has long been an advocate for the poor. Writing for the liberal magazine The Nation, he recommends:

“A comprehensive approach by the Biden administration that prioritizes hunger could restore the mantle of America’s leadership and return us to the days of addressing both the immediate needs and underlying causes of global poverty.

This kind of holistic leadership is desperately needed. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragility of our national, regional, and global food systems. A preliminary July assessment by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization suggests that Covid-19 could add between 83 million and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world.”

The poignant observations and recommendations by both Prince and McGovern are timely and important for all levels of society: individual, group, and government. Prince’s call is mainly directed at the LDS Church (and all churches for that matter) and its leaders. He is calling for moral leadership. McGovern’s recommendation is directed at the Federal government. But with the lack of leadership at the organizational and governmental level, the individual can still take action.

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Tithing Is Giving 10 Percent, But to Whom Is It Owed?

At the end of the year, Mormons have tithing settlement. The members meet with their Bishop to discuss whether they have paid a full 10 percent of their earnings to the Church. In Mormondom, tithing is strictly defined as donations to the Church. But there are issues with this approach. Most are outlined in a recent op-ed by Jana Riess. Of concern, are he Church’s

  • $100,000,000,000 nest egg
  • the lack of financial accountability
  • possible misallocation of funds

Jana has decided to stop paying official tithing, but to donate her 10 percent to worthy humanitarian organizations.

Homeless Encampment in Phoenix

“At tithing settlement this year, I [Jana] declared myself a full-tithe payer and explained why none of that money has gone to the church. I don’t know what fallout there will be from this decision, if any. Frankly, it’s not important whether I continue to hold a temple recommend or not. What’s important to me is that at least a few kids who didn’t have food or access to education will have meals, school and the basics. I should have done this a long time ago.”

Robert Kirby, humor writer for sltrib.com, has made a similar decision. He and his wife, who is no longer a member, have decided to give to charity in lieu of making payments to their churches. Both Jana and Robert consider themselves full tithe payers.

This is a wonderful approach. Instead of letting the Church leadership decide on how tithing money is allocated, the individual member makes his/her own decision.

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