Share your stories: refugee talks in my stake conference, how about your wards?

Our stake conference meeting today was on the topic of caring for refugees. It included a talk by an ethnically Korean member of our stake who was raised in Iran, where his family investigated and joined the church. During the upheaval of the Ayatollah’s regime, his family came to the United States as refugees. They were taken in by an American family, who cleared their own children out of one of their home’s bedrooms to make room. Other speakers drew on the scriptures and the church’s recent strong statements in General Conference and its media channels on the topic of our responsibility to care for refugees. During his remarks, the Stake President clarified that they had decided on the theme and began finding speakers 5 months ago.  That’s before Election Day, let alone the Executive Order. The Stake President testified that before any of this happened and before any of them could have known how relevant it would be, they felt a spiritual witness that this should be the theme of the conference. 

Did the topic of refugees and immigrants come up in your church meetings today, either in talks, prayers, or lessons? How can each of us appropriately raise this issue in our public spiritual observance?

Comments

  1. We had stake conference too. It started with a rousing version of Onward Christian Soldiers and ended with out local 70 decrying the “trend of fake news happening today.” It wasn’t the balm I was hoping for this morning.

  2. Well fake news is a problem! Maybe he meant the reports that Trumps crowd size was small though, which would be…unfortunate.

  3. I got a fifth Sunday lesson about religious freedom. A member of the bishopric made a comment taking pride in the fact that the US has freedom of religion while many other parts of the world still faces religious oppression. Because, you know, barring Muslims from entering our country is not religious oppression.

  4. Nathaniel James says:

    Nothing here at my BYU ward, we instead talked about masturbation in Elders Quorum!

  5. .

    I was never comfortable masturbating in elders quorum.

    Fortunately, I’m a high priest now

  6. Theric for the win. Though I’m not sure if this brings back some good or bad memories from BYU 56th.

  7. I walked out of Sunday School after the teacher started slandering Bill Nye’s support of evolution. The Bishop taught a relatively non-political lesson on how to interpret Revelations for the combined meeting (high on speculation, low on usefulness). I was just happy he didn’t make it as political as he usually does. No mention of refugees anywhere, unless the Sunday School teacher mentioned them after I walked out (and I’m certain he didn’t).

  8. Well this is not at all encouraging so far!

  9. Nathaniel James says:

    To be fair to my ward, it was ward conference for us and so topics for things had probably been chosen a while ago. Other than Elders Quorum I found my meetings to be very edifying.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience, Cynthia. It was at least one inspired meeting somewhere, which gives me hope. I also appreciate your last question. I think the time of the church and its members staying silent on “political” issues has passed, since those issues have now become moral ones. But how to navigate discussion on that while being respectful is tricky stuff.

  11. One of our sacrament meeting speakers spoke about refugees today. She reviewed scriptures and direction from church leaders about refugees, and talked about ways that we could help refugees in our own community, and resources including the I Was a Stranger and Just Serve websites. It was lovely and soothing to hear.

  12. We got sacrament meeting sermons about defending the church’s position on gay marriage and Greg Trimble quotes about not getting carried away and thinking Christ is too compassionate and a last-minute reminder from a member of the bishopric that too many people in the country right now are feeling “entitled” AND it doesn’t matter how destitute people are because “happiness is a state of mind.” Not one mention of the refugee situation. But reading about what your stake talked about today gives me hope and reminds me that my ward isn’t representative of the whole church. Thank you. And hurray for inspired stake leaders.

  13. Fifth Sunday topic in Sunday school was nurturing self and others spiritually. I was asked to speak for part of it. I showed a video from the church’s “I was a stranger” campaign. Weaved a homily together based on these:

    Hebrews 13:1-3

    1 Let brotherly love continue.

    2 Be not forgetful to entertainstrangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

    3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

    NRSV:

    Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.[

    James 1:27

    27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

    Matthew 5:43-47

    43 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

    44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

    46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

    47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

    Matthew 16.24-26

    24 ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

    25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

    26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and losehis own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

    Mosiah 4:26-27

    26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impartof your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

    27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

    It seemed to be well received. The Spirit was present in the discussion.

  14. We had ward conference. After the meeting the bishopric did a recap with the Stake Presidency and covered, among other things, the sized of the congregation that day. I suggested that it was at least 1.5 million. Huge.

  15. whizzbang says:

    We had a combined meeting today and talked about indexing and family history

  16. I taught a Primary lesson on refugees today.

  17. Our stake conference in Bellevue, WA wasn’t so much about refugees today as it was about making room for the members of the mosque next door whose building was damaged by arson two weeks ago. They currently use a large multipurpose room for their prayers from Monday through Saturday. Our stake president remarked on the many stake members who had contacted him asking what we could do to help, and that when it was decided to offer them this room, approval from church hierarchy came in under 24 hours. Signs and posters were made by ward members welcoming the Islamic Center attendees, and they responded in kind with cards and posters from the mosque members thanking us for opening our building to them.

