Utah and the Value of Bilingualism

Utah and the Value of Bilingualism

The word “bilingualism” may be defined as the ability to speak two languages fluently, or the habitual use of two languages. Being able to speak more than one language, or to at least be conversational in a language other than the one learned in childhood, can prove to be advantageous in several ways.

The Advantages of Being Bilingual

College Students Studying AbroadHenri Delacroix, a French psychologist stated, “The individual’s whole experience is built upon the plan of his language.” The ability to converse in a different language opens up many windows and doors of opportunity for an individual not only in an economic sense as The Economist emphasizes by stating that “being at least bi-lingual could increase the average American’s retirement fund somewhere in the ballpark of $67,000 over the course of a career,” [1] but as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof so adequately pointed out, it also allows a person to have extraordinary cultural experiences.

Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, brilliantly stated, “In the lives of individuals and societies, language is a factor of greater importance than any other. For the study of language to remain solely the business of a handful of specialists would be a quite unacceptable state of affairs.” And Frank Smith, Psycholinguist, Professor of Education and author, stated, “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”

The State of Utah Sets a Precedent in Bilingualism

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof stated,

Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City, is an example of a city mixing together with different languages — largely because of the high concentration of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served missions abroad — and it’s something young people should pursue. [1]

He also points out that language diversity alone is not what sets Utah apart from most other states, but rather, it is language diversity intermingled with a “wealth of international experience,” which he notes is in short supply in the American higher educational system. He further stated,

One of the aims of higher education is to broaden perspectives, and what better way than by a home stay in a really different country, like Bangladesh or Senegal? Time abroad also leaves one more aware of the complex prism of suspicion through which the United States is often viewed. If more Americans had overseas experience, our foreign policy might be wiser. [2]

Students Studying AbroadAccording to the University of Utah, there are more than 130 languages spoken in commerce in Utah on a daily basis, making Utah a center for both trade and global companies. Thus, it is not uncommon to find the state listed at the top of Forbes list as one of the best states in which to conduct business.

Perhaps it was Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language who stated it best when he said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world. If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.”

Neon Trees Drummer Elaine Bradley Talks About Mormon Faith

Neon Trees Drummer Elaine Bradley Talks About Mormon Faith

Elaine Bradley is the drummer and backup vocalist for the Provo, Utah, based rock band Neon Trees. The band released Habits, its first full length album in 2010, and since then, their first single “Animal” has reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart. The band released a second album in 2012, and have publicized that a new album will be released on 22 April 2014. The album is called “Pop Psychology.” The band has also planned a tour of Europe and North America, with the tour ending in Salt Lake City, Utah on 16 June 2014.

An Early Love for Music

Elaine Bradley - Drummer for Neon LightsElaine says that she has always been a performer. One of the things that she enjoyed doing when she was a little girl was making tapes and pretend to be a radio DJ complete with songs, stories, and commercials. She is the youngest of seven kids and grew up with older siblings playing music constantly. She recalls being exposed to the music of Led-Zeppelin and Depeche Mode at a very early age. She recalls that she and her siblings enjoyed singing together, and they often sang Depeche Mode harmonies while doing the dishes. She further recalls that one of her earliest musical memories was from kindergarten, sitting on the bus, staring out the window and singing “You’re The Inspiration” by Chicago to herself.  When she was 7 years old, an older brother gave her a tape of Led Zeppelin which she listened to over and over again.

She actually became interested in playing the drums around the age of 5, and her parents bought her first real drum set for her thirteenth birthday. She recalls:

I became enthralled with the drums at an early age. I think I was about five when I started banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons. I would ask my parents for drums frequently, but they thought it was a phase that would pass. After several years, and tireless begging, they bought me a Sears’s drum set. It was a bass, snare, floor tom, hi-hat and crash (tiny splash cymbal mounted on the bass drum). I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Frankly, I wasn’t very good, but I played it all the time. Within a year, that little set was destroyed. Then my parents bought me my first real set—a black Tama Rock star with Paiste cymbals. [1]

During her freshman year in high school, she formed a band with some of her friends and she played the drums and sang “until we could find a drummer.” Eventually a drummer was found, and Elaine moved to playing the guitar. She states,

It was during this time period of not playing the drums that I became better at them. That may sound weird, but it’s true. I would listen to and watch our drummer, and then I would air drum to everything in the car or at home. I learned to think of drumming in a way I hadn’t before—as an equal instrument, capable of evoking feeling just like bass and guitar. [1]

