As a member of the church, I hear a lot of talk about whether it’s better to raise kids in Utah (and other predominantly Mormon states, such as Idaho, Arizona, etc), or raise kids outside of “Mormonville.” Some foam at the mouth at the mention of raising their kids in a place where all the students at their kids’ school go to the same church, and therefore all their bad influences will come from hypocritical members of the church.
Some suggest that the answer is to live where each of their kids will be one of three members–the other two being their siblings, where they can stand as an example, and have a lot more missionary opportunities. After all, what’s “peculiar” about being one of the 99 in a place with an 80% LDS population?
Others suggest that their kids are much more likely to stay with the gospel if all their friends, neighbors, and grocery store attendants are fellow members.
Whenever I’m confronted with someone who stands strong with one side or the other, and they ask, “Well, what about you? Is it better to raise a family in Utah, or outside of Utah?” my eyes glaze over, and I go to my happy place until the conversation dies.
I do have a position on this, but it’s not on either side. But the best way I know how to explain it is to share a joke I once heard (subject to the whims of my bad memory):
Once upon a time there was a rich doctor who lived in a fairly mediocre town. He had a nice place, and everyone envied his beautiful yard and home. Then he got a raise, and was able to move into a bigger house on the hill on the far end of town, where the entire neighborhood was lush and beautiful. He lived in his beautiful, massive home for just over a year before moving back into Mediocreville, into his old house.
Surprised to see him leave such a huge house, back into a cheaper town, his neighbor asked him about it.
“Well, it’s simple, really,” he replied, “Up there, it’s really hard to keep up with the Joneses. Down here, I am the Joneses.”
So you may wonder what this has to do with it. Nothing. Well, maybe nothing. Actually, it’s the doctor’s attitude that reminds me of this Utah vs. nonUtah question. The joke’s punchline changes the whole focus of the man’s situation.
Asking whether it’s better to live in Utah among other Mormons or live outside of Utah where you’re in the minority is a bit like asking, “Is it better to live as the richest person in a poor neighborhood, or the poorest person in a rich neighborhood?”
Essentially, my response is, IT’S NOT ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE, FOLKS! It’s about your personal relationship with the Savior. It’s about your attitudes and choices regarding service, love, kindness, and devotion. It’s about YOU teaching those principles to your children.
Don’t get me wrong, I know both choices have ups and downs, and I know their are cultural differences between the members of the church in Utah vs. elsewhere. But does that really matter? Is it really worth pointing fingers over? Every cultural difference of any kind has ups and downs. And as long as we’re striving to live the gospel, that’s okay. The prophets let us know when we’re stepping out of line–and they do so quite often.
Gratefully, we can still love and accept each other with our differences, and be ever striving to be better. Sometimes the persecution for being a cookie-cutter Utah Mormon can be intense. Sometimes the pressure of being the only Mormon in town can be just as, if not more, intense.
Sometimes the debate itself can become a form of persecution, especially from those who leave the church grow bitter toward it. Elder Neal A Maxwell once said,
“No attacks on the Church will be more bitter or more persistent than those made in the Salt Lake Valley. No taunts will be more shrill than those of apostates and excommunicants. In that valley and in the state of Utah, Church members will be accused of the ‘crime’ of being a majority!” (Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, 80)
I’ve seen a lot of that. But there will be negative influences wherever you live. That’s not really where our focus should be in making these kinds of choices. Why are we worried about what everyone else thinks?
There’s also a lot to be said for those who want more opportunities to serve others. If we’re going to worry about others, let’s have that be our primary focus. Elder Stanley G. Ellis illustrated this attitude beautifully when he said,
“For 16 years I served in the presidency of the Houston Texas North Stake. Many moved to our area during those years. We would often receive a phone call announcing someone moving in and asking which was the best ward. Only once in 16 years did I receive a call asking, ‘Which ward needs a good family? Where can we help?’”
There are people suffering everywhere. It’s part of life, and the more people you can serve, the better. There are ways you can bless those around you no matter where you live. It doesn’t matter if they’re members of the church or not. You can serve everyone.
My point is, if you want to live in Utah, live in Utah! If you want to live elsewhere, do it! Base it on your preference, your answers to prayer, and on your love for people.
After all, when we get to the other side, the Lord isn’t going to ask where you lived, but how.by chashathaway with No Comments
Barbara B. Smith:
by chashathaway with 2 Comments
“It might be a temptation for a working mother to plan special outings and play times as the so-called “quality” time she has with her children. But many are aware of the danger this poses in giving them a distorted picture of life by using all their time together in recreation. It is important for children to see the balance that is necessary between work and play. They need to know that special events are more meaningful when daily routines are established and when assigned duties are completed.
One grandmother helped her grandchildren learn this truth. When they came to her house she was careful to have jobs they could do together; then afterward, they played a game. Then another task was followed by another game. The children learned, as she hoped they would, the relationship between work and play and the comfortable sense of playing after work is completed.”
Have you ever read the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and Daniel’s interpretation of it? You’ve probably read about it in Sunday School and seminary, but if you haven’t read it yourself, you might want to give it a look.
As you do, however, keep in mind this great quote by Rudger Clawson, who was the President of the quorum of the twelve apostles in 1930 when he gave this talk.
