Mormon Underwear: Spiritually Protective

June 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Beliefs

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—are a covenant-making people. Mormon underclothing—or “garments,” as they are called by members of the Church—are outward expressions of covenants made in the temples of God. President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor in the First Presidency (with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:

The Latter-day Saints are a covenant people. From the day of baptism through the spiritual milestones of our lives, we make promises with God and He makes promises with us. He always keeps His promises offered through His authorized servants, but it is the crucial test of our lives to see if we will make and keep our covenants with Him. [1]

A Covenant is a Sacred Agreement between God and Man

Mormon UnderwearA covenant is an agreement between God and man, and the terms are set by God. Elder Russell M. Nelson, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, explained:

One of the most important concepts of revealed religion is that of a sacred covenant. In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties. But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant. It is a sacred promise with God. He fixes the terms. Each person may choose to accept those terms. If one accepts the terms of the covenant and obeys God’s law, he or she receives the blessings associated with the covenant. … Through the ages, God has made covenants with His children. [2]

God outlines the terms of covenants. He has declared that they are to be performed through the power of the priesthood, which is the authority and power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of man. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ, said: Read more

Mormons in Africa: Ugandan Latter-day Saints Help Further the Gospel

April 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Beliefs

The organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) is in its infant stages. The Church of Jesus Christ was organized in the early 1990s, and since its inception, nearly 7,000 people in this East African nation have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are now members of the global faith.

“Missionaries are baptizing [new members] almost every Sunday,” said Ugandan Jimmy Carter Okot, President of the Kampala Uganda Stake (a stake is similar to a Catholic diocese). “The Church is growing rapidly and the members are very faithful.” [1]

“People are looking for a solid anchor in a world of shifting values,” said Gordon B. Hinckley, former Church president. “They are welcomed as new converts and are made to feel at home. They feel the warmth of the fellowship of the Saints.” [1]

Uganda Stake Presidency MormonPresident Okot, with the assistance of other Stake leaders, spend their time teaching congregational leaders how to care for those of whom they have immediate stewardship, as well as, how to reach out to friends and neighbors that are not of the LDS faith. Their task is to help the young leadership to first understand the scope of their responsibilities, and then to have them go forth and perform those duties. They teach how to strengthen members of the Relief Society, the women’s organization, and to provide guidance to youth in the Young Men and Young Women programs and to children ages 18 months to 11 years in what is called Primary.

President Okot has only been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ for the past decade, and has said that his path to membership began the day he walked past the construction of a new church building. There he noticed a sign that read: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visitors Welcome.” Yearning to know more, he listened intently as the full-time missionaries taught about Jesus Christ.

He later spoke with two Sister missionaries who expressed their fervent belief in the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. He gained strength from their powerful, heartfelt testimonies. He recalls, “When they shared their feelings about the Book of Mormon, immediately I had a very strong and powerful feeling.” [1] He continued with the missionary lessons and was baptized the next week.

A decade later, President Okot has matured as a leader of the LDS Church. He has served a full-time Mormon mission. He has also served as a lay leader of multiple congregations and is now serving as the Stake President of the Kampala Uganda Stake. “I’m grateful to witness the Church flourishing; everyone has a part to play,” explained President Okot. “As a stake, we are able to solve our own challenges.” [1]

Latter-day Saints in Uganda attend six wards (congregations) and five branches (a smaller congregation) in the villages and communities of Kajjansi, Mengo, Mutungo, Ntinda, Seeta, Entebbe, Kabowa, Kololo, Makindye, Mukono and Nsambya. The six wards comprise the Kampala Uganda Stake, the first Stake in Uganda, created in January 2010.

The organization of The Church of Jesus Christ and its leadership in Uganda operate the same as any other congregation of Latter-day Saints around the world. If a person were to attend worship services on any given Sunday in the United States, Italy, Japan, or even the nation of Africa, he will find congregations singing sacred hymns, offering gratitude through prayer, partaking of the sacrament of bread and water in remembrance of the Savior’s sacrifice and sharing their beliefs.

The Church in Uganda has come a long way, President Okot concluded. As the leadership understands the doctrine of the Church and gains experience, they are strengthened. “The Lord is blessing us; He hasn’t left us alone.” [1]

 

Mormon Apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, Visits Europe

March 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Testimonies

The word apostle comes from the Greek “apostolos” meaning “one sent forth.” An apostle, therefore, is one sent forth to serve as a special witness of Jesus Christ. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest presiding body in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly referred to by the media and others as the Mormon Church), is one of those special witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Elder Holland, accompanied by his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, recently paid a visit to several European countries. He began his visit on Saturday, 23 February 2013 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, where he spoke at a meeting of several congregations in the Apeldoorn area about the importance of spreading the Church’s beliefs and referred to the Church’s recent creation of 58 new missions across the world.

“Elder Holland stressed the fact that Christ’s work does not take place in church buildings, but just the opposite,” Lisette Dalliga,  a member of the LDS Church’s congregation in nearby Zwolle: said. “Christ spoke to the people on the streets, on the market square and along the shore of the lake. Everyone needs the gospel (and) we should reach out our hands to them.”  [1]

Dalliga further stated that those in attendance during Elder Holland’s address were blessed by the messages of love and inspiration that he shared.

