Below are quotes are from the Sep 2013 edition of the LDS Ensign magazine. The first is from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Councilor in the First Presidency:
My wife Harriet and I were in West Africa, a beautiful part of the world where the Church is growing and the Latter-day Saints are delightful. However, West Africa also has many challenges. In particular, I was sorrowed by the poverty that I saw. In the cities there is high unemployment, and families often struggle to provide for their daily needs and for their safety. It broke my heart to know that many of our precious members of the Church live in such deprivation.
And I might add, that the same conditions exist throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
The second quote is from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
It was unlike any other commencement or baccalaureate exercise I had ever attended or in which I had ever participated. There were 44 graduates, all male.
The ceremony was not held in a field house or a stadium or even a lovely auditorium. It was held in a modest interdenominational chapel at the Utah State Prison. The graduating class had successfully completed a year’s course of Bible study, which was sponsored by the LDS Church but open to all who cared to participate.
When the service was over, the inmate who conducted said, with some emotion in his voice and a little mist in his eyes, “This is the most auspicious occasion of our year.”
Then the gates clanged shut behind my wife and me. That night we went home, and I confess I couldn’t sleep. That experience haunted me. In the early hours of that morning, I had feelings and thoughts and a response to imprisonment and freedom (and their relationship to enlightenment and love) that I had never had before.
I have had two recent experiences with prisons. The first was in Lira, Uganda. It involved a low-security prison for minor offenders. Our NGO provided volleyball equipment for the prisoner’s recreation. We also hired a few prisoners to help with our humanitarian projects in the area. The prisoners turned out to be very good help, and we will be using them a lot more in the future.
The second experience was a visit to a rural jail facility in northeastern Utah. A man that had helped us with several of our Navajo project was incarcerated there. He was in prison for multiple DUIs and for lipping off to his parole officer. It was sad to see him there. It seemed like such a waste. I tried to give him a pep talk. He was so far from family and friends, I was his first visitor.
Both President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland used their stories to set up gospel messages. From a purely personal level, I wish they had delivered more of a social message. But both stories seemed truly heartfelt. And I’m proud that a major figure in the LDS Church attended a graduation ceremony at the Utah State Prison.