Mormonism and the Pursuit of a Musical Career

Elaine Bradley - Neon Trees MormonIn a 2011 interview with The Mormon Women Project, Bradley spoke about her childhood and admitted that although she grew up a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there were many years when she rebelled against the teachings of the Church. She became more fascinated with attaining worldly riches through a career in music, and eventually became involved with drugs. She stated, “I went down the wrong path and stopped thinking about God and the church because I knew that if I did, it would mean something, and I would have to change something,” [2] Concerning her youth and being a member of the Church, she has commented:

Growing up, I never liked being Mormon. I remember sitting in Primary and thinking, “I wish I didn’t know this. Why was I born into this family? My friends are so much luckier than I am because they don’t have all of these weird rules.” I was a rebellious kid. I remember singing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” and thinking it was really preposterous because I didn’t want to be called on a mission. That said, I think I felt that way because I knew that the gospel was true. There was this nagging feeling that it was true mixed with my desire for worldly fame and fortune. Growing up, I felt within me this collision of two distinct worlds. I didn’t really make peace with that tension until I was 21 and maybe even to a certain extent until recently.

I remember having a conversation with my mom in high school. We were driving in the car, and she said to me, “I know you want to be a rock star but what if Heavenly Father were to say that’s not what He wants for you?” I told her point blank that I wouldn’t listen. I wasn’t willing. I had the erroneous thought that Heavenly Father did not want me to be happy. Whatever I wanted, He would tell me to do something else just to spite me. Somehow I got the impression that Heavenly Father was laughing at me from heaven. So in response to that fear, I just ignored Him. I always knew that God was there. The gospel made sense to me and spoke to me on a certain level but at the same time it made me angry. I wanted to be ignorant. During high school one of my biggest complaints was that people in the church were not cool. It was very disappointing for me that most of my friends were outside of the church, and most of the people in the church were people I didn’t want to hang out with. Of course, this complaint was just a cover for my fears about God judging me. In general, it was a really difficult time. [3]

Elaine Bradley WeddingIt wasn’t until she was 21 years of age and had a discussion about religion with her boyfriend who was a Christian that Bradley finally realized the importance of having a relationship with God. In her recently released “I’m a Mormon” video she explains:

I remember I started researching what the Bible was all about, just very fundamental topics. And so I remember being so surprised and excited that there was this Jesus Christ who was my Savior. So that created the natural desire for me to want to stop drinking. There was never a moment where it was like, ‘This is the last time.’ It just kind of stopped. [2]

Bradley later served an LDS mission to Frankfurt, Germany. Today she continues to live according to the teachings and the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ. As a band, the members of Neon Trees have agreed to refrain from drugs and alcohol. “I really try to include God in my decisions about music and the band. I ask him to open doors or close doors as necessary. I kind of keep an open heart about it, “she said. [2] In the video she also stated, “I find that I feel so much better, and so much more myself, when I follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I ever did when I didn’t care about what they were.” [2]

Mike Ericksen and the New Age Folk music of Cedar Breaks

Mike Ericksen and the New Age Folk music of Cedar Breaks

I got to sit down with Mike Ericksen, an amazingly inspired soul, whose creative works invite you to reflect on your ideas of home, faith, and heritage.
His own journey to define home, faith, and heritage for himself and those who walk the path with him culminated in a book — Upon Destiny’s Song, a motion picture — Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, an album — Tyme: Aspects of Home — a collaborated effort of Cedar Breaks band, and Tyme’s breathtaking musical video-documentary. Even with all of the vision and monumental effort, Mike and the rest moved themselves out of the spotlight and invite you to focus on the beauty and message of their work.

“Take my hand, don’t walk too fast

Down the trail of ages past” ~Eutaw

Mike began his story to me by describing the creation of the song “Eutaw.” He was enthralled by Utah’s Black Hawk Indian War (1865-1872). He felt inspired to write a song about Utah, but didn’t know where to start or what to focus on. In a flash of inspiration, he decided to use the old time spelling of Utah—Eutaw.

He went fishing with a friend. The running river behind them sounded like voices in the water. Mike found out that an Indian legend for the area said a squaw lost her child in the water and was still searching for him, hence the personified voices in the river. Utah’s mountains are magnificent, but Mike mused about how cautious people had to be when someone came over the mountains—was he friend or foe? How great it was when people came in peace. It reminded him of a scripture “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace” (Mosiah 15:18). Truly, the Savior is the bringer of ultimate peace.

