Category Archives: LDS Society

30 LDS missionaries deported from Guyana [updated]

Please turn to hymn number, uh...

UPDATED [09/03/09 — 2150 MDT]

There are now indications that the expulsion of LDS missionaries from Guyana may have been due to political and/or religious reasons, rather than visa problems as originally reported:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Authorities in Guyana grew “uncomfortable” with the presence of Mormon missionaries who have been ordered to leave the South American country, a governing party leader said Thursday.

About 40 missionaries were briefly detained Wednesday and told to leave within a month as authorities said their travel documents were out of date.

Comments by Donald Ramotar of the governing People’s Progressive Party, however, suggested the crackdown went beyond immigration issues.

“While we tolerate all religions, it appears that some officials had become uncomfortable with them around,” said Ramotar, the party’s general secretary.

Ramotar declined to elaborate. But some government officials and party members said privately that leaders felt the Mormons were too close to opposition figures and also were wary of the church’s independent charity work in the interior.

Hey! It’s the Extermination Order all over again! Cool! I still want to find out if the missionaries really sang “We Shall Overcome” while in jail.


Via KSL News:

At least 30 Latter-day Saint missionaries were detained Wednesday in the South American country of Guyana because they did not have updated travel documents, police said.

Most of them are U.S. citizens and will be given one month to leave before they are deported, Police Chief Henry Greene said. He declined further comment.

The missionaries were expected to be released late Wednesday to prepare for their departure, acting U.S. ambassador Karen Williams said.

Sounds like more visa problems. But here’s my favorite part:

It was unclear what prompted the arrests. No incidents involving the missionaries were reported prior to their detainment. They could be heard singing “We Shall Overcome” from their cells Wednesday night.

OK, what LDS missionary knows the words and tune to “We Shall Overcome”? I suspect what they were heard singing was “Come, Come Ye Saints”.

Then again, I could be wrong — all it would take is one of the missionaries, and s/he could teach it to the rest. We’re nothing if not quick studies on hymns, given how many times in Sacrament meeting we are confronted with a hymn that we would swear we have never heard nor sung before. And, of course, the missionaries would all think it was hilarious (just as I’m sure they’re amused about spending the night in jail — even in Guyana — and possibly being deported).

I do think all LDS missionaries (and members) should learn how to sing “We Shall Overcome“.  It would make a great closing hymn for Sacrament meeting. 🙂 ..bruce..

Another LDS-related “affinity fraud” case

I’ve posted a few times before (here and here) about “affinity fraud” cases involving Latter-day Saints, that is, financial fraud cases that in part prey upon Mormons via their religion, much as Bernie Madoff’s frauds preyed heavily upon Jews and Jewish organizations.

Well, another example has cropped up:

Like those caught up in other get-rich scams — from Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, which initially snared wealthy Jews, to an alleged $4.4 million fraud aimed at deaf people — Tri Energy’s investors had something in common. Many were Mormons and born-again Christians who shared dreams and prayers on nightly conference calls. They vowed to use the profits for charitable works and kept raising funds, at times taking out second mortgages, draining retirement accounts and recruiting relatives.

What’s interesting is that the people perpetrating the fraud aren’t LDS themselves — they’re just taking advantage of them:

Jones, Jennings and Simburg, none of whom is a Mormon, exploited this vulnerability for at least four years, offering a cocktail of spirituality, exclusivity and the promise of high returns.

“The guys who did this were geniuses in a way,” says Dana Carney, an assistant professor of management at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, who has written about investor psychology. “This has the flavor of a cult. They hit all these vulnerabilities. There was religion; we trust like people, especially religiously like people. With the nightly calls, there was an illusion of transparency. They took advantage of the sunk-costs phenomenon: The more people invest in something, the more connected they feel.”

Be sure to read the whole thing.  ..bruce..

Dealing with your spouse’s midlife crisis

I just ran across an outstanding article over at the New York Times written by a woman whose husband wanted to leave her:

Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”

But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.

I am profoundly struck by the wisdom and courage of this woman in how she dealt with a painful and risky situation. I think there’s a lot here for LDS couples who have hit a rocky spot in their marriages. Read the whole thing.  ..bruce..

Poor fasting: a different approach to eating

One of the reasons my blogging here (and elsewhere) has been so light for some time is that I spent almost all of May and June out in California, living out of a hotel, working on a case where I spent most of the day (and often a good part of the evening) in a closed room in a secure facility, reviewing source code and files. I came back at the start of this month dismayed at the weight I had gained, especially since I was far (oh, so far!) from svelte when I went out there.