On 25-26 February 2013, Elder Holland spent time in England. During his time there he spoke to missionaries at the LDS Church’s Missionary Training Center, met with several members of Parliament and participated in an interfaith dinner and outreach focus group. Elder Clifford Herbertson, a church leader from Great Britain, commented:

An important part of Elder Holland’s visit to London was to meet with a number of influential political, faith and community leaders. One particular event, a private dinner held in the BYU London Centre, created tangible goodwill and understanding that was recognized and appreciated by all those that attended.  Doors were opened during Elder Holland’s visit that will greatly bless the lives of many. [1]

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland visits Hyde Park ChapelLondon’s Hyde Park Chapel which was rededicated on 30 June 2012, and recently remodeled to function as a church meetinghouse and a visitors’ center for those interested in learning about the Church of Jesus Christ, was also visited by Elder Holland. As he had completed a two-year Mormon mission in Britain during the early 1960s, visiting the Hyde Park Chapel was particularly special for him.

“It is a wonderful memory just to be in this building. … I was in this building when it was dedicated, so my memories in this building and in this mission mean everything to me,” Elder Holland said during his visit. “I go all over this world telling missionaries how much my mission meant to me, and to be home, to be in the land of my mission and in the building where I served so much of it is a very, very special experience.” [1]

He also spent several days in Germany. From 28 February through 1 March 2013, he instructed mission presidents during a seminar held in Frankfurt, Germany. On 2 March, he spoke to members of the Church of Jesus Christ in Berlin, Germany, and participated in an outreach focus group. He concluded his time in Germany on Sunday, 3 March, by speaking to Latter-day Saints from the Leest and Potsdam congregations. He said he thought he was the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit those congregations and that he felt like home. In his remarks he spoke about the congregations’ importance in the LDS Church’s work, including bolstering missionary numbers and building temples across the world and assured the members that all the work they do is important.

Vivienne Meier, a member of the Potsdam congregation, said she was grateful for Elder Holland’s visit to her congregation.

“I was very surprised when I heard he was coming, but very happy, too,” Meier said. “His message just really touched my heart. … We were all just in a different dimension hearing him speak. We all felt so good and so happy.” [1]

Elder José Teixeira, President of the church in the Europe Area, commented that having Elder Holland in Europe was a special experience for all involved.

“As we traveled throughout Europe with Elder and Sister Holland, we saw the goodness of an Apostle of the Lord,” Elder Teixeira said. “The members of the Leest and Potsdam branches in Germany, in particular, will never forget the blessing it was to have Elder Holland in their midst and the blessings and love he left with them.” [1]

Additional Resource:

Mormon Missionary Work

 

Mormon Apostle Teaches and Testifies in Asia North Area

March 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Beliefs

On 10 December 2010, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited the island of Guam and organized the country’s first stake (an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations.) Just a little more than two years later, another Apostle of the Lord, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited the Western Pacific island during his first stop on an almost two-week long visit to the Asia North Area.

Tokyo, Japan Mormon TempleHe was accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson; Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Kathryn Callister; and Bishop Dean M. Davies, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Sister Darla Davies. Elder Michael T. Ringwood, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, and Elder Koichi Aoyagi, all of the Seventy and members of the Asia North Area Presidency, also accompanied the Church leaders at various times during their visit.

The visit to the area began on 23 February 2013 with a Priesthood Leadership Conference in Guam. Following that meeting, Elder Nelson held special meetings with members, missionaries, and local Church leaders in Japan. He also met with Japanese government leaders. The visit ended on 3 March 2013 with a military district meeting in Okinawa, Japan.

Elder Nelson commented to the Church News that it was a wonderful assignment to be with the people in that area of the world, but no matter where he is, his message remains the same. He stated in part:

“We can learn two things from the [Asian] people,” he said. “First is honesty, and second is a reverence for ancestors.”

“We are here to teach and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel restored,” he said. “That is the way to find joy and purpose in life. While the world and the people of the world do the best they can in darkness and in despair, they can’t find best-is-yet-to-comehappiness any other way. So ours is a message of peace and joy, of strengthening families, bonding husband and wife, children to their parents, and people to their ancestors … that they can all enjoy eternal life in the presence of God when their sojourn on earth is over.

“Most people live from day to day without a thought of what they will do after this life is over, so we try to give them that eternal perspective. This mortal experience is just act two of a three-act play—the best is yet to come.” [1]

Elder Nelson further stated that one of the main highlights of the visit was when he and Sister Nelson were able to attend the Temple in Tokyo, Japan.

“It is a great blessing to have two temples in Japan, and a third one (located in Sapporo) is under construction,” he said. “We went to the Tokyo Temple and did an endowment session. We did proxy work for [Sister Nelson’s] ancestors. That’s what we do now—we don’t just go to the temple and draw names of unknown people; we take family names.” [1]

Sister Nelson, along with Sister Callister and Sister Davies, divided up and made special visits to some Church members. “They did a lot of good,” Elder Nelson said. “They accomplished a great work, maybe even more valuable than what we did with the area review. They were in their homes and took pictures—it was pretty tender.” [1]

On 3 March 2013 a special meeting was held with the Okinawa District—a district for American military personnel and their families.

