Category Archives: Humanitarian

I like “Ben Hur”

Sandra and I are watching three of our grandsons this weekend while our daughter and son-in-law hunt for an apartment in Reno. Since our ward meetings don’t start until 2 pm, we are facing the usual “how do we keep the kids occupied on Sunday?” issue. Right now, they’re wandering around the basement, hunting for dyed eggs and Hershey’s miniatures, but earlier I started “Ben Hur” and have been watching it off and on while working at my laptop.

Back when Sandra and I had lots of kids at home, we had a whole collection of what we termed “Sunday movies” on tape: “Ben Hur”, “The Ten Commandments”, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, “The Story of Ruth”, and so on. These were movies the kids could stick in the VCR and watch on Sunday, either before or after church, depending upon our schedule. We later expanded the list to include some non-biblical films (“Fiddler on the Roof”, etc.), since one can only watch these films so many times.

Well, the VCR and the tapes are all gone, and the only one of these films that I have on DVD is “Ben Hur”. That’s because it’s my favorite of all those films, and the only one that holds up well after half a century or so. I think because the film’s focus is not on the Savior’s life, but on the life of someone who been touched by the Savior, literally and figuratively, without knowing it. The approach of never showing the Savior’s face is very effective.

The scene where Ben Hur, in chains as a slave, is denied water by the Roman slavedriver, only to be given water by Christ, remains one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. It is a reminder that the Savior’s ministry started long before He turned 30 and that the vast majority of the service He rendered fall outside of our records of His ministry in the Gospels.

The Savior’s parable in Matthew 25:31-46 probably gives us the best glimpse into how the Savior spent his life before starting to preach the Gospel, and there were likely many lives touched by Him prior to then. “Ben Hur” is a reminder of that.  ..bruce..

LDS International Society Conference Proceedings

The proceedings of the 19th Annual LDS International Society Conference are available online as a PDF file.  This was held last April at the Hinckley Center at BYU. Here’s the table of contents:

  • “Building Bridges: Ambassador Hosting Program” — Panel discussion and presentation
    • Moderator: Jeff Ringer, director, Kennedy Center
    • Panel members: Ann Santini, manager, Public and International Affairs, Washington DC office, LDS Church;
      Erlend Peterson, associate international vice president, BYU;
      Elder Ben Banks and Sister Susan Banks, directors, Church Hosting, LDS Church
  • Keynote Speech: “The Church in the Twenty-First Century: Public Perception and the ‘Man with the Stamp’
    • Speaker: Elder Lance B. Wickman, Quorum of the Seventy and general counsel, LDS Church
  • “Strengthening Relations via Diplomatic Outreach” — Panel Discussion
    • Moderator/Introductions: William F. Akin, associate general counsel, LDS Church
    • Panel members: Olene S. Walker, former Utah Governor;
      M. Kenneth Bowler, director, Public and International Affairs, LDS Church;
      Elder Ralph W. Hardy, Jr., Area Seventy
  • “The Perfect Storm? LDS Media Events and the Foreign Press”
    • Speaker: Joel J. Campbell, assistant professor of communications, BYU
  • “Public Perception and Humanitarian Initiatives” — Panel discussion and presentation
    • Moderator/Introductions: Daryl K. Hobson, former president, Cape Verde Priaia Mission
    • Panel members: Sharon Eubanks, manager, LDS Charities;
      Warner P. Woodworth, professor of organizational behavior, BYU

In the aftermath of Prop 8, I’ve seen plenty of postings around the blogosphere suggesting that the leadership of the Church “blundered” into this situation and clearly didn’t think through the political and public perception ramifications. As I’ve said before, hogwash; I believe the Church knew full well what the likely ramifications would be.

Here’s a great quote, from Elder Banks (he and his wife are responsible for hosting foreign ambassadors, consuls, and other state officials who come to or live in Salt Lake):

One of the more interesting ones was Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. President Hinckley asked him, “Why can’t all you guys get along over there?” And I waited for the Prince’s answer, and he said, “Well, President, it goes back to the Ottoman Empire when France and Britain made all of the countries in this part of the world colonies, and they didn’t want to have anything to do with us, because we didn’t have anything.” And President Hinckley said, “Yes, and now you’ve struck oil, haven’t you?” And the Prince said, “Yes, and now we don’t want anything to do with them.”

Here’s one from Erlend Peterson (BYU):

The important link is Ann Santini and the work she does in Washington, and with Elder and Sister Bans and the work they do in public affairs. Ann’s working with the ambassadors on a regular basis. It creates an opportunity for us probably no one else has. As we’ve talked to ambassadors, they say that they don’t know of another state or university doing what we’re doing. . . . We’ve now hosted 157 ambassadors from ninety-one countries.

And from Jeff Ringer (Kennedy Center):

Years ago, when I first began at the [Kennedy Center] and had some hosting responsibilities, we were hosting a noted Jewish rabbi from New York. At the conclusion of his visit, I was assigned to take him back to Salt Lake City and get him on his flight. I was doing that — this was before increased security — so we had walked back to his gate, and I had wandered off to grab him a drink or something. He was sitting in his chair with tears streaming down his face, and as a new employee at BYU I thought, well there it is, I’ll turn in my card, I’m fired. I somehow managed to ask him what was wrong. He said, “Look around. This is the most remarkable thing I have ever seen.” I’d become used to it, so I hadn’t paid attention, but it happened to be one of those days when missionaries are coming and going. There were families saying goodbye, and families saying welcome home. He went on to tell me it was the most remarkable thing he had ever seen, and he wondered how we created such a sense of service and sacrifice among our people.

Read the whole conference report. It  shows just how carefully and thoughtfully the Church deals with political relations and public perceptions, not just here in the US but around the world as well. ..bruce..

Coverage of the San Diego fires — LDS relief efforts

I run another blog (And Still I Persist) with a co-blogger, Bruce Henderson. I’m from San Diego, and BruceH has lived there for many years. So when the fires broke out a little over a week ago, BruceH started posting information on the blog, including photos, maps, and 3-D visualizations of the fires; I joined in as best I could (I currently live in Colorado, but have many family members, including children and grandchildren, in San Diego County).

As is typical with such disasters, LDS relief efforts started almost immediately and have continued through the course of the fire. Most people outside the LDS Church don’t realize the global reach of LDS relief and humanitarian efforts, most of which goes to people who are not members of the LDS Church. In the past 22 years, that aid has totaled nearly $1 billion — all given without consideration of creed, national origin, or ethnic background, and almost all of which comes from the pockets and donated labor of the Latter-day Saints members themselves.

But, of course, we’re not Christian. 😉 ..bruce..