The Christian world of today is witness of the fact that the very things which the great image stood for have occurred so far as time has gone. History certifies to the fact that King Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. The Medes and Persians, an inferior kingdom to Babylon, were the arms and breast of silver. The Macedonian kingdom, under Alexander the Great, was the belly and thighs of brass; and the Roman kingdom under the Caesars was the legs of iron. For mark you, later on the kingdom, or empire of Rome, was divided. The head of the government in one division was at Rome and the head of the government in the other division was at Constantinople. So these two great divisions represented the legs of iron. Finally, the Roman empire was broken up into smaller kingdoms, represented by the feet and toes of iron and clay, and as there were ten toes on the image we might well conclude that the following ten kingdoms stand to represent the toes: Italy, established in 496 A. D.; France, in 753; England, 853; Germany, 806; Holland, 922; Portugal, 1138; Persia, 1139; Austria-Hungary, 1159; Spain, 1171; Greece, 1829 A. D.
THE STONE CUT OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN
The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, representing the kingdom of God, was established April 6th, 1830, with six members, and is known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus the work of the Lord in our own time, designated by revelation as a marvelous work and a wonder, had a very humble beginning, but it has grown apace. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a membership of about 700,000. It cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to establish this work on the earth. Its founder, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum Smith, the Patriarch, were martyred for the cause of truth, in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. The Latter-day Saints have passed through the fire of persecution and have stood the test of one hundred years. Never was the prospect brighter for our people than it is today. We sincerely believe, and, I may say, have every assurance, that this Church will stand forever. It is indeed the Church of the Son of God, the Redeemer of mankind.
Rudger Clawson, Conference Report, April 1930 Afternoon Meeting
Did you catch that? President Clawson points out that the statue seen in the king’s dream represented his kingdom, which over the centuries would divide into smaller kingdoms. According to the dream, as soon as that kingdom is divided into ten, the Lord would role forth the stone to crush the kingdoms and fill the earth with its influence. He lists the years of the establishment of the various countries Babylon was eventually broken into. The final one? Greece, 1829.
The church was restored in 1830. The stone has rolled forth, and is filling, filling the earth. Even at the time this talk was given, there wasn’t 3/4 of a million members. Now there are over 14 million, and the number is rising more each year. That stone, which is the kingdom of God, fills the earth, and has a more powerful influence for good than the combined governments of all those countries.
At the time of the second coming of the Savior, the Lord will be in charge of the governments of the earth.
by chashathaway with No Comments
The experience of Nephi and his brothers getting the plates of brass teaches an interesting lesson. Not only does it demonstrate that the Lord provides a way, but it also teaches us a little about the kinds of “ways” the Lord provides.
Nephi and His brothers were commanded to get the plates, and Nephi knew there would be a way to make it work.
First they sent in big brother, the one with all the persuasive abilities (as evidenced by Lemuel’s persuadability mentioned in 1 Nephi 3:28)
How’d that work out?
Laban: “Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.”
Yeah, not so good.
Lehi must have been quite influential to have such prosperity in a wicked community. His position probably gave him voice in a lot of things. Of course, Laban didn’t care about that. But riches, surely, would bend the will of a wicked man. Actually, I think they did. He went from simply wanting to kill them to lusting after their property, “insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.” He went from accusing them of robbery to becoming a robber. Not the kind of change of heart the brothers were hoping for.
Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere. Without weapons, without riches, without even a rehearsal of any kind, Nephi went in with the express intent of being led by the Spirit.
We often think of reliance on the Spirit as the scary way. “But I don’t even know what I’m going to say!” or “But what if I need a visual aid, or money, or reputation, or whatever. I can’t just go in dry!”
I’d hardly call the Spirit dry. There’s a reason we call it a fire, and there’s a reason we sometimes call such improvisational faith, “baptism of fire.”
But is it really the scary way? Laman went in prepared with words and charm, and it nearly got him killed. All four brothers went in with riches and influence, and it got them robbed and nearly all killed. Only when Nephi put his entire trust in the Lord, essentially saying, “Okay, Lord, I’ll go in, and you tell me what to do when I get there,” did he have success.
That’s not to say it was easy the third time. I suspect this was Nephi’s Abrahamic test. Would he be willing to kill a man in order to prove his absolute faith, trust, and reliance on the Lord?
Well, he did it. Maybe if he hadn’t had the trials from the first two attempts, he wouldn’t have had the determination and “fire” sufficient to obey at such a cost. And while the Lord knew all along that Nephi could do it, it was probably after this point that Nephi realized that Nephi would obey at all costs.
And what a revelation that must have been.
by chashathaway with No Comments
If you don’t keep a scripture journal of some kind, I suggest you start now. I just came across these thoughts I wrote years ago. I may have unwittingly been channeling Elder Maxwell when I recorded them:
Even the wicked who have been taught the truth have learned to “liken the scriptures” unto themselves, since the hardened taketh the truth to be hard, but they confuse the still small voice with a whispered murmur. Their eye has become single, but they confuse the first commandment with looking out for #1. They know that faith cometh by hearing the word of God – so they try not to hear it, supposing that so long as they don’t believe in the truth, they are not accountable to live it. But this wresting of the scriptures does not lead them to the final state of rest that is promised to those who hear the truth and live according to it.
Many revel in their individualism, forgetting that they are not free from influence, but have merely chosen to heed a different influence. They seek validation in their distinction by being unique in their wickedness, hoping open-mindedness will earn them the greater reward, expecting mercy in spite of justice.
What they are forgetting, however, is that there is only one path to happiness, and it is straight and narrow.
Those who do not understand the true nature of agency often confuse accountability with rights. They demand rights, but seek to change or hide from the consequences of their choices. Carried away in their own vain imaginations, they justify themselves by accusing the prophets of foolish imaginations.
by chashathaway with No Comments