Mike saw and felt the personified attributes of the earth and felt the metaphor so powerfully, that he wrote Eutaw as a person. Suddenly, the song just flowed. Mike said, “It became a song about me when I thought I was writing about her (Utah).”

“When I stand on sacred ground

I can hear their voices

Soft and low they seem to say, look up

Beautiful are her feet

Upon the mountain peak

For she … is called Eutaw”

Producer Norman Bosworth contacted Mike about putting scenery to Eutaw. They entered the film in the LDS Film Festival in 2012. He had four films in that festival.  His documentary film on handcart pioneer Ole Madsen won in a film festival in Southern Utah.

Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, Faith, Family, Determination

A 40 minute documentary on Danish Mormon convert Ole Madsen and his family as they cross the plains with the ill-fated Willie handcart company enroute to Salt Lake City, Utah

Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, tells the story of handcart pioneers, in their own words, crossing the plains to Utah who, unexpectedly ravaged by early winter storms, face certain death until Mormon rescuers arrive with food, clothing, blankets, and wagons enabling the remaining pioneers to finish their journey to Salt Lake City. Ole Madsen is Mike’s ancestor. Ole and his family joined the handcart company. Ole perished days before the rescuers reached the bedraggled pioneers.

Mike began studying this heritage about 10 years prior to making the film and was so affected by the story that he knew everyone he talked to needed to hear it.  He felt like Americans have two problems: 1)Americans take things for granted, and 2)then Americans feel guilty about what they have.

“We were given what we have by what someone sacrificed – a slave in slavery, a Mormon from Nauvoo, an immigrant. Someone sacrificed at the end of the day. Who gave me this right to choose?

On the news one night, a teenage girl said how thankful she was for living in Utah and grateful for a new start. She’d lost everything in Katrina. But, she didn’t complain about it. That’s what I found so great about the stories of those pioneers. They didn’t want to blame their leaders. The majority were just so grateful and thankful for everything despite what they went through. I looked at the ground where I stood and Tyme came to me.”

“Think I know the answer now for all

of us that roam if we just stay together

we will surely make it home” ~Tyme

Mike’s 10 years of research also culminated in Upon Destiny’s Song. He met Sage Steadman and talked about his vision for the book. Upon Destiny’s Song is the story of 10 year-old Ane Marie Madsen, Ole Madsen’s daughter. Through his research, Mike identified 12 days of Ane Marie’s life. One of Mike’s songs is interjected into every chapter of the book.

Upon Destiny's Song, book by Mike Ericksen and Sage Steadman

The soulful story of Ane Marie Madsen and her family who immigrated to Utah with the ill-fated Willie handcart company

“When Ane Marie opens her eyes, I want to know how she feels and what she sees. I want to tell people what it was really like back then. I want to tell it a little more real.”  Mike’s own life experiences are interspersed as chapters throughout the book. As the Madsens make their way to Zion, Mike traverses his own journey to purpose, self-awareness, to seeing.

Sage trekked all of over Wyoming and they worked together to get the story right. Several historians read the manuscript and pushed back on some things which Mike then modified or let go. After three years of writing, Mike and Sage finished the book and a CD to accompany it. After they were done, they discovered that Sage had a Danish ancestor in that company as well!!  He had a 10 year-old daughter, who was probably friends with Ane Marie.

Mike originally titled the film Unsung as a metaphor for the unsung lives of Ane Marie and Ole Madsen. But after doing the final script for the film, writer James Jordan told Mike “We’re not going to call it Unsung, we’re going to call it Walking in Obedience.” There were too many metaphors in the story for it to just be Unsung. It wasn’t just the story of the Madsens, or the rest of the Willie handcart company. It and Upon Destiny’s Song tell the story of humanity.

As boring and mundane as my life is, I realize there will be people looking for me. I look at pictures of Ane Marie and look at her eyes, just trying to figure out who she is. I learned what a true hero was. Heroes are people who get up every day and sacrifice for their kids, give up their time for their community, and church. That’s the people you gain strength from. In reality, we know our heroes, we live with them.

I realized what you want mostly in life is that if you’re raising kids, you want them to be good people. Being Christian has less to do with dogma and more to do with helping people. The Gospel is restored. We have more understanding about what truth is, how it’s important and how it comes to you. It’s funny when people talk about ‘how’ to be a Christian…it’s just how you treat your neighbors.”

This project taught me what faith look likes, what hardship looks like, what sacred space looks like. That’s kind of what I got out of it at the end of the day. There’s a lot of meaning of life sitting there.

