Running from the Fire: Serving and Being Served

Entrance to Los Alamos with fire on the Guaje Ridge north of town. July 4, 2011. Photo credit: Ethan Froggett.

We were now 24 hours on the run, hold up in a hotel in Santa Fe, with all of our belongings. It’s humbling and frightening to see all that you might own stuffed into 4 rubbermaid bins, a few suit cases and every duffel bag you own.

I felt very alone that first morning.

I got dressed and forced myself to go down to the breakfast service the hotel offered. I had no makeup on and my hair was not combed. I looked and felt disheveled. Then there was a ray of hope. A family in our ward had also ended up at this hotel. We sat and ate breakfast with them. As we talked, other people in the room joined in. We all were from Los Alamos. One of the ladies at the next table lived one street up from us even! A neighbor! We were surrounded by people in our same situation, who knew what we were feeling and going thru. There is strength in numbers and comfort in our trials. Continue reading

“Give Me Tree Bark, Or Give Me Death.”: Liberty Yesterday and Today

 

No speech has ever stirred the American people so much as Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death” speech. No matter if I see a professional orator perform it with eloquence, or a young child reciting that speech, it touches my heart with goodness and purpose. The United States of America was built upon these two feelings and Patrick Henry’s speech.

Henry’s cry for liberty started a world wide movement toward governmental freedom, spiritual freedom, and personal freedom.

Liber, Liberty, and Freedom

What is liberty? Years ago I attended a seminar called “The Liber” by a professor named Dr. Shannon Brookes. Dr. Brookes explained that before books and parchment, there was tree bark. Only a few people in each community could read or write the tree bark documents they had. At the time tree bark was the most logical, and simple method of communicating for business, politics, and religion with other communities of people. The word for tree bark is liber, and the people who were privileged enough to learn how to read it, write on it and speak what it said to the community were called “Liber” as well. Continue reading

Acumen of the Mormon MBA

Where a previous post looked at the perception of Mormonism as a business, this one looks at the secular success of Mormon individuals.

When the LDS Church was first founded, there was no hint of a financial powerhouse in the making. If anything, the complete opposite seemed to be the case. Joseph Smith came from a farming family living on the edge of social, political, and economic existence. Although early on there were a few rich people who converted, the majority of members came from not much better than poverty. A hint of democracy and self-reliance can be found in the theological teachings, but the driving financial model was a form of communistic philanthropy. It failed whenever practiced and left tithing as the main economic structure.

For decades the financial situation was at best questionable. Most of the resources came from people’s hard work more than money. Things came to a head during the “great polygamy raids” that almost brought the LDS Church to ruins. It wasn’t until the mid 20th Century started that the LDS Church and its members alike were recognized as a financial success. Before that, critics used the poverty of converts as a focut of scorn. Now, the rich business owner has become almost a cliche as well known as the so-called Jewish banker. The web site Famous Mormons does seem to make this case with the number of names listed. However, it is only a small snapshot of a growing religion that relatively recently mixed in with the wider social tapestry. Continue reading

Moscow Russia Stake is Organized

Yesterday, June 5, 2011 the first stake of the LDS Church was organized by Elder Russell M. Nelson in Moscow Russia.. (See the Church newsroom story here).

I’ve written about my experiences serving a full time mission behind the Iron Curtain, in Bulgaria before on this blog. (The Wall Fell and A Bulgarian Christmas.)

When I hear good things like this, my heart swells with gratitude for the years of hard work by missionaries and for their sacrifice. I also have a deep appreciation for the members of the Church in this part of the world. They face persecutions and sacrifice so much to be members of the Church, and yet they continue on, because they know the Gospel is true. I’m also very grateful for the protection the Lord has given to those in his service and for the ongoing march of the Gospel into all the nations of the world. We have witnessed another miracle with the organization of this stake. Finally, if you’re looking for a bit of history on the Church’s presence in Eastern Europe, I’d recommend, Mormon Missionaries Enter Eastern Europe by Kahlile B. Mehr. It’s out of print now, but can be found in the used book marketplace on Amazon.com.

My hope is that each of us will rejoice with the members of the Church in the new Russia Moscow Stake and continue to pray for the gospel to go forward in the world. Miracles happen all the time, and they are right around the corner. I know the Lord still has many more miracles to reveal in different and unexpected parts of the world. Let’s be ready to go when they present themselves!

I am Mormon, and so can You

Everywhere online they pop up where videos are shared, especially the most popular Youtube website. A person starts talking about what they do as a mother, a surfer, a biker, a reporter, and a number of other self-descriptions. Near the end the person will pronounce they are a Mormon like some curtain has be drawn to reveal the big surprise. Most of the videos present people that wouldn’t be known if they hadn’t been introduced this way; and sometimes are quickly forgotten. A few are relatively famous, but not household names.

Related to the now unavoidable videos are a less invasive sharing of messages about Mormon membership. Latter-day Saints all over the world are invited to share their testimony in short texts that are to be read by others. They arguably might be a better way to let others into the lives of Mormons, but much harder to find. Going to lds.org didn’t help. It is easy to find the place to create an account by following Menu/Church/Sharing the Gospel Online on the front page, but it took more digging to actually read the entries.

How successful are these ads? No real statistics have been reported, or what they would mean. It depends on the purpose of the campaign. The few responses that can be tracked seem to indicate better familiarity with the format than any real Mormons. The number of mocking, counter ads, and dismissals indicate nothing has changed on the Internet. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t succeeded offline, but what and how much has not been examined publicly. There are reasons it might not have succeeded like intended. Continue reading