    One of them had written the following message on one of the posters: “If I ever get to see Jesus in the hereafter, I will tell him that I met with Christian friends in the world that showed us what it means to “Love your neighbor.” God bless you all.”

    Our second counselor continued the theme by using that as an example of how we can better be involved in serving others in our community. A youth speaker also talked about how on a trip to Africa with her family, that she helped women in a village walk miles for water, and helped them carry it back to the village.

    All of that was great. It was all followed by our visiting member of the 70, who gave a nice but basically bland talk about the Book of Mormon. I should probably leave out that last part, but I won’t.

  18. The high councilor talked about church history, including the extermination order. Later in his talk he said “the terrible things that are going to happen in this country”…I’m not used ro agreeing with that sentiment in a church context and so I wasn’t quite sure whether I agreed with him on what was going to be terrible. I mean, it could definitely have gone worse, but it was vague enough that I just wasn’t really sure how to take it.

    We sang Go Forth with Faith, which has the line, “people of all nations are children of our God.”

    Third hour was mostly about family history, in the context of it being one of our area goals, but for about 2 minutes at the end we talked about helping the poor (another area goal), and I did walk out with a few concrete ideas about things that I can do to help the homeless in our community.

  19. I live in Canada and we have no issue with allowing immigrants into our country, but I can tell you that many of us are watching and very concerned for you guys down there. Come on up here, we love you. #WelcomeToCanada

  20. La Crescenta, California stake conference. We had Elder Von Keetch speak, who was a religious freedom partner at Kirton & McConkie, drafted the Church’s religious freedom Prop 8 and DOMA briefs, and is currently the Executive Director of the Church Public Affairs Department. He used his remarks to tell a baseball allegory about “helping others to score runs.” Not a single word about the ban, refugees, Muslims, religious freedom. Nothing.

  21. The night before stake conference, at the priesthood leadership meeting, Elder Keetch did a Q&A. My husband asked directly about the Church’s position on the Muslim ban. They wrote all questions on the board (14 total), and Elder Keetch chose which ones to respond to (about 6). He chose not to address that topic.

  22. Hm, that’s disappointing. The format of the Q&A allows for some selectivity on their part, though I guess an improvement over no Q&A (very low bar).

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    kevinf, thanks for sharing, I had read about your stake’s inspiring offer and was glad to see this further color to the situation.

  24. @kevinf I heard that news story but didn’t know it was your ward! That’s so great.

  25. Deborah Christensen says:

    We had a surprisingly good fast Sunday today. I was concerned that people would talk about how they were disappointment people weren’t “honoring” the presidency. Instead several people talked about how they have concerns about the world and how praying and listening to the Spirit brings peace. I was unable to tell which “side” they are on. It was good.

  26. Small potatoes I know, but I based my youth Sunday School lesson Matt 25 to discuss why we can’t turn the stranger away and why Trump’s ban is wrong.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    Jason, not small at all.

  28. dianebroldan, that’s my stake! We skipped today and took our kids to the beach. Now I won’t feel too bad about that. :-/

    (And when I got home, I donated to the ACLU.)

  29. I spoke today in a small Branch in Minnesota after accompanying a woman who sang “Write Thy Name Upon My Heart”

    Write thy name upon my heart
    Jesus, Savior of mankind.
    Teach me charity unfailing,
    Teach me compassion, Lord, like thine,
    Endow my soul with loving kindness
    Make me even as thou art.
    Engrave thine image in my countenance
    Write thy name upon my heart.

    This song was a beautiful segue into my topic of loving the poor and oppressed among us. I reminded the congregation that Jesus was a refugee and an illegal immigrant early in his life. That experience must have shaped him in ways that we are just beginning to understand.

    Christ demonstrated how to serve when he healed the lepers – the worst outcasts of society. You can feel the compassion that Jesus had for this poor man, as Jesus reached out and touched him. This would have been a shock if anyone was close enough to observe, because touching a leper meant instant uncleanness.

    I then shared the story of meeting a distant cousin in Germany two years ago. Gina’s German mother (now elderly) was a young child in Gdansk (Poland) when the war ended. Gina’s grandmother and her 3 small children had to flee to an internment camp in Sweden after the War because Germans were expulsed from Poland. They would have perished if another German relative (my grandmother’s sister) hadn’t smuggled food and supplies into the internment camp. They regard my great aunt as their savior and still pray in thanks for her loving kindness and charity.

    My mother (a convert to the Church) was a German immigrant to the United States after World War II. A terrible time to be a German in the US – but she was treated with love and kindness by her American in-laws and by her Church family.

