The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church, was honored recently with the 2013 American Association of People Disabilities (AAPD) Image Award.

The Church of Jesus Christ was recognized for the representations of members with disabilities in its “I’m a Mormon” campaign profiles on their website Mormon.org.

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“AAPD President and CEO Mark Perriello called the profiles ‘powerful,’ and said, ‘They tell the disability experience in a way that is real, no apologies, and it’s absolutely astounding.’”

Ron Wilson, senior manager of Mormon.org, accepted the award at the AAPD annual Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. and received a standing ovation from the audience.

“Mormons come from all paths of life, geographies, ethnicities, personal challenges, and abilities, but we are bound together by a common belief in Jesus Christ and a desire to follow His teachings,” Wilson said. “The goal of the campaign,” he said, “was to provide a glimpse into the lives of Mormons from all over the world, which naturally included members with disabilities.”

LOrin Nicholson MormonLorin Nicholson, for instance, is an Australian member of The Church of Jesus Christ. “He is married, has four children, works as a musician and motivational speaker and recently biked across Australia with his brother. He is also blind. When the Church asked if he’d be willing to share a bit of his life in a video profile for the Mormon.org website, he agreed, hoping his perspective would help others.”

“‘I believe that God knows and loves me unconditionally,” he said. “If being blind helps me to inspire other people, then I really consider blindness to be an actual strength.’”

Media is just one of many ways The Church of Jesus Christ works to help increase understanding of the lives and needs of its members with disabilities.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ have long encouraged “leaders, teachers, neighbors, friends, and families” to increase their awareness, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of those with disabilities. In a statement issue in April 1989, the First Presidency of the Church said: “There is [a] greater need to reduce the barriers imposed by a lack of understanding and acceptance of those who have disabilities. . . . It is our opportunity and our responsibility to follow the example of Jesus in loving our neighbors, and that includes those with disabilities.”1

According to Christopher Phillips, who is Disability Services manager for the Church, says that the Church is continually looking for better ways to meet the needs of people with disabilities. “We want everyone to feel welcome and included in Church services and programs, so we try to provide resources to help.” Disabilities.lds.org lists resources available.

SweetSpiritDisabilityQuote“Our goal is to help leaders and members as they try to understand and meet the individual needs of those with disabilities and recognize their gifts,” Phillips said.

The Church of Jesus Christ produces other media resources to help increase understanding, which includes articles and videos about members’ experiences with disabilities.

Online religious instruction is available to youth and young adults who are unable to attend institute or seminary classes due to their disabilities. Classes are also available in American Sign Language.

Buildings and facilities owned by The Church are accessible to people with disabilities.

In addition, the Church-owned Deseret Industries offers vocational rehabilitation services for Latter-day Saints with disabilities.

The Church of Jesus Christ provides Church-service missionary opportunities for hundreds of young adults with disabilities.

“Visitors to the Mormon.org website can watch videos, read profiles in 20 different languages, see questions answered by Church members, or ask their own questions in a live chat with missionaries.”

This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Paula Hicken MormonPaula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.

Note:

First Presidency Statement on Disabilities

References:

Church Recognized for Positive Portrayal of Disabilities

Church Provides Wide Array of Disability Resources

Additional Resources:

 Meet Mormons

Lorin Nicholson’s Mormon.org Profile

About paulah
Paula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.

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