Church Schools: Prototypes for U.S. Inner Cities?

In 1978, I lived in Mexico City at the Benemerito School, which is owned and operated by the Church. .) It included dorms and classrooms, facilities for academic, artistic, and vocational training. It was a beautiful campus (some students earned their tuition by caring for the grounds), filled with LDS Mexican faculty, most returned missionaries, who were eager to educate younger Latter-day Saints–many of whom I met later at BYU. By then, they were returned missionaries themselves, ready to continue their education. Benemerito was an oasis. [Read more…]

Soper’s The Year My Son and I Were Born

Years ago, my best friend gave birth to a Down Syndrome baby. Her husband immediately left for two weeks, unable to deal with the challenges this child presented. I visited my friend and we talked quite casually about the immediate difficulties of a Down’s baby. On the Sunday afterwards, I went to church and chatted with my bishop’s wife. She had given birth to a Down’s baby some forty years previously. I asked her for advice, and she and I sluffed Sunday School so we could talk. [Read more…]

Nobody Knows–and So What?

Yes, it’s true. We have released Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. We aren’t in full distribution yet, but anyone can get a copy through me.

I think it’s a good and helpful documentary, but as one who believes in the principle of faith, I don’t think it’s essential. For any who have been troubled by race issues in the Church, we hope the documentary will be a balm. And it presents good information. But we certainly don’t present it as THE solution to questions which ultimately are between the seeker and God. [Read more…]

So is that the Church I want to join?

I took two of my children to a Black Baptist church last year, bribing them with the possibility of some great music. It worked. They both accompanied me, and they loved it. My son could never remember the name of this other church, but he’d later ask me, “What’s the name of that church where they play the drums and guitar?” And sometimes, “What’s the name of that other church I want to join?” [Read more…]

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a Missionary

I have my students read “Letter from Birmingham Jail” every semester. Once, a student compared it to Joseph Smith’s letter from Liberty Jail–rather compellingly. I see in Dr. King’s statement, quoted below, a transcendent invitation to anyone who takes Christ’s name upon them–or anyone who believes in causes greater than themselves. [Read more…]

Peaks and long valleys

So my son will not pass Sports Medicine this term.  Alas.  We worked so hard.  And I do mean WE.  I taught myself the material so I could tutor him.  But the class is made for a different sort of student than my son is.  The big news is that I’m saying, “So what?” [Read more…]

New Year’s Eve celebrations

On New Year’s Eve, Bruce and I visited my parents.  Dad recalled his missionary days in Finland.  On his first New Year’s Eve there, he anticipated that the Finnish Saints would do the same things American Saints do–kiss and make lots of noise and blow little horns and throw graffiti.  Instead,  they rose as one body and solemnly sang, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  I wonder if they still do that.  (And I know there are bloggers who can tell me.)

At my parents’ home, we sang one of my favorite hymns, which doesn’t usually get a lot of attention: “God Of  Our Fathers Known of Old” by Rudyard Kipling.  Here are the first three verses. [Read more…]

Milk Before Meat

My six year old granddaughter just learned about Pompeii, where lots and lots of people DIED.  She is nervous, now, about volcanoes in Utah.  Who wouldn’t be?  And she’s moving to Indiana, where there are sometimes tornadoes.

So, this is the curriculum I’ve devised for advanced first graders who really need to know how scary life can be: [Read more…]

Parenthood, Missionaries, and Bayonets

My son will take a test on the Civil War today. On Sunday, he and I watched Gettysburg as partial preparation for this test.

I love Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain as portrayed by Jeff Daniels in that film. He reminds me of my husband. [Read more…]

Am I Adequately Outraged?