"What I have been has been given to me. So, if I see a door and it looks like it's open, I walk through it." Mike Ericksen

Cedar Breaks Band

“What I have has been given to me. If I see a door and it looks like it’s open, I walk through it.” That’s how Cedar Breaks Band came to be.

Mike, guitarist, and Diana Glissmeyer, vocalist, met doing presentations about pioneers around the country. As the concept for Cedar Breaks moved along, they enlisted banjoist, Keith Behunin, who lives in St. George, Utah.

Mike and his daughter Jenny listened to Rebecca Croft’s CD and met her at Brigham Young University for lunch. Mike told Rebecca he wanted to do an album about what home is—all the places that can be home for people. She agreed to add her vocals to the mix.

When Cedar Breaks come together, they come together with great purpose. Mike and the band felt so strongly about their purpose overshadowing the band members as individuals that they didn’t even want a picture of the band on the album cover.  But, they got overruled, and there is a small picture of the band on the back cover.

Cedar Breaks Band with Keith Behunin, Rebecca Croft, Mike Ericksen, Diana Glissmeyer, Michael Gibbons

Keith Behunin, Rebecca Croft, Mike Ericksen, Diana Glissmeyer, Michael Gibbons

The purpose is evident in the lyrics of every Cedar Breaks’ new age folk song.

After holding his granddaughter Nora for the first time, “Set to Wander” flowed through Mike’s hands. He saw her life’s mission, and himself and Nora walking through life holding hands.

“She set herself to wander

As she opened up her eyes

I thought as I held her

How the time would surely fly

And I wanted to tell her

She was born among the free

What I had to give her

Was given once to me

Like the gentle spring rain

That lets the flowers grow

Without provocation

Into the even flow” ~Set To Wander

Cedar Breaks Band Set to Wander, a song for a little girl

The band’s producer, Michael Gibbon, wanted to sing and record “Set to Wander” for  his wife for Mother’s Day, they had just had twins.  When the band heard his rendition, they immediately asked him to add his vocals and guitar skills to theirs.  Michael’s brother, Guy Gibbons, became their keyboardist and Michael’s wife, Jennifer, the violinist.

Cedar Breaks had also just finished “Prayer,” written by Mike’s friend Eliza Gilkyson. Mike liked Prayer because the prayer doesn’t ask for anything, instead offering words of gratitude for things beautiful and things difficult.

“Thank you for my tears

Loved ones who forgave me

Thank you for my darkest years

All the sorrow that made me.” ~Prayer

The band couldn’t figure out how to end the song.  Mike said, “There is a place between sleep and prayer, where you’re awake, not quite asleep, but in the middle of saying a prayer. I wanted to find that place at the end of ‘Prayer.’ The band captured that feeling by humming for 2 ½ minutes at the end of the song.

Mike then wrote the rest of the songs specifically for the vocalists, just so he could hear their voices blending together. Because Cedar Breaks Band didn’t have a deadline to release the album, they took their time, melding and crafting the music together. They finished album after 3 years.

Cedar Breaks Band Tyme: Aspects of Home.

Then, they blew away normal music video expectations with a fabulous video documentary incorporating Cedar Break’s soulful music, with spectacular scenery of Utah, dance, and narrative. It’s truly stunning and moving.

Tyme Aspects of Home music by Cedar Breaks

After Tyme: Aspects of Home’s release, the band met at Mike’s house for a practice.  Mike told them they’d need to get out and play for people. He also had written another song called Light (which has actually just been released in 2014) and he really wanted to do something with the song. But, there was mutiny at the practice.  The band had 6 babies born to band members in the previous 4 years.  Everyone said they couldn’t play out as Cedar Breaks band, because of the time it would take away from their families. None of them felt good about making an album about family and then saying, “Ok, we’re going to play this bar tonight, get your babysitters lined up.”  So for now, they’re a studio band because of the commitment they’ve made to their families.  They’ve also made a commitment to make really good music, but they’ll worry about touring sometime down the road.

Mike concluded with an emphasis on Cedar Break’s purpose.

If the band were here, they would say it’s really cool to be part of a project that’s based on a cause. Everyone has a cause and a flag they need to carry in their lives. This was a really fun one and an easy one to carry. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t know who even their parents are. When you give that gift of purpose to people, it really energizes them. Everybody has a story…that’s the end of the story. People need to know who they are and how to get themselves there. Tyme is about taking the time to figure out who you are and why you are here.

