Mormons can be Awesome!

Too much time and attention has been spent discussing the negatives of Mormons. With the way some people talk, even among those who consider themselves believers, the LDS Church has serious trouble keeping members active. Statistics are interpreted to imply that an unsustainable number of young adults are dropping out or going inactive. Despite the admitted higher than hoped for numbers who leave, the remaining are actually above average for religious participation. There has also been steady growth, with some returning later in life. The bad news is not all bad.

In the spirit of the more positive side of Mormonism, here are some members who have awesome achievements and testimonies. They are an inspiration for those struggling or asking if there are still any good members to have as role models. A very long list could be possible, but a sample is sufficient. These are members who have expressed faith in the Gospel while pursuing what they love, with noteworthy results. The future is brighter than the pessimists assume.

Jenn Blosil has not made it big yet, but as the last Mormon on “American Idol” she is on her way. Her personality and musical style is quirky and uneven. Yet, there is something about her that cannot be ignored. To put it simply, she stands out from others. Her testimony of the gospel and love for music are equally strong.

Jenn served a mission to New York like the second person on this list. Continue reading

Black Lives Matter AND…

I have a unique background that few other white LDS members have. I lived in the deep South for 17 years, assigned during most of that time in stake and ward missionary callings. I was instrumental in beginning the work among African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama 30 years ago. With two full time missionaries, I opened the work in Tuskegee, and was their group leader until a branch was established. One of my greatest honors was being “adopted” as an honorary black brother to my dear deceased friend, Renee Olsen, who said I was among a few white Mormons that understood the black world (Margaret Blair Young being the foeremost expert in this area, IMO).

Still, I realize I do not carry the burden placed upon blacks by even well meaning whites of all religions and political views. Yes, even white Democrats do not understand and many of their words and actions harm more than help. When asked if Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders responded by saying “all lives matter”.

The problem is, for blacks, this is comparing apples to oranges. They are equivalent.

All Lives Matter means we should care and help all people, regardless of what class or caste they are placed in by nature and society.

However, Black Lives Matter is different. Unlike whites and many others, racial prejudice still lives on. Separate water fountains happened in the recent past, which was experienced by many older blacks we know. Today, most whites do not think that racism still happens. It does. More blacks are stopped by police than whites. Blacks, though a minority population, take up almost half of prison beds. Government ‘helps’ the poor (mostly blacks), by giving women welfare only if there is no man in the home. Teachers give up on black kids quicker than white kids. Even the Academy Awards demonstrated racist tendencies by giving no nominations to blacks this year.

If you were walking down a dark street, what would be your initial response if some young black men were to walk towards you? Would you feel the same if it were some white boys?

Black Lives Matter should not be compared to All Lives Matter. Both are valid statements, but mean different things. It is best if we do not insist on one over the other. They are both important, with different connotations. Black Lives Matter AND All Lives Matter.

We need to care for all people, from the womb to the deathbed. This is what Christ would have us do. But we also need to look at blacks as our brothers and sisters, treat them with dignity, and help lift them out of the tragic poverty and dependency that we have placed them in.

The Tree of Life, the Great and Spacious Building, and Suicides

I had a follow up thought to Geoff’s post about recent LGBTQ suicides that I thought should have its own post.

Last week in Sunday School, I taught a lesson on Lehi’s dream. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on the symbols of the dream and their meaning for members of the Church. And I believe the dream reveals a fallacy in the argument that the Church’s teachings cause gay suicides.

If we think about Lehi’s dream, there are four groups. One goes straight to the great and spacious building, one looks for the tree but quickly wanders off, one reaches the tree but falls away because of the mocking from those in the building, and one group remains at the tree and continually enjoys the fruit.

What I noticed as I’ve been thinking about this dream is that while a great multitude of those “feeling” their way straight to the building eventually get there, none of those who started on the path towards the tree (or those who get to the tree) but wander off to try to go the building ever actually get there. They are all simply described as wandering off and lost.
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When the Temple Helps: Manaus Temple Caravan

There hasn’t been a post in the When the Temple Helps series in a while, and I felt impressed to share this video when I saw it today. It is a beautiful story about the Saints in Manaus, Brazil, who had to travel over 3,000 miles to go to the Sao Paulo temple. As one who served in a place that is about as far from the temple as possible, I could relate to the faith and perseverance of these saints.