At a recent screening of _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_, a very bright audience member said that Mormons were pretty silent during the pre-1978 years about what most would now view as clear discrimination.  A few were adequately outraged, but not many–not enough.  He wondered if he in this day was not outraged enough that his daughter would be excluded from the priesthood. [Read more…]

American Academy of Religion

So a friend and I showed the documentary _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_ at the American Academy of Religion in Chicago this past weekend, and then showed it again at the University of Chicago on Sunday, for a predominantly Mormon audience. [Read more…]

On Behalf of the Provo MTC

Since missionaries have strict limitations in space and luggage weight, we are only accepting the following donations for the missionaries who are in the MTC on Christmas Day. [Read more…]

“White on the outside; white on the inside”

There is a baptism card sold at the BYU bookstore which shows a white girl (cartoon) apparently preparing for baptism.  The upper part of her body is viewable, and she is dressed in white.  The front of the card says, “White on the outside…”  The inside says “And on the inside.  Congratulations on your baptism.” [Read more…]

Two Conversations and a Visitation

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some before-school-starts conversations with my colleagues in the English department. One of them said that his best students had always been from Southern Idaho. “Nobody had ever told them there were things they couldn’t do,” he said. “So they’d just do them. Of course, that has changed. Television and the internet changed all of that.”

[Read more…]

Prayer, Fasting and Balloons

When I was a Beehive (the first class in Young Women’s back in the 1960’s), my teacher was an adorable newlywed named Cindy Clark. She simply sparkled. She and her husband, Steve, eventually had a gaggle of equally sparkly and creative children (one of whom took a class from me and brilliantly, delightfully broke every rule I gave).

[Read more…]

Education Week at BYU

Mormons from all over the U.S. come to BYU the last part of August to get some education. Speakers are approved, and classes offered in everything from ancient scripture to advanced scrapbook techniques. [Read more…]

Does one smudge ruin it?

I have been outspoken about Elder McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. Lots of good material in there—but the pages on race which we have discussed over and over on BCC and elsewhere are simply contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Steve’s post about not speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed has made me ponder some things. I know that I could never support any Church leader who said things which damaged the mission of the Church. I would be diplomatic in telling anyone that we do not teach the Curse of Cain or the appalling idea that racial differences indicate “spiritual degeneration”—but I would not simply let it stand because the speaker had a leadership position. Ideally, I would do it in person—though that can get difficult.

But that’s only the prologue. [Read more…]

Music and Lyrics

This morning, in the MTC Relief Society, we sang “The Spirit of God.” I was struck by the lyrics, “The knowledge and power of God are expanding.” In the past, I’ve interpreted those words to refer to the rather controversial idea of God’s own progress—even if the progress refers to his children’s immortality and eternal life, his “work and glory.” But surrounded by missionaries, I heard it differently today. “The knowledge of God is expanding” and “the power of God [priesthood?] is expanding.” In other words, many are coming to a knowledge of God, and many are receiving His priesthood.

I’m curious about how LDS bloggers interpret these words. Your interpretations?

Mexico Olympics – 1968

I remember sitting in the living room with my dad, watching the 1968 Olympics, which were taking place in Mexico City. (I was thirteen.) Dad was a track and field man, and loved to see the runners break records. I think I just loved to watch him get excited and yell, “That’s a world record! A world record!” [Read more…]

Grandma’s Final Preparations

I noticed it a few months ago: Grandma Young (my husband’s mother) had added a picture to all of her children’s wedding portraits. Finally, there was a photo of Daren and Steve. [Read more…]

Died of a Broken Heart

My great grandparents’ wedding portrait seems unusual to me for the late nineteenth century. So many portraits from that time are stiff. June_2008_mailgooglecomThe bride and Groom either stand rigidly beside one another, staring stoically at the camera, or lean away from each other as if to assure everyone of their chastity. But Maude Elizabeth Brunt and John Enoch Groberg lean towards each other. Her smile has always reminded me of the Mona Lisa. There is no stiffness, no fear in either bride or groom. I imagine that John Enoch has his arm around Maude’s waist, beyond the view of the camera lens. There is a tenderness in the portrait, a quiet pronouncement of “We belong together!” [Read more…]

Welcome to your mission!