I asked Mike what song or lyrics he felt specifically reflected his heritage.

“I think my favorite lyrics are in the song ‘Tyme’….a treatise on the vastness around us and the endless path that we are on.  ‘It’s not how far you journey on, just with whom you walk along.’”

I love the band’s tagline: Unique Sound. Familiar Feel. It’s so true.

 

 

Deseret Industries: Helping People Help Themselves

Deseret Industries: Helping People Help Themselves

Deseret Industries is a non-profit organization that includes a chain of retail thrift stores very similar to the familiar Goodwill Industries. It is a division of Welfare Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church by the media and others), and in addition to its thrift stores, job skill training is also provided for the physically, emotionally, and socially challenged, providing them an opportunity to be placed in private sector employment.

Providing for the Temporal Needs of Others

Deseret Industries Thrift StoreThe retail thrift stores are generally located in areas where church membership is strong. There are a total of 46 stores located in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The stores mainly operate from donations of items that people no longer have a use for such as furniture, appliances, computers, and clothing. The donated items are in turn sold to those in need at low cost.

Deseret Industries also sells new furniture, much of which is received from a manufacturing plant in Salt Lake City, Utah. The thrift stores also provide clothing and other items in support of worldwide humanitarian efforts. At the request of a local bishop (congregational leader), some of the donated items may also be dispersed to help those who are victims of a disaster such as a fire or flood. The revenue obtained is used to support other Church Welfare Services organizations and programs throughout the world.

A person does not have to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ in order to receive training at Deseret Industries; however, he must be endorsed for training by a local LDS Bishop. Employment at Deseret Industries is considered rehabilitative training rather than a career. Therefore, employment there does not typically last more than 12 months.

Help for the Elderly and Those with Disabilities

Deseret IndustriesDeseret Industries’ motto is “People Helping People Help Themselves.” And so, Deseret Industries provides opportunities for employees to learn new job skills, earn money to help support themselves and their families, and when they are ready, help is provided in finding a suitable job. Individuals are able to gain retail experience working in the thrift stores, trade skills at D.I. Manufacturing, and various other work skills while assisting people worldwide at the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center. A wealth of training courses are available as Deseret Industries partners with community colleges, applied technology centers, and other institutions that offer training courses in accounting, information technology, healthcare, and other areas.

Those in training are called associates, and some of them have difficulty finding employment because of disabilities and age. In addition to the associates, there are full-time staff members to include store managers, retail processing coordinators, job coach trainers, and development specialists. Trainees at Deseret Industries do not receive retirement benefits, medical coverage, vacation, or sick leave. The purpose behind this is to prepare people for the workplace and to work in the community.

Serving Others – In the Service of God

Deseret Industries ClothingMembers of The Church of Jesus Christ are encouraged to volunteer at their local Deseret Industries store. They can help take care of the store or speak to their bishop about serving as a Church-Service Missionary.

Individuals who wish to volunteer must meet age and other risk requirements. Children under the age of 7 are not eligible to volunteer, and youth between the ages of 8 to 16 may volunteer only when accompanied by an adult. Those who volunteer may:

  • Teach life skills.

  • Mentor individuals.

  • Help individuals learn work skills.

  • Participate in community service projects.

  • Participate in humanitarian service projects.

Church-Service Missionaries help in invaluable ways by:

  • Mentoring individuals.

  • Teaching life and work skills.

  • Teaching English.

  • Helping individuals find a job.

  • Developing community resources.

  • Coordinating community service projects.

Individuals who volunteer their time to bless the lives of others are rewarded, not monetarily, but by many blessings, small and large, in return.

A Donation Waiting to Happen: Sasquath

A Donation Waiting to Happen: Rice Cooker

A Donation Waiting to Happen: Work Bench

Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn – A Gay Mormon

Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn – A Gay Mormon

Rolling Stone magazine reported Rock band Neon Tree’s lead singer Tyler Glenn’s recent announcement that he was gay. “I was going to learn to drive for my 30th birthday, but I came out instead,” Tyler said. [1]

Early Beginnings and Coming Out As Being Gay

TYler Glen Gay MormonTyler Glenn grew up in Murrieta, California, with Neon Trees guitarist Chris Allen. In 2005, after serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church), both men moved to Provo, Utah, and began performing locally.  Elaine Bradley, drummer, and Brandon Campbell, bassist, joined the band shortly thereafter, and Neon Trees became a global sensation. The band has now released their third album titled “Pop Psychology.” They have also planned a tour of Europe and North America, concluding in Salt Lake City, Utah on 16 June 2014.