“It’s pretty rare for us to meet with a military district,” he said. It was also during his visit to Tokyo that Elder Nelson, along with the Area Presidency, met with two local government leaders—Fumio Kishida, minister of foreign affairs for Japan, and Sadakazu Tanigaki, the minister of justice for Japan.

“They spoke in glowing terms of the Church, expressing gratitude for our help following the earthquake, for the high moral standards and responsible citizenship of Japanese Latter-day Saints,” he said. “They were very warm and friendly, and we expressed our gratitude to them for their making it [possible] … for our missionaries and visitors such as us to come into Japan.” [1]

Japan has six missions. Elder Nelson remarked that after President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement concerning the change in age requirements for serving a full-time mission for both young men and young women, there still remains a “wave of excitement throughout the entire earth”, and the excitement among missionary age young people in Guam and Japan matches that of the rest of the world.

Describing the next generation of Church members—the youth and young adults—he met on his travels, Elder Nelson said that they are “bright, light-filled young people” who “know who they are, and they know where they are going. … It is fun to teach them because they are so very receptive. They are the cream of the crop.” [1]

Mormon Missionary Work

 

LDS Church Leader and Baptist Pastor Discuss Interfaith Relations

Socioeconomic problems such as being able to build strong families and communities in the midst of difficult economic and social conditions cannot be resolved by one particular faith group alone, but rather it requires interfaith discussions that are based on finding the common good for all concerned. Such discussions recently took place between Elder M. Russel Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr., pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, as well as other church and community leaders.

Rev. Clemons is a respected leader in Houston for his decades of devoted service in revitalizing Houston’s historic 5th Ward community. (The word “Ward” in this instance refers to an administrative division of the city of Houston.) He began his work more than 15 years ago when he spearheaded the project to replace aging buildings in the 5th Ward with the first substantial new multifamily and commercial development in more than 30 years. It is a continual work in progress.

Most recently, the work included a massive service project in which 5,000 Starbucks volunteers helped to transform the community by building a park and renovating numerous aging structures. Missionaries from the Houston Texas North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church by people of other faiths) also supported the effort.

Elder M. Russell Ballard and Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr. Interfaith MormonIt was that service that led to a meeting between Elder Ballard and Rev. Clemons on Sunday, 13 January 2013. In the course of that meeting they discussed their mutual desires to build bridges between the Church of Jesus Christ and Pleasant Hill to lift communities through strengthening families.

Elder Ballard emphasized the importance of interfaith coalitions for protecting religious freedom—particularly the rights of churches to have a continued voice in the public square. He said,

We commend the Christian efforts of Rev. Clemons and like-minded community and church leaders. We look forward to further cooperation in strengthening families and faith. [1]

Rev. Clemons made the following comments:

I found Elder Ballard to be refreshing and our time together illuminating. I saw him to be a man of passion and of the utmost concern for suffering humanity with an eye on reinforcing the family institution around the world and particularly here in the United States. That concern found a place in my heart and in the heart of this ministry here at Pleasant Hill, in the 5th Ward community, and in Houston. We think it is consistent with our vision to work towards meeting the needs of suffering humanity.

What was most exciting about speaking with Elder Ballard and his delegation was the understanding that our faith traditions bring us to different doctrinal places, but there is consistency in believing that Jesus Christ would have us to work towards alleviating the needs of suffering humanity and strengthening the family institution. It is our prayer that our unified effort will have a significant impact upon alleviating these social concerns. We look forward to the opportunity to do so and cherish the relationship that has begun. Our faith garners us the assurance that the world will be a better place as a result of our efforts. [1]

The two leaders found that they shared much in common – in particular their love for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and their willingness to love and to serve those in need.

Additional Resources:

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Worship with Mormons

Mormon Utah Couple’s Mission to Jordan – In the Service of God

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) possess an innate nature to want to serve their fellowman. They are always ready and willing to answer the call to serve wherever and whenever needed.

CharityHappinessQuoteJoseph Smith, the first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught the Saints, “[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.” (1) That is a lesson that was meant not only for the Saints of Joseph Smith’s day, but even today for every member of The Church of Jesus Christ to take to heart and follow.

In the Holy Bible, in the New Testament book of James are recorded the words, “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” (James 1:27.) Visiting and ministering to the fatherless and widows in their affliction is exactly what LDS humanitarian missionaries, Jim and Karyn Anderson, did on a daily basis as they rendered unselfish service to Jordan’s surging population of Syrian refugees. Their mission exemplified the teachings of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), when in his timeless sermon he exhorted the people, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17.)

Jordan is certainly worlds away from the bucolic and tranquil life in Farmington, Utah where Jim was a bank president and Karyn was a nurse who often traveled with Operation Smile – a children’s charity dedicated to treating facial deformities across the globe. The couple, now in their 60’s, could have scarcely imagined when they accepted the call to serve The Church of Jesus Christ in any capacity, that they would be supervising gravel work in a windy, dusty, teeming refugee camp or comforting escapees from a brutal conflict in which more than 34,000 Syrians had been killed according to the Syrian Observer. Jordan’s open-border policy grants refuge to all those escaping the warfare. They hail from both sides of the conflict causing heightening tensions in the camps.