Yesterday, Wednesday May 21st, I did an interview with a remarkable reporter from the SL Tribune, whose son is currently serving a mission in Uganda. She said he had assumed that he’d be the Church authority for his mostly African companions. Not so. His first companion, from Ghana, had been raised LDS and had given up a scholarship to Oxford to serve a mission. His father was a bishop.

Oh my. We are at the second generation now in Africa. I had not realized so much time has passed. [Read more…]

Hard issues in the Church and the FEAR FACTOR

Darius Gray and I showed our film Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons this weekend in Boise, Idaho. We had a good crowd and were quite well-received. But some of the information I got afterwards was interesting. Several talked about inviting friends who had asked, “Is it sponsored by the Church?” The underlying question in their particular cases was, “Is it going to be uplifting?” The mother of one potential audience member was quite nervous about him going to see it. I have no idea how many people did NOT come because of the “fear factor.” One person told us, “If you had shown it twice, the second crowd would have filled the theater, because the first crowd would have reassured them.” (The film is ultimately uplifting, I think, though it sugar-coats nothing.) [Read more…]

Lynda Young Tuckett

Joe has been determined to have his faith never waiver. At a joint Family Home Evening a month ago, he told a story about a woman with cancer repeating everyday, many times a day, “Thank you for my healing.” He added, “As a man thinketh, so is he.”

His wife, Lynda, sentenced to death by cancer, sat smiling in a hard-back chair. She joked some, and their children discussed what the scripture meant. [Read more…]

The Personal Side of Black History (Mormon Style)

When we premiered Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons last Saturday at the LDS Film Festival, our senior editor, Jim Hughes, sat by a Caucasian man who wept throughout much of the film. Jim didn’t know who the man was until Darius Gray (my co-director/producer), a proud Black man who joined the Mormon Church in 1964, finished up the q/a section by saying, “I need to acknowledge someone. Dr. Dodge, are you in the audience?” Donald Dodge (seated by Jim) stood up, weeping again. Darius could barely speak. “This is one of the missionaries who taught me,” he said.

Brother Dodge had given us pictures of himself as a missionary, which are in the doc, but I had never met him. [Read more…]

Thoughts on Missionary Rituals

Part One:
On Sunday, our MTC Branch President will ask the departing district to stand. He will say something like, “These missionaries will be leaving tomorrow. We want to thank them for their service in our branch and we certainly wish them well on our missions.” [Read more…]

The Haircut

My son, Michael, turned sixteen on August 2. Old enough to be ordained a priest. Our bishop placed one condition on that ordination: Michael needed a missionary haircut. [Read more…]

Reminiscing on the Priesthood Ban

I was born in 1955–the year Rosa Parks made her bold stand (or sit) on the Montgomery bus. I grew up being aware that my church did not have Black members–not even in Bloomington, Indiana. By the time I was twelve, I was troubled by the priesthood restriction. When I was fourteen, I told my seminary teacher that I thought some of what he said was racist. His response was a authoritatively voiced testimony that [n-word plural] really were inferior. That marked the first time I knew a Church teacher–an authority figure to me–was dead wrong. I dropped out of seminary for a time. [Read more…]

To the Pastor:

You already know basic LDS doctrine–the idea of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And that PBS special gave you glimpses into our homes and our peculiarities, and introduced you to some of the controversies and oxymorons we live with. But I still want to answer your question, What does it mean to be LDS.? [Read more…]

Upcoming Films: The Triple Whammy

My husband asked me last week if I had ever heard of Helen Whitney. Since I was interviewed by her and her staff, I have obviously heard of her. It turns out that Helen was mentioned in the Ensign, along with her 4-hour documentary to be aired April 30 and May 1 titled The Mormons. But since that implicit Church endorsement, there have been cautionary e-mails. The scuttlebutt is that Helen showed the documentary to PBS (aka the big sponsor) and was told it was too positive; she was asked to re-edit. Now the instruction I’ve heard going out to Mormons is to look at the documentary first before inviting investigators to a FHE with Helen Whitney’s work as the scheduled activity. [Read more…]