The American Dream – Utah Mormon Style

Megan McArdle went to Utah seeking answers. How is it that Utah has upward mobility approaching the most progressive nations in the world? She attempted to answer in an article published yesterday in Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-28/how-utah-keeps-the-american-dream-alive

What is Upward Mobility?

If you are born in the bottom 25% of the population, how likely is it that you’ll pull yourself up into the top 25% of the population?

Denmark leads the world with a documented upward mobility a bit over 11%.

In Salt Lake City, upward mobility is just under 11%, the highest in the United States. By comparison, Charlotte, North Carolina, has upward mobility of only 4%.

Factors

Money Can’t Buy Dreams: Utah doesn’t spend to achieve this mobility. It’s spending on education per pupil is dead last in the nation.

Welfare, Mormon-style: But Utah government is able to lean on the many Mormons in the community. The Mormon welfare system comes in for astonished praise: Help them out, but get them to a point where they can help themselves.

Mercy: Regardling the dire poor, McArdle talks about how Utah prioritizes getting people in housing, “Housing First.” This can rankle with people who believe the poor deserve their plight, but in Mormon-dominated Utah, mercy tends to take precedent over justice.

Regarding others as Equals: In Utah the poor and the rich are in the same communities. The geographically-based Mormon congregations come in for a good part of this egalitarianism. In Utah people tend to see each other as equals. Children get to know those in the upper 25% of the economic pecking order, having a chance to have these folks as mentors and role models. McArdle suggests Utah’s racial sameness contributes to the lack of distrust and animosity seen on other communities.

Marriage: Finally, McArdle points out that marriage matters. Children raised by married parents fare better, putting them in a position to aspire to the upper middle class in their later lives. Even when there are single parents, children in a community where the majority of children have married parents do better, despite the unmarried state of their own parent(s).

Summary

McArdle worries that these factors that make Utah such a dreamy place aren’t easily replicated without Mormonism. But she hopes that some aspects of what makes Utah a place where every child can dream of aspire economic prosperity could be an example for other communities, if only to see that upward mobility is possible.

Art in Sacred Space

Rita Wright is the curator for the Springville Museum of Art. Formerly she taught art at Brigham Young University and was the curator for the LDS Church History Museum. Currently she sits on the worldwide committee for art selection for the LDS Church.

She joins Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast to discuss the function of art in sacred space beginning with the first Christians. Together they discuss the beginning of art in the catacombs, through the dark ages, enduring symbols, and overlooked and creative use of art to create a sacred atmosphere.

Through her years of teaching, Rita realized that sometimes members of the LDS Church have difficulty understanding the art of other religions because of bias and ignorance of the meaning of iconography. She walks us through some common symbols and architectural styles and how they strive to create a feeling of sacredness.

While cathedrals may sometimes come off as garish and colorful to some, members can gain better understanding about these places if they learn more about them and their purpose.

The initial cathedrals were built as Bibles for the poor because the commoners had no access to Bibles and could not read.

Rita shares some insights on how we can appreciate sacred art on a theological, social, and psychological level.

Early

*Original post found here*

I have four sons. Ever since my boys were little, I tried to prepare them for serving a mission for our church. Its what we do. It’s in our culture. This is something our church asks from each worthy young man at age 18. (Young women are also able to serve but they are not under the same mandate as our young men.) So, our boys, as they grow into men, plan to serve. Missionaries (usually) earn the money for their mission themselves, they spend night and day serving God, they leave behind girlfriends, scholarships and cars. And they are always so excited to finally get to be a full time missionary.

But nobody talks about what to do when things go differently than planned. It’s actually not a very comfortable topic. Maybe its just because not everyone knows how to handle it. So, lets lay it out there. Sometimes, missions end much earlier than anyone ever planned. Both of my sons who have served came home early; each with an honorable release, but each, at least partially, feeling like they failed.

Cognitively, they understand what supportive family, friends and ward members tell them. “You did your best.”  “God loves you anyway.”  “Your mission just looks different than everyone else’s.” Etcetera.

It’s a struggle. Its something that, I believe, they will ache over for some time. However, even in this trial – and it IS a trial for those who go through it – God did not leave us without an example.

