International Church issues

October 17, 2004 | 96 comments
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Thank you, I feel honored to be a guest here! As a “foreigner”, I have been asked to add a Mormon international perspective. That means… non-American. Strange already that in our World Church the perspective continues to be U.S.-centered, with the rest of the world sensed as a large peripheral circle, referred to as the International Church.

Of course, there is no American Church nor any (inter)nationally identified Church. There only is the Church of Jesus Christ.

But we need to be realistic. Let’s turn the perspective around for starters. How do members abroad look at Utah?

When Mormons from faraway countries come to visit Salt Lake City for the first time, quite a few are surprised, not to say troubled, seeing the huge American flag in the very middle of Temple Square. For years, back home, they have been singing in their native languages:

High on the mountain top, a banner is unfurled.
Ye nations now look up; it waves to all the world.
In Deseret’s sweet, peaceful land, on Zion’s mount behold it stand!

They had some mental picture of this land and it’s banner. And then they get to Deseret and it’s the Stars and Stripes. It’s as if Catholics on pilgrimage to Rome were to discover a huge Italian flag flowing in front of the Vatican: unthinkable.

Our visitors are in for more such experiences: an American flag in front of nearly every chapel, a Pioneer parade celebrating the U.S. just as much as our Mormon heritage, signs of American patriotism deeply intertwined within local Mormon culture. They visit BYU where “the world is our campus” and a deafening American national anthem blares over the environment, each morning and each evening. Our visitors quickly learn to refrain from voicing their surprise after getting the repeated rebuttal: “Why are you so anti-American?”

No, they are not anti-American. It’s more that they thought Deseret and the Kingdom of God were beyond any national connection. They thought that in the U.S. a strict separation of church and state prevailed. And now they have to mentally adapt to a new reality where churches in America seem to have a peculiar, visible and heartfelt relation with the nation.

So I approach this blogging task with some caution lest any comparison would be viewed as anti-American. International issues are quickly misunderstood and polarized. If something international came up in previous T&S discussions, the comments had a tendency to turn into political skirmishes, sometimes with quick judgments based on ill-defined -isms. Only a spark was needed to get America defended – attacked or not.

My focus will be on thoughts and experiences from many years in faraway mission fields. But especially on trying to better understand the unique relations between Church members “abroad” and the heart of Mormondom in Utah.

But are international Church issues really on the mind of our commenters? How do they view those faraway members? Can they understand the surprise of Mormon visitors from abroad when they arrive for the first time in Utah?

And oh, yes, if I apply the wrong preposition, or use reprehensible words, or say unfitting things, please blame it on the language! I’m writing in a foreign tongue.

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96 Responses to International Church issues

  1. john fowles on October 17, 2004 at 8:13 pm

    Perhaps one reason that Americans are often stumped when members from outside the U.S. make such “observations” about American flags at churches or temples and the national anthem at BYU is that (by my estimation) Americans wouldn’t think any less of the Church in, say, England, if there were a huge English flag flying at the London temple, or in Germany if a huge German flag flew at the Freiberg temple etc. etc. In an odd way, seeing that would have the exact opposite reaction in an American, I would think. Whereas in a European, seeing an American flag flying at the Salt Lake temple invokes disappointment (disgust, disbelief?) or mixed feelings at best, if an American were to see another nation’s flag flying at their temple in their homeland, the American would have a comfortable reassurance that the Gospel is not tied to any national boundary and that it is truly international, hence there is no American flag flying at the London temple. This is referring to the international nature of the gospel and not to the random jingoism of an individual American Latter-day Saint, so anecdotal counter-arguments about the missionary who insists on a Fourth of July celebration in France just won’t cut it to justify non-American Latter-day Saints’ misgivings (as observed by Decoo) about American flags at churches. (By the way, if Europeans see flags flying at churches as somehow afoul of the separation of church and state, then the problem is that they have a misunderstanding about the American separation of church and state, which prohibits the gov’t from establishing any one religion but likewise prohibits the gov’t from interfering in the free exercise of religion–neither of which implicates a ban on churches waving their country’s flag.)