Part of my long-standing problem in keeping my weight down is that I really like to cook and I really like to eat. Since I’ve been self-employed for the past eight years, work at home, and frequently have nothing pressing to do, this means that the most pleasurable times in a given day are often the times I fix and eat food.  Also, I tend to be up from about 6 or 7 am in the morning until 11 pm or midnight. As a result, I have some bad eating habits:

  • snacking at all hours, since I’m usually home all day;
  • substantial late-night snacks (fried egg sandwich, toasted cheese sandwich, peanut-butter-and-butter on [several pieces of] toast);
  • eating too fast (comes from growing up in a family of six kids, most of whom were older than me);
  • a propensity of fixing larger meals for myself than I really should, telling myself that it will lead me to eat less at the subsequent meal (which it rarely does, because the meals themselves tend to be spread out from early morning to late at night).

Finally, there are some real emotional components to my eating. It’s a source of comfort, particularly if I’ve feeling stressed — and anyone who has been self-employed can tell you that stress is a way of life.

Anyway, I came back to Colorado at the start of July, determined to start exercising again and to get rid of not only the weight I had gained, but the weight I was carrying around before I ever went out to California. I started doing an early-morning routine of stretching and walking, but knew that would not be enough.

And then Fast Sunday (July 5th) came along. (See, there is an LDS connection in here.)

Our ward is currently on a late schedule (2-5 pm), so fasting largely means skipping breakfast and lunch on Sunday. And while fasting is never easy for me, it is something I can do. So it was during this past Fast Sunday that I came up with an approach to break up my eating habits. I’ve been trying it for a week, and it’s been very interesting and actually quite easy to follow.

Here it is in a nutshell: I only eat between 11 am and 6 pm, with the exception of allowing myself one piece of fresh fruit in the morning, if I want it. I place no restrictions on drinking and in fact have a 72-oz drinking bottle that I fill with water (with some fruit juice for flavoring) and try to get through each day. But I stop eating around 6 pm and (with the piece-of-fruit exception) I don’t start eating again until 11 am the next morning.

In short, it’s like a really bad attempt at fasting.  I’ve trained myself for 40+ years to tell myself, “OK, no more food or drink until such-and-such a time tomorrow.”  And since I can do an honest LDS fast, fasting poorly is a cinch, in part since I can drink all I want and even cheat in the morning with a piece of fruit, but largely because I have lots of experience and success at fasting poorly.

I’ve only been trying this for a week now, but I find the results to be very interesting. My consumption of bread, butter, cheese and eggs — my early-morning and late-night foods of choice — has dropped dramatically. For that matter, my overall consumption of food has dropped. Since I can’t eat after 6 pm (or whenever I finish my dinner, which has to be started before 6 pm), my evening snacking has gone away. The morning-piece-of-fruit exception makes the wait until 11 am very tolerable.  And the fact that the rest of my eating is compressed into a 7-hour period — instead of being spread out over 16 to 18 hours — means that the large lunch I usually fix at 11 am really does have an impact on how much I eat up through 6 pm.

So far, I haven’t made a great effort to put any limits or directions on what I do eat during those 7 hours, either quality or quantity. My new pattern seems to be: a large lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, a regular dinner. Note that I haven’t been gorging myself, and I do try to eat healthily regardless.  But it’s clear to me that I’m eating less on a daily basis than I was before. More importantly, I seem to be breaking up some of my self-defeating eating habits, particularly cutting out all snacking during 17 hours of the day. And I’m doing it by leveraging training I’ve put myself through for 40 years.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have lost weight since getting back and particularly since changing my eating pattern. However, I’ve also been faithful about the stretch-then-walk routine in the mornings (I walked 18 miles this week), and the weight lost so far represents weight I gained out in California. The real trick will be my weight back down to where it was two years ago, four years ago, and finally back down to my goal weight (where I was about 11 years ago). That will require upping my personal exercise as well as continuing to improve my eating patterns and habits. Hey, eat less and exercise more — what an insight!

Thoughts?  ..bruce..

Did you know that LDS women “flock”, “swarm”, and “buzz”?

This morning’s Salt Lake Tribune has the following story headline and opening sentence:

LDS women flock to upcoming BYU Women’s Conference

More than 20,000 Mormon women will swarm the campus of Brigham Young University next week, buzzing about mothering, marriage, the media and dozens of other spiritual and secular topics.