Remember Alma the Younger? You can find his story in the Book of Mormon beginning in Mosiah chapter 27. His father, having been converted by the words of Abinidi, became the leader of Christ’s church. It must have been so hard for Alma Sr. to watch his son and four of his buddies do everything they could to destroy the very church he had helped build. These young men worked tirelessly to hinder the growth of the church… until an angel of God stopped them. Alma the Younger and his friends all had a miraculous change of heart and, consequently, wanted to repair the damage they had done. So, with more zeal than they had before, they went about to repair the harm they had wrought upon the church.

These were men who, with a changed heart, wanted to preach the gospel. The four friends of Alma the Younger were sons of the righteous King Mosiah. They wanted to serve a mission to the Lamanites – who, at that time were violent, wicked and hostile. After much pleading with their father, he finally agreed that they could serve that mission. The Sons of Mosiah, as they are often called, were incredible missionaries. They baptized multitudes of people. Often, converting whole kingdoms. Entire cities would believe in their words. What they accomplished was nothing short of miraculous.

When you hear people recount this story, they always assume Alma the Younger was with them in the mission field. But guess what? He stayed behind. He stayed with his father and accepted the appointment of Chief Judge from the people. So, even though he went on, after his conversion, to be a great leader, he did not serve a mission at the same time, or even in the same way as his buddies.

And yet, when we think of Alma the Younger, not one person would think of him less than his peers. He is counted as a great missionary, a great leader. Now, I don’t know why he stayed behind while his friends went to serve. But I imagine, it was a little difficult to hear of the amazing experiences his friends were having without wishing he were there too.

Alma the Younger went on to have incredible experiences of his own. He served a mission later with his own sons but his path did not look like his friends. I am convinced, however, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some people are called to serve a mission like the Sons of Mosiah and some are called to serve like Alma the Younger. Thank goodness Heavenly Father looks on our hearts and knows our desires. Thank goodness He knows what we need most.

The Lord has an individual road map for each of us. Sometimes it doesn’t look like we expected it would look. Often it is different than what we planned. And, it almost never is the same as a friend’s road map. But always, His path for us will be the best. It will bring us to the greatest possible happiness.

So, for my two beautiful boys, who had to end their mission early and to every missionary who’s heart still longs to be in the mission field, I urge you to remember success is not measured by what you have planned. It is measured by how you respond to what the Lord has planned.

*find me at www.deliberatediscipleship.com.

Three Sunday afternoon thoughts

Here are just a few thought’s I’ve had this Sunday afternoon, they are in no particular order.

Thought One: I posted a meme with a quote by Pres. Howard W. Hunter on the Millennial Star Facebook page a few weeks ago which said, “We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving.”

Along the lines of forgiveness and kindness, in my Gospel Doctrine class today I included a story of Edward Partridge, the first bishop of the Church. He was one of the leaders of the Church in Missouri and in charge of helping people settle into land and life there. He was a target of mob violence and suffered a tarring and feathering. He said of the incident,

“I told [the mob] that the Saints had suffered persecution in all ages of the world; that I had done nothing which ought to offend anyone; that if they abused me, they would abuse an innocent person; that I was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ; but, to leave the country, I was not then willing to consent to it. I bore my abuse with so much resignation and meekness, that it appeared to astound the multitude, who permitted me to retire in silence, many looking very solemn, their sympathies having been touched as I thought; and as to myself, I was so filled with the Spirit and love of God, that I had no hatred towards my persecutors or anyone else” (Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chapter 4).

In the age of social media mob violence, we need to be kinder, gentler and more forgiving of each other. We will be more effective as Latter-day Saints by being kinder to people than by being argumentative and rude. Continue reading

#LDSconf General Conference – Mar 25, ’17, Women’s Session

President Bonnie L. Oscarson [Young Woman General President] will be conducting this meeting. President presides.

President Oscarson: We are grateful to be gathered in the Conference Center. We hope you feel of our love for you. The First Presidency, adivisors, and the presidencies and boards for the Relief Society, Young Women’s Organization, and Primary are present on the stand.

The music will be provided by Relief Society sisters from Brigham Young University

Choir: Come, O, Thou King of Kings

Opening Prayer:

Choir: I Feel My Savior’s Love

Continue reading