    Also, a world in which the Church didn’t fly its nation’s flag or somehow subdued instincts of national belonging and gratitude would be a rather Jehova’s-Witness-utopia, wouldn’t it?

  2. Keith on October 17, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    “But are international Church issues really on the mind of our commenters?”

    For me they are and I suspect they are for many commentators here, particularly those who have lived for some time (on a mission or in other circumstances) outside the U.S.. The balance of the Church is shifting from a US majority, to more outside. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

    I teach at BYU-Hawaii and am a Bishop of a student ward here. BYU has many who are concerned for the international Church, but here, probably more than in Provo, is where one can get a real feel for that Church. (Please note, this is not a criticism of BYU. It has a different purpose. In many instances, however, I’m convinced that the best thing for the international student saints is not to go to Provo and the relative affluence one finds there.) The University here is very involved with teaching and training those who will go back to their countries, and to help them be good saints without having to be American saints. There is tremendous, abiding support from the Brethren. Unfortunately, BYU-Hawaii is little known among the Saints of the Mainland, or worse, simply known for what it has been in the past.

    My ward of a little over a hundred people has folks from at least 22 different countries. It is hard, in a setting like this, to read passages like the following and not be moved: “And there shall be gathered unto [Zion] out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another “(D&C 45:69). Similarly, one is heartened to sing (or to hear Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of) the following hymn:

    “Arise, O God, and Shine”

    1. Arise, O God, and shine
    In all Thy saving might
    And prosper each design
    To spread Thy glorious light;
    Let healing streams of mercy flow
    That all the earth Thy truth may know.

    2. Bring distant nations near
    To sing Thy glorious praise;
    Let every people hear
    And learn Thy holy ways.
    Reign, mighty God, assert Thy cause
    And govern for Thy righteous laws.

    3. Put forth Thy glorious power
    That Gentiles all may see
    And earth present her store
    In converts born to Thee.
    O, Lord our God, Thy Church so bless
    And fill the world with righteousness.

    4. To God, the only Wise,
    The one immortal King,
    Let hallelujahs rise
    From every living thing;
    Let all that breathe, on every coast,
    Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

    So, I am at least one among many who will be very interested to see what you write.

  3. Bryce I on October 17, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    Speaking in gross generalities sure to offend someone, I am often surprised at how uncosmpolitan a place Utah County and BYU are given the high percentage of people living there who have served missions overseas. Somehow, the experience seems to be compartmentalized.

    And having had a (very) brief experience translating firesides at the MTC, I can say that there are definitely elements of talks given by GAs that don’t translate well to other languages and cultures.

  4. Bob Caswell on October 17, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    Professor Decoo,

    Your name sounds vaguely familiar. Four years of my childhood was in Brussels (around ’83-’87). I don’t know if my family name will sound familiar to you or not; but in any case, I very much look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

  5. john fowles on October 17, 2004 at 9:29 pm

    Professor Decoo,

    As a follow-up to my first comment, and also as a clarification, I think you should know that I am an avid internationalist and have lived for several years in four different European countries and have studied at universities in two of them. I just thought that if you and the rest of the participants here read my comment above with a knowledge of that background (which will hopefully preclude a summary dismissal as being some cowboy American isolationist, uncosmopolitan, compartmentalized BYU by-product) it would contribute to an understanding of what I am trying to say.

    Bryce I’s comment will help me further crystalize what I am suggesting here. When Bryce wrote And having had a (very) brief experience translating firesides at the MTC, I can say that there are definitely elements of talks given by GAs that don’t translate well to other languages and cultures, it causes me to reflect on the usefulness of such a criticism. So what if a talk by a GA is difficult to translate culturally into a different language? So would Farenheit 9/11, if we were honest with ourselves (even though we are not honest with ourselves, I suspect, and are willing to say that Moore’s movie very easily translates into all other cultures, which as supporters of the film would likely argue, all share the same view as that movie). Language, as a vector of communication, is fundamentally tied to the culture that has spawned it (I have considerable experience with translation and have even published literary and legal translations, as well as ample experience with live interpretation). So my question is, what is the utility of Decoo’s “observations” about how the Church in the U.S. embraces American patriotism (in the same way that the Church encourages Saints in other countries to adopt a patriotic attitude to their own countries and cultures as well–if those Saints aren’t doing that because it is taboo to do so in those cultures for reasons stemming from those countries’ own histories, is that really a complaint to be laid at the feet of the U.S. branch of this international Church?).