    Ended with “Are we not all beggars”? It was a beautiful Sacrament Service.

  30. It was ward conference today. The bishop made some vague references to overcoming difficulties right now, and the stake president briefly mentioned how the second coming is approaching and these are dark times. I felt like both were maybe referring to the executive orders this week, but nothing was explicitly said. Sometimes I hate how we never talk about specific current events in church.

    In gospel doctrine I taught lesson 4. I’m, like, debilitatingly non confrontational, so I was really nervous, but at the end I read part of Elder Holland’s talk from a refugee summit last Sept (it was linked in the comments of a previous post here and was completely unrelated to the lesson). I could have done more, but it’s the first “political” comment I’ve made in church. A lot of people afterwards said my lesson was good, and one specifically mentioned the part I read.

    In EQ we watched a BYU devotional about the BoM translation.

  31. Cynthia, I am out of the country, but I live in the same stake that you do, and am so glad that it continues to be a corner of Zion that I am so proud to be a part of. I actually narrowly escaped speaking at the stake conference of which you speak, but I had no idea that would be the focus. Hoping our stake wasn’t the only one, but from the comments, I’m not terribly encouraged

  32. The Pope is my hero says:

    No mention whatsoever of the current events. Talks were on the Family Proclamation. We did discuss helping the community in the 5th Sunday and how Just Serve fits into that. Our Ward is such that I would never see the current Bishopric encouraging members to do an audible and step outside the lines of Gen Conference talk related subjects. That has changed since when I was in the Bishopric. I miss being in charge of Sacrament meeting.

  33. At the conference of the North Little Rock, Arkansas Stake Elder Neil L Andersen just reminded us that we believe in obeying the laws of the land but that we must also remember that we are a people with a history as refugees. He also reminded us that his fellow Apostle Elder Dieter F Uchtdorf was a refugee as a child in Eastern Europe during World War II. He told of a time we he and Elder Uchtdorf were flying over Europe on a trip to Russia and Elder Uchtdorf looked down and commented, “I’ve flown over these lands many times and I have yet
    to see borders.” Elder Christensen reminded us that from that perspective only physical borders like rivers and the Great Wall of China could be seen. No other borders are visible.

  34. Didn’t go (thank you, newborn who decided to stay up all night) but the Relief Society president posted one of the church refugee videos on Facebook, so at least someone was talking about it somewhere? And since I do the ward bulletin, I’m going to start adding a quote/scripture that furthers my radical, bleeding heart liberal views. :D

  35. Amanda, are you in San Diego? We also had Stake Conference open with Onward Christian Soldiers and a talk about “fake news”. FWIW, the woman who gave the opening prayer mentioned refugees and immigrants, so that was nice. Not much, but nice.

  36. In Sacrament meeting today, the area public affairs specialist spoke about how public affairs works in the church. Then she specifically quoted the church’s recent statement about refugees that was published yesterday, and said it is a model for how the members should handle difficult questions.

  37. Mary Anne says:

    It’s so fun see my ward get mentioned in the comments. Thanks for the shout out, Sarah!

  38. I don’t live in the US and we have church on Friday here. Usually we don’t get US politics in church, obviously, but the speaker wore his “Trump tie” and was clearly not impressed with people who are concerned about Trump. Hearing his words when I knew the executive order was pending, especially in a country where many people of the banned nationalities live and when the entire ward could have our visas revoked at any time, was so disheartening. He also criticized the Women’s March which was especially galling when he lives in a country where men have so many more rights than women.

    I did at least get the chance to talk to one of the Filipino members of the ward and tell him that I disagree with Trump and that I support refugees.

  39. a speck of blue in a sea of red says:

    Our Sacrament meeting talks today were about the Family Proclamation, so the only even somewhat political statement was about marriage. Nothing in prayers except a vague “help us overcome our difficulties” from one of the biggest Trump supporters in the ward. I thought he sounded more subdued and less smug than he has since the election, so there’s that.

    The Relief Society lesson was a “make-up” lesson. We missed a Sunday due to what passes as a snow crises here, so had the lesson about being an ensign to the world. Instead of any references to the current issues, most of the discussion was about how horrible “the world” is in regards to: seeing any value in marriage, “practically required” premarital sex, near-constant alcohol consumption, etc. Despite raising my hand five or six times to try to redirect, the teacher declined to call on me. Fun times?

  40. whizzbang says:

    @Ann-I’m in Canada too! I’m in Manitoba

  41. Allison Flynn says:

    I am an “investigator” and have found it difficult to get beyond church history as well as the harsh realities of what happens to members who investigate church history or try to go outside the box.

    “President testified that before any of this happened and before any of them could have known how relevant it would be, they felt a spiritual witness that this should be the theme of the conference.”