Tyler penned a Facebook post to fans concluding with this advice: “Come out as YOU. That’s all I really can say. That’s what I’d say to me at 21, the scared return Mormon missionary who knew this part of himself but loved God too. You can do both. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.”

Tyler also told Rolling Stone, “I don’t know what the rumors are, but we’re not taught that ‘homos are going to hell’ on Sunday in church,” he says. “Mostly it’s just about Christ and his teachings.”

Mormon Doctrine and Same-Sex Attraction

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though strongly supporting the doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman, recognizes that some of its members are attracted to same sex gender. On its website mormonsandgays.org, The Church of Jesus Christ posted,

Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.

Where the Church stands:

The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

When asked why the Church doesn’t just let people be, Elder Todd D. Christofferson said,

This is a gospel of change. Jesus Christ is asking every one of us to change, and to become better and to progress and to follow in his footsteps. His ultimate commandment is that we become as He is and as His father. And none of us are at that point. None of us have things, are free of things that we don’t need to change in our lives and to improve. And the standard is always the gospel of Jesus Christ. And every one of us has to measure up to that standard because that’s where our ultimate happiness is going to be found. That’s where our ultimate freedom is going to come. And God being just and loving all of His Children is going to help everyone who wants to progress toward that ideal, whatever they may need to do in their lives to do that.

Conversations About Homosexuality

The Church posted conversations about homosexuality on mormonsandgays.org. Gay Mormons share their stories about being Mormon and gay in the Church.  Some left the Church to live a gay lifestyle and then returned to find spiritual fulfillment.

Ted shared,

There’s so many questions, there’s probably way more questions that there are answers for sure. I certainly don’t know anything, except for this. I know that God loves me. I am His divine child and I know He wants me to come back into His presence. I know that because He’s told me so. The mighty change of heart that’s not just a figurative thing, it’s a real thing, that He takes our hearts and makes them soft and fills us up with light. It doesn’t matter who we are, all can come unto Him. I am His and He loves me.

Ty shared,

I was in a couple of different relationships with people that I really cared about. And it was interesting because I felt more emotionally alive but I also felt a loss of light, and that was clear to me during that time. It was a slow decrease in light but I noticed it. At one point, I was feeling very, very distant, probably as far from God as I had ever felt, and I had this very strong spiritual experience, kind of a mystical experience, where I was almost being enveloped in this feeling of love. There was nothing in that that was ‘what you’re doing is right, what you’re doing is wrong’ it was just this feeling of ‘I love you.’ And I felt like God knew me, that he remembered me. And I needed that more than anything. Again, it wasn’t an affirmation, it wasn’t a rebuke, it was just ‘I love you.’ And so I continued just trying to move forward trying to find reconciliation, to be in places, I mean I kept attending church, and just to try to be in places where I thought the spirit could be present, to teach me. I kept trying to learn, and to read, and I kept trying to figure things out and at one point I was in a kind of a devotional address and the instructor was talking about Isaiah, “But if you take hold of the covenant, you shall have a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters.” And as he was talking about this verse, I just had again like this very powerful spiritual experience, that my place was in the Church, that’s where I needed to be. It was a very clear communication that whether you get married in this life or the next is of no matter, just stay with me. Stay with me. If you take life a day at a time, continuing to seek and cultivate the spirit in your life, every blessing that can be had will be yours. Just trust. That’s what I did and at that point, I resolved myself that I was going to get my life back in order. And I was able to totally release myself from cultural expectation. Like from now on, I was doing this journey in the Church, but this was between me and God. No more pressure to get married, no more timetables, no more anything. No more programs, this or that therapy, it was me and God, taking this a day at a time. If it something works, great, if it doesn’t, great not a problem. I’m with God and that’s all that I need. But that was enough for me to be able to feel a real hope. And to feel a joy in Christ and to feel a joy in the gospel that I had lost years before. And also, the natural desire to want to have companionship. But at this point, I knew I didn’t need that more than I needed God. It was God first, that was second.

For more information on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ position on same-sex attraction, visit mormonsandgays.org.