    Perhaps such observations as Decoo’s stem from a fundamentally different perspective of what the political international community is. Perhaps those Saints outside the U.S. truly view the international community as something that transcends nation states. And perhaps U.S. Latter-day Saints generally take a more American view of that (not necessarily a leftwing or rightwing view) in which the international community is still basically a group of sovereign nation states–the nation state is still the real entity even in international relations. If that is the case, then it would explain why the Church encourages nation-state-oriented patriotism in the Saints in their respective countries and not a flagless, sceptic conception of the separation of church and state.

  6. XON on October 17, 2004 at 9:34 pm

    I read your post with a growing sense of interest. I have, for a long time now, wondered what is it that keeps the powerful truth of the Gospel from overwhelming the whole world in a time limited only by the mechanical restrictions of the media. While I’m not naive enough to assert that there is only one, or even few reasons, I do suspect that the alloying of americanism and the Gospel might be at least a contributory factor. I will be interested to see if your observations can shed any light on this prejudice of mine. Welcome.

  7. Jack on October 17, 2004 at 9:36 pm

    Bro. Decoo,

    I would be intersted in hearing your thoughts on the relationship between the expansion of democratic ideals and the expansion of the Kingdom. I think most Americans feel that the two are organically linked in that the free exercise of religion cannot thrive without a particular set of political ideals – i.e. those principles upon which the American Constitution and Declaration of Independence are founded. In my opinion most American LDS consider it a moral imperitive to safegaurd those principles in order to insure the free exercise of their religion (and that of others as well). I for one, feel a little sinking in my heart when I sense disdain on the part of our foreign (and some of our american!) friends for the support of such ideals, even if it has the appearance of being a little “americana”.

  8. Rosalynde Welch on October 17, 2004 at 9:53 pm

    Welcome! I look forward to your observations.

    I think the issues you raise take on special interest when viewed historically: in the present day, when America functions internationally as a “core” of military and cultural power (speaking descriptively and not triumphally here), the fusion of Americanism and Mormonism can be particularly offensive to non-Americans. But when the gospel was restored, America was still in many senses “peripheral” to the cultural and political core of Europe–thus the call to “gather to Zion” had a much different political valence than it does today. I once wrote up a little paper looking at the letters of the twelve from their (1840s ?) mission in England and the postcolonial themes (yes, it was in a seminar on postcolonialism) therein.

  9. Jack on October 17, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    “They had some mental picture of this land and it’s banner. And then they get to Deseret and it’s the Stars and Stripes. It’s as if Catholics on pilgrimage to Rome were to discover a huge Italian flag flowing in front of the Vatican: unthinkable.”

    I’ve already beat the heck out myself after the manner of Jim Carrey for what I’m about to say, so please try not to be too offended.

    The Catholic Church predates Italy’s current political identity, whereas the establishment of the U.S. predates that of the LDS Church and indeed prepared the way for the restoration. We can conjecture the possible results of alternative histories until the cows come home, but all things considered it seems evident to me that without the strength of the U.S. as a forerunner, the Church would not have thrived and grown into an international entity.

    Am I naive?

  10. Wilfried on October 17, 2004 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you for the interest already expressed in my post. I see several questions and comments asking me to respond or clarify. I’ll try to answer one by one. So here is a first.

    John mentioned: “The Church encourages nation-state-oriented patriotism in the Saints in their respective countries and not a flagless, sceptic conception of the separation of church and state.”

