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.

About that claim of suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction

You may have heard the claim that there have been at least 32 suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction since the Church made the now well-known changes in the handbook.

I’d like to make a few comments about that claim.

First, and this should be obvious but it still bears repeating: every suicide is a tragedy, for the person and for the person’s family. I agree with the Church spokesman who said that every soul is precious to God and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking.

But second, the people who are trumpeting the claims are well-established critics of the Church who are reporting from people they claim have talked to them privately. No independent confirmation of these numbers has taken place. You, dear reader, can choose to believe what you want, but based on my life’s experience, I simply don’t believe that these people are telling the truth. Given the ghoulish way that they are glorying in their claims (which in their minds confirm their opinion that the Church is bad, bad, BAD), is it beyond the pale to believe that they have simply made things up? I think not.

None other than the Salt Lake Tribune, always anxious to find ways to criticize the Church, went looking for information to corroborate the claim of “32 suicides.” But, in a strange twist, actual journalism took place at the Tribune, and they were forced to report that there is no evidence of that many of suicides:

Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”

In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.

“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”

Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”

But third, the people involved ignore the obvious reality that suicide is a complex psychological problem that simply cannot be attributed to one cause in a person’s life. It might be instructive to read this post.

Do you realize that by no research or academic standard would a simple causal factor be seen as responsible for any given suicide – even those that appear to have an obvious instigator (see below). That may be the one thing that everyone in the suicide literature actually agrees on: taking a life is an inherently complex matter (even when it seems simple).

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