Women and their Role in the Priesthood

Women and their Role in the Priesthood

The semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church) is a worldwide meeting for all members. Included in the schedule is one session for men and one for women. Each highlights the separate and distinct roles that men and women have in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in their families and in the world. The session for the men is called the Priesthood Session, as it is for boys and men ages 12 and older who are eligible to receive the priesthood (which is the power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children). Some have questioned why there are separate meetings for men and women, and why women aren’t ordained to the priesthood. Men and women have divine, distinct and complementary roles in God’s plan for his children. As we come to know and understand God’s plan for His children, we can see that all are eligible for and entitled to the blessings provided by the power of the priesthood. Elder Neil L. Andersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:

We sometimes overly associate the power of the priesthood with men in the Church. The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children.

A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift. [1]

What is the Priesthood?

Answering the question of why only men are ordained to the priesthood must begin with a definition and history of the priesthood.  The priesthood is the power and authority of God on the earth. President Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

Priesthood is the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present. [2]

The priesthood of God has existed from before the creation of the world. Elder Robert D. Hales, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

The priesthood of God is timeless. … The formation of the universe and of the world upon which we live was brought to pass—not by chance, but through the power of the priesthood. … The processes of nature that enable us to exist on this planet, the resources of this world that sustain life—all were set into motion and continue their course through the power of God’s magnificent priesthood. While most of the earth’s inhabitants do not recognize this priesthood power, all living creatures are its beneficiaries. …

It was through the priesthood that the Son of God, the Savior, Jesus Christ, established his church. … Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of all who will repent and be baptized through the power of the holy priesthood. Through the Atonement, our Savior broke the bands of death and became “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). [3]

The ordinances and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ are administered through the power of the priesthood. When He established His Church on the earth, He ordained 12 Apostles to carry on His work after He died. But that did not last. Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

Early Christians endured the challenges of persecution and hardship. Peter and his brethren had a difficult time holding the Church together and keeping the doctrine pure. … Eventually, with the known exception of John the Beloved, Peter and his fellow Apostles were martyred. The Apostle John and members of the Church struggled for survival in the face of horrifying oppression. To their everlasting credit, Christianity did survive and was truly a prominent force by the end of the second century A.D. Many valiant Saints were instrumental in helping Christianity to endure.

Despite the significance of the ministries of these Saints, they did not hold the same apostolic authority Peter and the other Apostles had received through ordination under the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When that authority was lost, men began looking to other sources for doctrinal understanding. As a result, many plain and precious truths were lost. [4]

Thus, the power and authority of the priesthood were taken from the earth. Paul and other ancient prophets foretold of this. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4.) But Peter spoke of the “times of refreshing” and “the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19-21)—which was that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be restored to the earth. The gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth through Joseph Smith, who was the first prophet of God in the modern days. All of the principles and ordinances of the gospel that Jesus Christ instituted when He walked the earth—including His priesthood authority—were restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.

It’s essential to understand that the priesthood is God’s power and authority—thus God dictates the terms of its use. It is neither capricious nor biased that God gave men to the right to hold the priesthood. It is part of His grand design. From the time of Adam, as Elder Hales explained, the priesthood was passed “from father to son.” [3] Today, as often as permits, the priesthood is still passed from father to son in the same manner.

The Role of Women in the Priesthood

The priesthood is the same power that Jesus Christ used when He organized His Church anciently. When He called and ordained Apostles, Jesus Christ called a lay clergy—fishermen, publicans, etc. The Church of Jesus Christ in modern days is set up the same way. Because of the divine roles that Heavenly Father designed for His children, men are given the responsibility of carrying and bearing the priesthood. Women are given the responsibility of carrying and bearing children. Each is essential in God’s plan. Women are not ordained to the priesthood, but their role in the priesthood is just as important. President Packer said:

We are sometimes charged with being unkind to the sisters in that they do not hold the priesthood and therefore do not hold the offices that the brethren do. But it is well understood that whether or not we are exalted depends upon the sister who is at our side—the wife, the mother of our children—and no holder of the priesthood would in any way depreciate or mitigate the value and power of his wife. When I hear those comments that the sisters are less than the brethren, I wish that they could see inside the heart of every worthy holder of the priesthood and understand how he feels about his wife, the mother of his children—a reverence, not quite worship but a kind of worship, a respect for the companion in life that causes it to be that he can be exalted ultimately. [5]

In The Church of Jesus Christ, women have the important role of being wives and mothers, helpmeets for their husbands and teachers of their children. The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said:

A woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children. Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances.