United Nations Refugee Agency Liaison Officer, Ali Bibi, said more than 215,000 Syrians had taken shelter in Jordan. He further stated that this wave strained Jordan, the fourth-poorest country in the world in terms of water, which had to house and feed tens of thousands of newcomers.

“Major infrastructure developments are occurring on a daily basis,” Bibi says, “in addition to the support of food and nonfood items.”

The camps also are moving to dry-food rations, which the refugees can cook themselves.

“Jordan is doing its best,” he says. “We need the international support to move forward in supporting Jordan in assisting with transition commodities.” [1]

LDS Charities Mormon

That is where faithful, humble servants like the Andersons and other aid workers come in. When the LDS couple arrived in Jordan in April 2012, they went to several cities in the north, where refugees — hungry, hurting, disoriented and with only the clothes on their back — cross the border.

“We spent a little time visiting some of the wounded who had come across, those that were in prison, tortured,” Karyn Anderson says. “We saw one young man, 18 years old, who had fled when the attacks came in his area. When he [went] back, his mother, father, two sisters and brother all had their throats slit.” [1]

The Andersons focused their time and efforts on Jordan’s largest Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari, a sprawling tent city about two hours from Amman, Jordan that houses more than 35,000 people. Located near the northern border city of Mafraq, the camp is essentially in a desert, where hot, dusty gales uproot tents and send families scrambling.

“We saw it before the first tent went up, and our impression was, ‘They can’t move people out here,’ ” says Jim Anderson. “There wasn’t water. There wasn’t a town nearby. There wasn’t a way to allow them to be mobile.” [1]

In representing LDS Charities, a humanitarian outreach agency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Andersons worked with many aid organizations, especially the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization (JHCO), which oversees all Syrian relief efforts and partners with the United Nations to run the camps. The Andersons say they assessed needs and “fill in the gaps,” providing help where they can — more in the form of “hand-ups,” not “handouts.”

Before the Zaatari camp opened, Jordan attempted to absorb the refugees into society, but the effort overwhelmed an already-weak economy, so the government launched a large-scale camp. By the time Zaatari came online, it had 8,000 refugees waiting. Now camps are mandatory for all Syrian refugees with guards and police helping to keep the peace.

On a chaotic first day, the camp didn’t have restroom facilities, washing areas, or even water. Now it has restrooms, operational kitchens and some semblance of order. UNICEF and Save the Children organizations provide schools and were expected to be able to handle 5,000 kids by December 2012 which was still a mere fraction of the almost 14,000 children in the camp.

The United Nations strives to erect hundreds of new tents every 24 hours to accommodate the tide of refugees, which rises and falls depending on the bloodshed in Syria and has been as high as 2,500 tents in one day. While the strain is great and conditions dismal, Jim Anderson said that he saw improvement.

“There are so many dedicated charitable people working,” he says. “I have a great admiration for what Jordan is doing for these refugees.” [1]

LDS Charities partnered with its Jordanian counterpart to haul in 20 trucks full of gravel to tamp down the dust which continuously plagues the camp, not only invading the food and the tents, but the swirling dust also makes everything look the same, disorienting children and families who can’t find their new homes. Women use their headscarves to cover their babies while men frantically tie down loose ends and possessions. Refugees took buckets of the gravel to spread outside their tents.

Another challenge comes when distributing donations among the refugees. The sheer number of refugees makes it hard to have enough for everyone.

“A series of riots over living conditions caused thousands of dollars of extensive damage,” The Jordan Times reported. Refugees torched warehouses and tents and injured guards.

“Just when you think you’ve solved one problem, the camp expands [dramatically],” says Karyn Anderson, “so you go to Plan B tomorrow. It’s just a continual challenge.” [1]

This is not exactly how the Mormon couple expected to spend their “golden years.” LDS couples, usually after retirement, can apply for volunteer, full-time missions. In the Andersons’ case, the Church called them.  As soon as Jim announced he would be ending his career as president of the Bank of Utah in June 2010, an LDS Church official asked if he and his wife would like to go on a mission. When later told it would be in the Middle East, they didn’t hesitate. Jim retired 31 December 2010, and a month later they were on their way.

The couple spent two weeks commuting to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and attended orientation sessions at the LDS Church Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

They were assigned to Beirut, where they spent 14 months distributing hygiene kits, providing beds to a women’s prison and performing other tasks. Then they were transferred to Jordan.

Though they were Mormon missionaries, the Andersons did not proselytize. Their aim was to foster good will and create relationships with people, communities and countries. Similarities between Mormonism and Islam helped them bond with many in the Middle East.

It was hard for them to be so far away from family, the Andersons concede. Between them, they have 16 children and 35 grandchildren — four of whom were been born while they served their mission. “Did we ever think we’d come on a mission like this?” Karyn asks. “No.” But, “We have backgrounds that are conducive to being volunteers,” she says. “We [were] raised in that culture of giving service.” [1] .