    This is the first solid evidence I have found that shows God is among you. I am touched.

  42. I spoke, and my wife spoke too. My theme was “thy kingdom come”, addressing how can we be united in the face of such divisions. I said that I don’t believe in bans or walls, and that we have a clear and indisputable Christian duty to aid the stranger in need. I said that it is not our divisions that are the summation of our lives together, but each moment of kindness, mercy and joy. As we extend true Christian love to each other and to those in need, the kingdom of God is in us.

    My wife spoke on a similar theme, but was not as subdued in her approach as I was. She spoke with the power of God and the Spirit was like a mighty rushing wind, I kid you not.

  43. Thank you for sharing that Allison <3 I hope you can find a home here at By Common Consent blog, we welcome you with or without formal church membership.

  44. Steve, I really really wish I had been there to see it.

  45. I was a visiting speaker in a small branch (about 25 people in sacrament meeting) yesterday.

    The sister who opened the meeting prayed specifically for “refugees and immigrants” and that “our leaders’ hearts would be softened.”

    I was prepared to say something about the refugee crisis, but the spirit seemed to tell me to focus on the eternal hope that it is never too late to renew our faith and become converted, no matter how lost we think we are. I also visited with one of the members who said that it was his first time back at church in 5 years, so maybe the message was for him. (I did of course mention, with help from the apostle James, that a huge part of faith is not turning away those that need help, but that wasn’t the focus.)

  46. I just have to share that the Catholics did a “protest mass” for refugees in the park outside the White House today. http://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/01/30/550-attend-mass-outside-white-house-solidarity-refugees

    “The Mass as a form of protest is a very beautiful thing because the sacrament itself tears down borders. It’s subversive to the powers that be that we all come together and receive, and that we’re transformed,” observed Tanner Sigmon. “If we are truly one body, if one part of our body is hurting, we must respond.”

  47. The bishop spoke movingly in sacrament meeting on, among other things, our responsibility to refugees and immigrants, citing ward and stake efforts along these lines over the past year. May have been a last-minute addition to his remarks in light of the executive order.

  48. Just came across your blog while searching this topic – hope you don’t mind me commenting here. I am a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion in the Episcopal Church, and our leadership has been vocally opposed to restricting refugees, going back well before the election. It all comes down to the Beatitudes and Matthew 25 (The Sheep and the Goats). Thank you for writing on this topic and God Bless!

  49. At stake conference area 70 made a point of highlighting the prophecy by Lehi in 2Ne 1 that ALL those brought into this land are brought by the hand of the Lord. Seemed to add divine mandate that we care for those brought to our shores (and airports).

  50. Nothing in our sacrament meeting, although last week we did sing America the Beautiful as an intermediate hymn (whether in support of America First or MoTab, I don’t know – not a typical choice for January though). My calling is currently in Primary so I don’t know what happened second and third hours.

  51. The day started out with an email from our bishop outlining specific ways to help refugees in our area. Because I’m in our stake’s Relief Society Presidency I attended church at another ward for ward conference and taught a Relief Society lesson using protest signs I’d seen in my local Women’s March as the metaphor for acknowledging, building and supporting our own and others’ testimonies. (The WC theme is “Develop A Personal Witness.”) I used the sign I’d used in the march that featured the Statue of Liberty as a visual aid. When I asked the sisters what they would put on their own “signs” right now in the March of Life, we filled a blackboard with sentiments like “Do Unto Others as You Would Do Unto Me,” “Love Is The Answer”, etc. I’d heard that morning from my daughter in Manhattan that their ward had closed out their Sacrament Meeting by singing the first and last verses of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” When the ward RS leader asked what I’d like for music to accompany my lesson I suggested that we do the same. The chorister used that for the opening hymn and “Come Unto Jesus” for the closing song which ends with “Come unto Jesus from ev’ry nation, From every land and isle of the sea. Unto the high and lowly in station, Ever he calls, ‘Come to me.'”

  52. Not a peep in my ward. Sacrament talks were on family history and the symbolism of the temple and in Christ’s teachings. Sunday school was the lesson strictly by the book. Third hour was combined and it was all about tracking down the 60% of our ward that never attends – we got flyers with tips even :-) I do hope my ward will change and there will be comments, prayers offered, appropriate music etc. but that is just not this group of people. Maybe it’s time to move to WA and join Kevin’s stake.

  53. Revelation was the theme of the day for sacrament meeting and GD, though nothing pertinent to the current situation, and an alarming sacrament meeting talk about how isn’t it great that we have prophets to lead us so we just have to do what they say and don’t need to think about it. The bulk of the focus was personal revelation though. I gather the 3rd hour was about the WoW and how we all need to be fitter and healthier, but I was over in primary and missed that.