In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship. By the power of her example and teaching, her sons learn to respect womanhood and to incorporate discipline and high moral standards in their own lives. Her daughters learn to cultivate their own virtue and to stand up for what is right, again and again, however unpopular. A mother’s love and high expectations lead her children to act responsibly without excuses, to be serious about education and personal development, and to make ongoing contributions to the well-being of all around them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once asked: “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?” [6]

Happiness in the HomeThe world would take this to mean that in The Church of Jesus Christ, women are somehow less than men because their focus must be the home. What the world is missing is that the home and family should be the main focus for both husbands and wives—they work together in the home and help each other.

As my oldest child, who is a son, was nearing the age of 12—which is the age at which boys who keep the commandments of God are eligible to be ordained to the priesthood—I started wondering if I had taught him enough about his upcoming responsibilities as a priesthood holder. After he was ordained to the priesthood, I talked to him about how his actions reflected on his priesthood. I also realized that I needed to teach my daughters to respect their older brother and his priesthood authority. I needed to teach my children—through words and actions—about how to honor and support the priesthood in our home. Rather than playing a supporting role, women are equal partners with their husbands in this work.

Women Have Their Own Organizations in the Church

Just as women have complementary roles to their husbands in the home, they have complementary roles in The Church of Jesus Christ. In the temples, which are holy houses of worship where men and women make sacred covenants with God, women have their own duties to perform under the umbrella of the priesthood. In the Church, women are leaders in their own organizations, which also function under the umbrella of the priesthood. The late President Gordon B. Hinckley, until his death the president of The Church of Jesus Christ, said:

Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…

The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise. [7]

More than 20 years ago, Elder Ballard taught:

In a recent council meeting with the presidencies of the women’s auxiliaries, the sisters told me that very few women in the Church express any interest in wanting to hold the priesthood. But they do want to be heard and valued and want to make meaningful contributions to the stake or ward and its members that will serve the Lord and help accomplish the mission of the Church.

For example, not long ago we were talking about the worthiness of youth to serve missions. [General Relief Society] President Elaine Jack said, “You know, Elder Ballard, the sisters of the Church may have some good suggestions on how to better prepare the youth for missions…. After all, you know, we are their mothers!” [8]

Sister Sheri L. Dew, at the time a counselor in the General Relief Society presidency, offered an insightful analogy:

This summer I injured a shoulder and lost the use of an arm for weeks. I hadn’t realized how much one arm depends upon the other for balance, or how much less I could lift with one arm than two, or that there were some things I couldn’t do at all. This disability not only renewed my respect for those who deal so well with a physical limitation, but helped me realize how much more two arms working together can do.

Two are usually better than one, as our Father confirmed when He declared that “it was not good that the man should be alone” and made a help meet for Adam—someone with distinct gifts who would give him balance, help him shoulder the burdens of mortality, and enable him to do things he couldn’t do alone. For “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”

… Some will try to persuade you [women] that because you are not ordained to the priesthood you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge “armed” with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can only be received by a man and woman together. [9]

The priesthood is not the men who are ordained to it. It is not a society from which women are banned. It is the power that God gives to man to bless, heal and protect all of His children.

Men and Women Have Meetings Designed Specifically for Them

My family is really excited for General Conference this April. We will celebrate a momentous milestone in our family: my husband and 13-year-old son will attend the General Priesthood Session of the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. The priesthood meeting is for all men and boys ages 12 and older—because they are the ones eligible to receive and administer the priesthood. This is a momentous occasion for our family because my husband and son will have the opportunity to sit at the feet of the prophet of Jesus Christ and learn, instead of watching it over live broadcast. Watching it over broadcast is great, but actually being in the Conference Center is a powerful experience. But this won’t be momentous just for the boys. For the first time, I get to take my daughters to the General Women’s Meeting (although not in the Conference Center)—as now it is for all women and girls ages 8 and up.

Why do they have one meeting for the guys and one for the girls? Certainly, both meetings will be powerful and uplifting for all. As a wife and especially as a mother, I am excited for my son to have priesthood bonding time with his dad. I am equally as excited to have my own bonding time with my daughters. In the Relief Society general meeting, we feel a sisterhood and a unity that is different from the rest of the meetings. I imagine the men also feel a brotherhood and unity in their meetings. It is a sacred bond that is necessary to strengthen these ties. It’s about helping the boys and men to become better sons, fathers, brothers and holders of the priesthood. The women’s meeting is about helping women become better wives, mothers, sisters and upholders of the priesthood.

The scriptures teach that “Neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:11). The separate meetings for men and women aren’t meant to diminish one gender role or the other. Rather, they are meant to help us better complement each other. My husband and I are better together because of our differences—not in spite of them. That is the Lord’s plan for us.

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