Sources:

1. Editor’s reply to a letter from Richard Savary, Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, p. 732; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical.

Additional Resources:

Mormon Giving

LDS Charities

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Mormons Serving Those in Need – One Of the Least of These

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) have an innate nature for always wanting to help those in need. From the days of their youth, they are taught that life is not solely about self, but rather serving others, and that they should always be willing to help lift another.

Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ taught the Saints,”[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.” (Editor’s reply to a letter from Richard Savary, Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, p. 732; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical.) He further exhorted the Saints:

It is a duty which every Saint ought to render to his brethren freely—to always love them, and ever succor them. To be justified before God we must love one another: we must overcome evil; we must visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world; for such virtues flow from the great fountain of pure religion [see James 1:27, online Bible]. (History of the Church, 2:229, footnote; from “To the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Messenger and Advocate, June 1835, p. 137.)

LDS Man Helps Homeless Youth in EthiopiaAs faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints strive to live their lives according to the pattern set by their Great Exemplar who Himself taught, “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44,45, online Bible.) And so, following the admonition of the Master, they put their shoulder to the wheel, and press forward rendering aid to those in need whenever and wherever they may find them.

One such faithful Latter-day Saint is Jason Burton. Before embarking in the service of the Lord on a planned LDS mission in 2003, he left his home in Oregon to perform service work in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Today, he cares for 20 former homeless youths as young as 6 and as old as 20, though most can only guess at their age, showing them a better life beyond the life that they had been living on the streets. Like most boys anywhere in the world, they push and scrap, argue and pout.

HappinessCircumstanceQuoteBurton has done his best to piece together the difficult — and sometimes horrifying — facts of the lives once lived by these boys, who have come to him off the sordid and often violent streets of one of the world’s poorest cities. Some of the boys were abandoned by parents who could not feed them. Others came to the city from their rural villages intending to support the families they had left behind. While on the street they sometimes slept against the walls of churches, under bridges or in trash-strewn alleys. By the time they met Burton, many of these boys were addicted to tchat, a mild narcotic that is cheap and popular in Ethiopia. Others were struggling to overcome alcoholism.

Now they are part of Burton’s family, and like any family, there are struggles and challenges to face and deal with. He aims to provide a home, a shelter and a place where they are wanted. Even though he recognizes that he’s put many aspects of his own life on hold to answer this call, after five years of ardent service, Burton has found that he cannot just walk away and abandon the work.

He rents an apartment with three of the oldest boys. Every morning he rouses them from bed and prods them to begin their chores. He does his best to keep the boys busy with study and reading, and household chores such as cooking dinner and washing clothes. When they have free time, they kick around an old soccer ball in the yard or weave multicolored bracelets they hope to sell. This new lifestyle is much different than the life that they lived on the streets.

Burton grew up in Portland, Oregon. He first came to Ethiopia in 2007 intending to volunteer for eight months at the Mother Teresa Hospital for the poor. Then he met two young street boys, Masha and Berhanu. The boys were about 14 years old when they met Burton, who was at that time only five years their elder. He was helping with outpatient care at the hospital, where Berhanu had come to seek treatment for an infected wound. Not wanting to be a burden to his mother, the boy had left his home in Lalibella, north of Addis, after the death of his father, in hopes of finding work to support his three younger brothers, but things had not worked out well in his behalf.

When he met Burton, Berhanu was sleeping with other homeless youths by a church. At night he would pull his oversized T-shirt over his knees and curl up against a wall. One night, as he drifted to sleep, he fell forward and sliced his eye on the corner of a step. By the time Burton befriended him at the hospital, Berhanu’s eye was swollen shut and the infected area had ballooned to the size of grapefruit.

Not long after, Masha was brought to the hospital. The teenager was suffering from chronic stomach ulcers that made it difficult for him to eat anything but injera, a traditional Ethiopian food made of teff. A glucose IV at the hospital kept him alive. But the problems that Masha faced were more than sickness. After the deaths of his parents he had moved in with his grandmother and uncle who feared that his sickness was a curse, and put him out, causing him to fend for himself. “I knew immediately that I had to do something that lessened that sort of pain, even if just for a few people,” Burton said.” [1] When his eight-month visa expired, Burton returned to the United States, but Masha and Berhanu constantly weighed heavily on his mind.

Before making the trip to Ethiopia, the 18-year-old Burton spent four months in Ecuador working in an orphanage owned by Paul Morrell, a businessman and philanthropist from Utah. It was that experience that sparked Burton’s initial interest in helping street children. Even with so little, the children in the orphanage were the lucky ones: They had a place to go. [1]

When Burton met Morrell on a chance encounter while in Ethiopia, the two discovered their connection and Morrell took an interest in what the young humanitarian had done to help a few street boys. It was then that Morrell offered to help Burton, if he wanted to do more, by helping him launch an organization dedicated to helping street boys who number in the hundreds of thousands in Addis.

Ted Burton, Jason’s father, said his son spent hours on the Internet poring over United Nations reports on homeless youth populations and “printed reams and reams” of studies detailing the challenges non-government organizations faced in developing countries. He said that Jason was seriously considering the offer made by Morrell.

