Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Help! I'm Being Persecuted!

A recent blog post on a Mormon blog (written by a guy who's the brother of a friend from high school) got me thinking about persecution. More especially, how the people who most often complain that they are being persecuted against are not the people that are the most persecuted.

I remember a friend from Wisconsin saying that one day some racist graffiti aimed at blacks appeared in his school's bathroom. The community outcry was enormous. Eventually, the perpetrator came forward--a black student who wanted to raise awareness of racism. Meanwhile, no one said a word about the persistent racist anti-Hmong graffiti in that same bathroom. No one seemed to care that real persecution was being dealt to the Hmong minority.

I'm not trying to say that racism against blacks doesn't exist. It does. I've seen it. But when our society sees that racism, it usually takes notice and pushes back. Meanwhile, groups that are persecuted more frequently usually endure their persecution in silence.

Another example is seen in the comments of the above-mentioned blog post--repeated graffiti on a Muslim mosque. Persecution? Yes. Complaints of persecution? Not so much. But we can imagine how other religious groups who are not persecuted (or persecuted to a lesser degree) might react--they (or at least many of their members) would be quite angry and complain publicly.

Now I realize that many fellow members of the LDS church are having a hard time with a recent musical. I think the musical is in poor taste. But I'm not going to call it persecution. Persecution, to me, is more than just making fun. Persecution is calling a peaceful religion "dangerous." It's destruction of property. It's denying people jobs or services. Does it happen to the LDS church? Sure. But it's relatively rare, and those who persecute members of the LDS church are generally branded (justly) as bigots. But when Islam is called a "dangerous" religion, as it often is? Fewer people come to its defense.

A little over a year ago I was visiting an EQ meeting in a ward I didn't belong to. The subject of homosexuality came up, and the class members started talking about how much homosexuals were persecuting members of the LDS church. I should add--this ward was in an area that's overwhelmingly LDS. I doubt any of these men were friends with someone who was openly homosexual. And I'm certain that an openly homosexual person living in their neighborhood would face constant harassment (heck, I know for a fact someone in that neighborhood was harassed--graffiti again--for just being English). But, somehow, it was them persecuting us.

Now I realize that a few members of the church have lost their jobs due to their involvement with Proposition 8. I also am confident that there are other isolated incidents of homosexuals persecuting members of the LDS church. But these class members weren't talking about persecution they had experienced, or that someone they knew had experienced. The persecution was pretty far removed from their actual lives. And yet they were still spending the majority of a priesthood meeting complaining about it.

Had this discussion occurred in my ward at the time, a place where people knew me well enough to take me seriously, I would have spoken up. After all, I had classmates and friends who were homosexual, and I sure wasn't being persecuted for being LDS. As I was a stranger, I pretended the baby I was holding was acting up, and I walked out.

Perhaps, as members of the LDS church, we should focus more on making the places we live more welcoming to all peaceful people, and less on complaining about being persecuted.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yet Another Church Statement on Immigration

This one's actually fairly specific and detailed. The question I have is why the church needs to keep making statements on immigration. Actually, I think I already know the answer--they keep on making statements about it because the members of the church ignore or skew the previous statements.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Vaccines and the LDS Church--The Early Years

In the early 1900's, smallpox was a dangerous disease. Fortunately, a vaccine existed. The vaccine was rather primitive, and, like today, many people believed for various reasons that it was better to not take the vaccine.

In the late 1800's, the LDS church's stance on vaccines for smallpox was unclear. Charles W. Penrose, editor of the Deseret News at the time, took a vocal stand against the vaccine, placing his faith entirely on priesthood blessings instead. He later became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, replacing Abraham O. Woodruff. Woodruff also refused to become vaccinated. He was made a member of the Twelve at the age of twenty-three, and died less than eight years later, in Mexico. Cause of death? Both he and his wife died of smallpox. Had Woodruff been vaccinated, there is a very good chance he would have become the president of the church. His suspicion of medicine, and his over-reliance on faith, resulted in his early death and changed the course of church history. Had he lived as long as Penrose lived, for example, he would have been prophet from 1945 to 1965--twenty years. George Albert Smith would never have been prophet. David O. McKay would have been the prophet for only five years instead of nineteen.

Joseph F. Smith noted in 1910 in the Improvement Era (the church magazine at the time) that his guardians had vaccinated him against small pox as a child, and "I am as satisfied as I can be that had it not been for vaccination, I would have had the disease in very bad form. I believe that our elders ought to be vaccinated. Now, I know that this will not be in accordance with some people's views. We receive word that many of our elders, who have failed to attend to this matter, are exposed to the disease and become affected with it; and recently a number of them have had to be taken to the pest-houses to be cared for."

By 1926 (and perhaps earlier) it was standard for LDS missionaries to be vaccinated for smallpox.

In fact, around that time the church supported compulsory (forced) vaccinations for smallpox. Utah, however, still refused to make a compulsory vaccination law until 1931, when they were forced to do so by the federal government.

I'm having difficulty tracking down a date for when the church officially started supporting compulsory smallpox vaccinations. If anyone can find more details, let me know. I should point out that Joseph F. Smith became the president of the church in 1901, but I am not certain when his views about vaccination were first publicized. I therefore do not know if Woodruff was ignoring advice from his superiors when he refused to receive the vaccination.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Having driven I-15 between South Jordan and Idaho Falls quite a bit these past two weeks, I've noticed a huge number of billboards. I almost think there are more billboards on I-15 in Northern Utah than there are on the entire stretch of I-80 (which runs almost 3000 miles).

In any case, a few things I noticed.

A huge number of billboards focusing on plastic surgery. Must be a Utah thing.

A billboard for doctors that referred to the children's song "Head, shoulders, knees and toes." Nothing like a silly children's song to give you confidence in your doctor...

A "Pass it On" billboard with a picture of Jackie Robinson and the statement, "Here's to you Mr. Robinson." Nothing like a reference to the Simon and Garfunkel song about an adulterous woman going after a young man to praise a pioneer in civil rights...I've seen that billboard before, and I really wish its owners would realize how stupid and offensive it is and take it down.

There were also quite a few clever billboards. Nothing, however, nearly as good as this:

That's just incredibly awesome. Although I've got to wonder if it negatively affects the amount of business those vending machines, etc. get.