It prompted me to write Peggy Stack (the author of the piece) this e-mail:

“LDS Women Flock”? Would you (or the Trib) use that verb to describe (a) a NOW or Emily’s List conference,  (b) an LDS Priesthood conference, or (c) any non-religious gathering of men (or, for that matter, women)? The headline has a whiff of religious and/or sexist condescension. Same question for the use of the verbs “swarm” and “buzz” in the first sentence.

What do you think?  ..bruce..

Mixing politics and religion, the wrong way

Even though my disaffection with the Democratic Party began 30 years ago (under Jimmy Carter), I remained a registered Democrat until last fall, when I switched my affiliation to Republican. However, articles such as this give me pause to reconsider:

Utah County Republicans defeated a resolution opposing well-heeled groups that a delegate claims are pushing a satanic plan to encourage illegitimate births and illegal immigration.

Don Larsen, a Springville delegate, offered the resolution, titled “Resolution opposing the Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal,” warning delegates that an “invisible government” comprised of left-wing foundations was pumping money into the Democratic Party to push for looser immigration laws and anti-family legislation.

Larsen said Democrats get most of the votes cast by illegal immigrants and people in dysfunctional families.

But it’s not the Democrats who are behind this strategy, Larsen said. It’s the devil.

“Satan’s ultimate goal is to destroy the family,” Larsen said, “and these people are playing a leading part in it.”

Larsen’s resolution contained quotes from the New Testament on the battle between good and evil. The copy of the resolution handed to delegates stated it “fulfills scriptural prophecies about our times.”

Larsen offered a similar resolution at the 2007 convention. That also was defeated by delegates.

And we’re all glad it was.   ..bruce..

A sticky wicket: the Church and illegal immigration

From the Salt Lake Tribune comes this, well, awkward article for the Church:

The arrest of an undocumented immigrant returning last week from his LDS mission has sparked discussion at the highest levels of the church about how to limit such exposure in the future.

“With the known realization that those risks exist, then we want to do better, or at least learn more,” LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, said Friday during an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune . “We want to be more precise, if we can, about how to help, how to make [a mission] the calmest, most spiritually rewarding experience for everybody.”

Early last week, a missionary was detained at the Cincinnati airport for “lacking necessary documentation to board his flight home,” according to Michael Purdy, LDS Church spokesman.

That triggered fears in the undocumented LDS community in Utah, and already prompted a change in how one Utah missionary returned home. The young man, a Salt Lake Valley resident, completed a mission in Oklahoma and was scheduled to return home two days after church leaders heard of the unrelated arrest in Ohio. The mission president contacted local Utah church leaders, and it was decided the missionary’s uncle would drive out to Oklahoma to bring the missionary home, which he did.

The travel department of the church has to rethink everything. Things have changed, and they need a whole new policy,” said a local church official who was aware of the situation. “With ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] hitting them at the bus terminals and airports, this opens a whole new discussion. I don’t know how many undocumented immigrants we have serving missions, but I’m sure this is going to repeat itself.”

The subject of the Church and proper immigration documentation comes up on a regular basis, given that the Church has missionaries in roughly 150 countries. But this is here in the United States, and it involves calling young men and women who are here in the US illegally to serve missions.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for this practice. My own mission (Central America Mission, 1974-74) covered four countries — Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama — plus the Canal Zone, then US territory under lease from Panama. (We couldn’t actually proselyte within the Canal Zone itself, though we could teach Zonians who were referred by members, etc.). If I had been found without the proper visa at any time in any of those countries (outside of a few days’ slack when leaving), I would have at best been deported or escorted to the border. At worst, I would have been thrown into jail or prison — and believe me, you wouldn’t have wanted to spend time in any Central American jail or prison in the early 70s.

The varying laws in those countries limited how long missionaries could stay in a given country. For example, in Panama, my visa was only good for three months. So at the end of three months, I had to take an all-day bus ride from Panama City to the Panama-Costa Rica border, get a short-term visa to enter Costa Rica, walk across the border, spend the night in Costa Rica, get a new Panamanian visa in the morning, walk back into Panama, and then take an all-day bus ride back to Panama City. In at least some (and I believe all) of the countries, you had to show an outbound airline ticket before you were allowed to enter the country. And in Nicaragua, before you could leave the country you had to go to a police station and get what was called a paz y salvo — a document that showed you still had a valid visa and weren’t currently wanted for any crimes or lawsuits.

I know that all this juggling was a headache for the mission president. In addition to all the various visa length restrictions (3 to 6 months), some countries had restrictions on who they would let in. Honduras wouldn’t allow any missionaries from El Salvador because the two countries were still technically at a state of war with each other over a soccer game. (No, really.) Panama would only allow missionaries from the US; Panama was far and away the richest country in Central American, and they didn’t want missionaries from nearby countries to stay behind when their visas expired and, well, immigrate illegally.