“As a parent I kept saying, ‘No. There’s just too much war, too much famine, too much danger; no, no, no,’” recalls Ted Burton, who tried to dissuade his son from the daunting venture. “I said, ‘Pick a different place, there’s street kids all over, pick somewhere beside Ethiopia.’ But, the Lord had other plans.” [1]

Ted Burton realized that he could not persuade his son otherwise, so he conceded and helped him draw up a business plan for a home for street children. Then they went to see Morrell.

“Usually how it worked was they had medical needs. One had fallen off a bridge and broken his leg, Taye had his tumor, one had a tooth abscess that was really, really serious to the point where we took him to the emergency and he was unconscious for a while,” Burton says. “That’s how things started happening, when boys who we’d known before started having little emergencies and saying, ‘Can you help?’ And then you realize, ‘Huh, they can’t get better on the streets.’” [1]

Today, 20 boys live in the home called Yehiwot Reay — which means “Vision of Life.” Most of them have been with Burton for four years or longer. “It’s more like a family rather than an organization, to be honest,” he says. [1] It is a big family, but Burton who grew up in a family that now numbers 15, is used to large families. He says that is where he learned the patience to do this sort of work.

“I didn’t expect it to be easy; I knew there would be challenges,” he says. “But I guess I didn’t expect so many challenges.”

“Jason’s remarkable,” Morrell said. “What kind of 20-year-old kid does that kind of thing? He’s had a lot of really, really hard times. He’s taken in kids that are addicted and have no discipline, and with all these challenges it’s remarkable he takes them on and does as well as he does with them.” [1]

The latest obstacle is funding. For the moment, Burton is supporting the boys largely on his own savings. He says he will be able to keep the program going for the next year but fears he won’t be able to meet the demands of the government, which expects him to take in new street boys every year in order to keep his license. The four oldest boys have offered to get jobs to help pay the expenses of the home, which costs about $2,000 a month to operate. [1]

Barton wonders, sometimes, what would have become of him if he had not been drawn back to Addis.

“I would have probably gone on to study sociology and worked as a social worker in a non-profit in the States if Ethiopia hadn’t sidetracked me so completely,” he said.

“I do feel like God moved me to help that first boy, but sometimes I feel like I’m just a spectator watching things go where they’ll go in spite of me,” he says. “But I’m sensing that I’ll always stay involved with our kids, but that the way could change.” [1]

For now, this is where he feels he needs to be, doing the work that the Lord has called him to do.

His father, who has just celebrated his 50th birthday without his oldest son being at home to celebrate with him stated:

“Wanting a future back home for him, it’s not quite like that. I can see where he’s happiest and he definitely belongs there,” he said. “There’s real joy and inner meaning to his life in Ethiopia, and that’s not something I know how to replace for him here. Once you’ve had kids who would have died if you weren’t there, it’s not something you can replace.” [1]

Jason Burton is on an errand for the Lord, and through his humble efforts he exemplifies and magnifies the teachings of the Savior who taught, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40. online Bible.)

Additional Resources:

Mormon Giving

Music and the Spoken Word: Remembering Sandy Hook Elementary

January 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Moments

Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Mormon

The horrific events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut just days before Christmas will long be remembered. The news of what happened on that tragic day that claimed the lives of innocent victims, among whom where young children, reverberated throughout communities both near and far. No one would have suspected that such a tragedy would or could occur especially at an elementary school, but yet it had, leaving many in a state of shock surrounded by an air filled with melancholy. Attempting to return to “life as normal” would definitely take some time as those who had lost loved ones experienced a season of grieving and healing, in addition to extending forgiveness to the family of the perpetrator.

On Sunday, 6 January 2013,under the baton of a Newtown, Connecticut native, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square dedicated the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast to the memory of the victims of the recent school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ryan Murphy, associate choir music director, and who attended Sandy Hook Elementary as a boy, led the choir and orchestra in a program that included his own arrangements of “’Give,’ Said the Little Stream” and “I Am a Child of God,” bringing hope and healing through the beauty of music.

“One of the great roles of the choir is to bring peace and hope through music,” Murphy said, adding that the Jan. 6 “Music and the Spoken Word” program is filled with poignant music that is “hopeful and encouraging.”

“That’s a great tone to set at the start of a new year, especially for those who are healing,” he said. [1]

HappinessChildrenQuoteIn addition to Murphy’s two arrangements, the Sunday program included “Sweet Peace,” “Children of the Heavenly Father,” “Jesus Loves Me” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” At the end of the program it was noted that the broadcast was “being dedicated to the memory of the students and staff taken from us too soon at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.” [1]

Alex Boye, a soloist in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir also released a tribute video for the victims of the Sandy Elementary School shooting victims. After learning of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Boye created a moving video called “Tribute Song for Sandy Hook Elementary.” The video features Boye, the Bonner family and Utah Valley University’s LDS institute choir.

“The day of the shooting in Connecticut was the night before we were recording the video; we were going to record it the next day,” he said. “When I saw the images on TV regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, I grabbed hold of my 3-year-old daughter while she was asleep and cried while hugging her really tight.

“The words of the song then just started coming through about children and about having mercy.”

“We had a prayer before the video shoot and held hands,” Boye said. “We talked about it and I said, ‘When we sing I want you to picture the faces of all those children. You’ve got to sing to those kids. Sing to the moms and dads who have lost a child. Sing to the family. Sing to the community. Don’t sing to the camera.'” [3]

With a similar objective in mind as that which the Music and the Spoken Word broadcast wanted to achieve, through his video Boye hopes to bring back hope to all who have been affected.

“At this time of tragedy hope is kind of gone,” Boye said. “So we wanted to use this song to bring hope to anyone because it says that during this tragedy there is still some kind of hope and there is a Savior who is aware of this situation.” [3]

Boye further expressed that as soon as it was known that one of the victims, Emilie Parker, was from Utah, they knew they wanted to donate the proceeds to the family through the Emilie Parker fund.

On Friday, 14 December 2012, following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) issued the following statement:

“We are profoundly saddened by the events this morning at a school in Connecticut. We grieve with all those affected by this tragedy and especially for the families of these little children.

“In this hour of great sorrow we pray the Spirit of our Father in Heaven will provide comfort and peace to all.” [2]

Additional Resources:

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Music and the Spoken Word

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

My Soul Lives on its Knees

November 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Mormon Testimonies

Hartman Rector, Jr. and his wife Connie were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February of 1952. Seventeen years later, he was called as a General Authority into the First Council of the Seventy for the Church. He has spent his life in devotion to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and wrote a book compiling many conversion stories. Each story is unique and compelling. One story he recounts is of  Norma Ramos:

When the gospel found Norma Ramos she was in the depths of sadness and bereft of hope for happiness. Born and raised in the small city of Cruz Alta, Brazil, she had enjoyed all the advantages of a fine intellect, a good education and a background of culture and refinement. Additionally she had been blessed with a high level of professional and material success. But she had watched this all slip from her grasp with the disintegration of her marriage, and she had returned with her children to struggle for a livelihood in her native city.

Since her baptism, hope soars limitlessly and opportunities multiply. Her talents and experience are again used in larger fields of her country’s service as well as in the Lord’s kingdom. Small wonder that in gratitude, as she puts it, “my soul lives on its knees.”

In her words she states how she came to have a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

When I was twelve, I entered a Methodist college, and there I learned much about Christianity. Several years later I married a young Catholic man and studied his Roman faith. He gave me books by Catholic writers, French writers mainly. I began to attend mass and was enchanted by the solemnity and formal beauty of the Latin worship in churches. I have always thought that unity of faith is necessary between a married couple; therefore, it was in the Catholic Church that we baptized the children, and I made a point to take them regularly to mass.

There was, however, in the deepest, most profound portion of my soul a great dissatisfaction—I was thirsty for the absolute. The replies to my questions were evasive almost in every case on the part of the churches I knew then.

[After the divorce of her husband, Ramos was living in Cruz Alta, Brazil.] One Sunday afternoon, after we had moved into this relatively comfortable old house, I was alone with a feeling of great sadness, complete hopelessness, thinking my last opportunity for a bit of happiness had vanished forever, when I heard someone knocking at the door. I stood up and somewhat reluctantly went to see who it was. There stood the two young Americans whom I had observed in the neighborhood and about whom I had been very curious.

The first, who spoke timidly, asked me some questions which I answered somewhat jokingly; I was not exactly laughing at these young men, but I was amused at the sight of their extreme youth yet sober countenances. Then I became aware of the second missionary as he joined in the conversation, and although I did not know him, I had the strong impression of having recognized him, as though I were meeting an old friend again after a long absence. Our conversation that afternoon was the beginning of a great friendship.

Although at the beginning I did not take what they said very seriously, my attention was suddenly enlivened when they began to explain to me what the Book of Mormon was; and my interest turned into a passion for the book. Having lived seven years in Bolivia studying and observing the remains of the old Andean civilizations, I realized immediately the truth of the history I was being told, although some of the names which the elders mentioned, such as Nephi and Lehi, seemed fantastic to me. Up until then I had regarded Joseph Smith’s story as nothing more than an absurd tale, although I did not feel that way about the ideas presented to me. From the very first day I felt the ideas and doctrines to be true; in fact, I knew them to be true. But the story about Joseph Smith seemed to me to be fictitious, and it was the part about his being a modern prophet that afflicted me the most. Nevertheless, knowing the truth of what the Book of Mormon contained, I realized that it could not possibly have been invented; that young, not-too-wise frontiersman could never have invented such a migration from Mesopotamia to America. Science has now found such an event to be evident, but in the time in which he lived it was considered nonsense. Also, the story of Lehi’s family seemed to me much too beautiful not to be true.

My heart was filled with joy and happiness for the knowledge I had acquired and for the many lights which were being turned on in my life, illuminating countless dark doubts which I possessed. I cannot say exactly when nor how it came to be, but my heart was flooded with an intense and profound love and gratitude, and these things transformed my life completely. I could find nothing within me to oppose the teachings I was being given, and from there on I understood and accepted everything as the truth.