Still, our mission presidents (Pres. Hunsaker, followed by Pres. Eager) worked carefully to stay within those laws and to act quickly when a problem arose . I spent the last three months of my mission in the mission office, during the transition between presidents, so I was fully aware of all the immigration problems and issues, and the efforts to deal with them.

Back to present day and circumstances: I think the Church is creating a difficult legal situation for itself by continuing to call illegal immigrants to serve missions within the US. This is far more than a problem with a missionary having a lapsed or perhaps questionable (e.g., student) visa; this involves young men and women who are here in the US illegally from the get-go and who are subject to arrest or detention (and possible deportation) at any time.

Thoughts?  ..bruce..

The effectiveness of the Mormon Network

Here in the Denver area, we are in the middle of what may turn out to be the heaviest snow storm of the entire winter. We’ve got drifts 2-3′ deep on our back deck, and our driveway (which is about 150-200 yards long) is covered with thick, heavy, wet snow (the worst kind to use a snow blower on). And it’s still coming down.

Stake Conference for our stake is scheduled for this weekend, and there was to be a Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting at 4 pm today, with the Adult Session of Stake Conference at 7 pm. Both have been canceled. How do I know? Well, so far, Sandra and I have received five (5) phone calls to that effect:

  • from the Stake Choir director (Sandra and I are in the Stake Choir)
  • from the Stake Music director (I’m also in a group of men who were to sing at the Priesthood session)
  • from our ward executive secretary (I’m a member of the PEC)
  • from a member of my high priests group leadership (I’m a high priest)
  • from one of my wife’s visiting teaching supervisor (My wife is in the Relief Society, natch)

From a communications network point of view, the redundancy is very impressive; I strongly suspect that everyone in our ward who can be reached by phone and who is likely to have attended these meetings has indeed been contacted. My impulse after the first call was to phone my own home teaching families, but since they are (a) the bishop and (b) the ward clerk, I figured they already knew and were busy with their own calls.  ..bruce..

Yet another cautionary tale from other churches

In the LDS Church, we sometimes chafe at the strict control that Church HQ imposes on what individual wards can do or buy. Among other things, this often leads to a slow adoption of technology; less than 10 years ago, the ward I was in was still using a computer that ran Windows 3.x and was hooked up to a dot matrix (not laser) printer. In fact, around the same time frame, the print edition of the Sugar Beet (think: LDS version of the Onion) ran an article to the effect of the Smithsonian recognizing LDS ward computers as being the oldest continuously operating personal computers in America. Of course, in the past 10 years, the Church went through a significant upgrade, moving to Windows XP, laser printers, and dial-in membership/tithing updates, but still, that was years overdue. (On the other hand, if the Church currently mandates that all new ward computers run Windows XP instead of Vista, that could actually be a good thing.)

On the other hand, this story from today’s Washington Post suggests just how much trouble individual LDS wards could get themselves into without those controls (emphasis mine):

The District government has filed a lawsuit alleging that five companies defrauded at least 30 Washington area congregations of hundreds of thousands of dollars through a computer equipment scam that has spread to at least 20 states.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, in a 16-page affidavit, alleges that agents for the companies offered the churches free computer kiosks to enhance their outreach. What the churches actually received was inexpensive computer equipment that often did not work. The kiosks, located in church foyers, were to serve as electronic bulletin boards for announcements and community activities and would pay for themselves through paid advertisements.

But the suit alleges that congregations unknowingly signed leases obligating them to pay tens of thousands of dollars for faulty equipment. After the kiosks were installed, Nickles said, church accounts were drained by unauthorized withdrawals and unlawful collection practices.

Read all the details, then reflect upon the LDS tendency to trust LDS entreprenuers and professionals, even when said trust isn’t warranted. I could easily see something like this happening. Something to keep in mind next time you’re inclined to grumble about Church policies and restrictions.  ..bruce..

I’m in trouble now

My sweet wife Sandra has figured out how to post videos on YouTube.

Here’s her first effort. She works part-time at Curves (a women-only fitness center), and her employer was closing down one Curves center and moving all the equipment to another. My wife got several of the local missionaries to help move the equipment. Afterwards, Sandra’s boss made the missionaries do a full circuit on the workout equipment. They found it was a lot harder than they thought:

This was done using her cell phone, hence the jerky quality. ..bruce..