I turned to the Lord in prayer, and I asked him to send me wherever I could serve him best. [I received an answer to serve my country in diplomatic service]. I realize that besides serving my country, this was a call for me to serve the Church. This was an answer from the Lord to my fervent prayer, in which I had asked him to give me an opportunity to do as much as I could possibly do, so as to deserve the blessings he is giving me every day as well as those blessings he has promised me.

As soon as I arrived in Colombia where I had been assigned to organize and direct the Brazilian Cultural Center, I was asked to teach the investigator class in Sunday School and to serve also as president of the Relief Society. When the branch president set me apart to fill these responsibilities, he said to me: “Sister, the progress and development of your private life is closely related with the progress and development of the Church of Jesus Christ, not only in Colombia, but all over the world.” I do not know what the meaning of this prophecy is, but I do know that I am ready to serve the Lord as I am asked to do.

I know God lives, and I know Jesus Christ lives and stands at the right hand of God. The angels’ aim is the only guidance I want for my children. There is no other life I wish to live, nor any other love that would so fully satisfy my soul; and there is no other hope. It is true, it is all true!

My soul lives on its knees, and I can find no words to express my gratitude for the wise and merciful action of the Lord when he sent to me on that sad and boring Sunday afternoon two of his missionaries to teach me the gospel. God bless them!

You never know where your life could end up from a simple visit with the Mormon missionaries. They have a message that they are eager to share with you. I invite you to seek them out and hear what they have to say. You can request a free Book of Mormon from Mormon.org  and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This article was written by Mady Clawson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mady Clawson MormonMady Clawson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon” single adult), with a zest for the gospel. She currently studies English, with an emphasis in Professional Writing and Communications at BYU-Idaho.

 

 

Additional Resources:

No More Strangers. Hartman Rector Jr.

Worship with Mormons

The Holy Bible in Mormonism

Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Mormon Charity: One of the Least of These

Many are familiar with the words of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Holy Bible, in the New testament, in Matthew 25: 34-40 which read:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

steve-kyalo-mormonMembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) are a charitable people by nature and strive to emulate the love of the Savior by always being willing to “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12) whenever and wherever they can. The service that Latter-day Saints generously provide to others is not limited solely to members of The Church of Jesus Christ, but believing that all mankind are their brothers and sisters, they willingly and unselfishly give of their time, talent, abilities, resources, and services to aid those in need regardless of religious affiliations or beliefs.

Throughout the world there are members of The Church of Jesus Christ who take the teachings of the Master to heart, and strive to do their part to make the world a better place for their fellowman, especially those of less fortunate circumstances. One such humanitarian is Steve Kyalo. Kyalo is a familiar figure to many Utahns who have gone to Kenya on LDS missions. What they didn’t realize for years, according to returned missionary David Jensen, is that Kyalo was quietly taking starving orphans off the streets and giving them hope. The missionaries believe Kyalo has supported the orphanage using his own meager income derived from wood carving. His wood carvings are popular with missionaries. He specializes in creating works with Christian scenes. The most popular are depictions of Noah’s ark, complete with pairs of animals, and a nativity scene. [1]

Kyalo runs a two-room orphanage in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya where 89 children sleep every night, mostly on the floor. For many of these children it may well be the best thing that has ever happened to them, for at least they are staying with someone who genuinely cares about them. In recent days he has been visiting Utah, making the rounds to various church groups, seeking funds to help support his makeshift orphanage. “My goal is to help 1,000 children before I die,” Kyalo said. “That’s my plan.” [1] He said there are 1.5 million orphaned children in Nairobi, 90 percent of whom lost their parents to the ravages of AIDS. [1]

Kyalo converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 20 years ago, but kept his orphanage quiet for years and never asked for money. He said that the orphanage had its start when he was touched by seeing orphaned kids in the slums of Nairobi. “They are actually in the streets and they are begging for something to eat,” Kyalo said. “They want something just to put in their mouth, something to cover their stomach. So I decided, ‘Let me take these children to my house so that I would be able to stay with them and try to feed them.'” [1]

As he took in more and more orphaned children, Kyalo rented a two-room house and a tin shack in Nairobi to use as a school. He even pays the teachers. His Nazarene Orphan Center has only a few beds. Most of the 89 children currently living there sleep on mattresses placed on the floor, and toilet facilities are primitive. “That is as humble as you’ll find any place,” Jensen said. “It’s almost like the slums.” [1]

Jensen is helping Kyalo raise funds in Utah. He set up meetings with officials of Overstock.Com and the company agreed to help out as they plan to sell Kyalo’s wood -carvings through Overstock’s non-profit arm, Worldstock.Com. An account has also been established at Zions Bank for contributions to the Nazarene Orphan’s Center.

This act of charity is an example and reminder of the words of King Benjamin in his discourse recorded in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) in Mosiah 4:19-21:

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy. And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

King Benjamin’s further counseled the people, “I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give” (Mosiah 4:24.) A person should strive to live his life with the attitude of gratitude realizing that because he has been given much, he too must give. When a person shows love and kindness towards his fellowman, he is in essence demonstrating his love for the Savior.

Article was written by Keith Brown

Additional Resources:

Mormon Giving

JesusChrist.LDS.org

Next Page »