    I cannot speak for all countries of course, but I do not have the impression that the Church encourages such patriotism elsewhere in the same way as in the US. First of all, the term “patriotism” does not always have a positive ring abroad. Think of smaller countries, formerly invaded or still overwhelmed economically or culturally by big “patriotic” neighbors. Second, people who feel more like world citizens and true internationalists will consider patriotic allegiances more as old fashioned traditions that have all too often been feeding ill feelings between countries and even wars. Third, in countries where the government considers the Mormon Church a cult and raises all kinds of obstacles to its presence, the members will feel little patriotism towards their country (their only national pride may show during the Olympics or at an international soccer game; but never to raise a national flag in front of their chapel.)

  11. Jim F. on October 17, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    John Fowles: even though we are not honest with ourselves, I suspect, and are willing to say that Moore’s movie very easily translates into all other cultures, which as supporters of the film would likely argue, all share the same view as that movie Where did that come from?!

    Jack, you’re not naive, but you’ve not really addressed Professor Decoo’s question.: Why should there be such a connection between the US and the Church?

  12. Jonathan Green on October 17, 2004 at 11:18 pm

    True, Jack. If the Gospel had been restored somewhere in Europe, they probably would have killed the prophet and driven the saints out of the country. Wait a second…

    Seriously, we have to keep in mind that church-state relations in this country have been pretty good, on the whole. Ours were about the worst of the lot, but that was all in the 19th century, and since then there hasn’t been much to make us question our alignment of national and religious loyalties. Pro-American, pro-Mormon, no problem. But in many other countries, church-state relations (for many or all churches) have been exceptionally rocky for a long time, so that it would seem bizarre to include the national anthem in the hymn book. When someone from there visits here, the religious patriotism seems alien to them.

    As for the utility John Fowles is looking for, I think it’s important for American members of an international church to get some sense of how things might come across differently in Potsdam than in Provo. We might just think twice about some of the things we take for granted. That’s one reason I’m looking forward to the rest of Wilfried Decoo’s posts.

  13. Jack on October 18, 2004 at 12:39 am

    Jim, I was too vague. I think many American LDS view the U.S. as the womb of the Church and therefore as an extention of the Kingdom (bear with me!), at least when considering the foundational principles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Of course, as Jonathan points out, we had a rocky beginning, but on the whole the Church has found sufficient saftey within the boundries of the American political system to thrive and flurish. Could this have happened anywhere else? I think it’s possible that it could have, but that’s not the way that the events played out as the Lord prepared the way for the restoration. I think the Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord’s involvement was causal in bringing about the establishment of this country as part of the restoration. (at least to those of us who believe the BoM to be an historical document) Now my intent is not to impune other countries or cultures for not being the particular seed bed out of which the initial restoration might have grown. Even American LDS have to come to grips with the fact that the U.S. (IMO) was prepared as a forerunner to the restoration and therefore is justified in it’s continuance only as it furthers the purposes of the Kingdom. (I shake in my boots at that thought) But even so, I think members – in the U.S. particularly – are duty bound to uphold those ideals that have protected the free exercise of religion in this country or anywhere else, which duty, in my opinion, is inextricably connected with defending the Kingdom. So when I see the Stars and Stripes, I see an emblem of those ideals for which many fought and bled that enable me to worship how where or what I may.

  14. Mike Clark on October 18, 2004 at 1:09 am

    Having lived outside the US, in Canada, Great Britain, and Germany (both on mission and in the military), I can say that what I was somewhat surprised about at first was the lack of national flags flying everywhere (except at govt locations), like they fly here in the states. I don’t remember British or German national flags flying in front of ANYWHERE except govt buildings. The Canadians (in Toronto ca 1967-69) seemed to have more of a US take on this matter by flying the national flag in the schools, and even having the flag in each classroom, like it has been in US schools. I don’t know if Canadian LDS churches had flags flying or displayed, but I do know that the German and English LDS churches did not — because in general it was not customary to fly or display the national flag.

    In vast contract to this, in the US, the flag flies on government property, of course, but also at schools, churches, in the meeting halls of private clubs, private firms, and in front of a lot of private homes. Before joining the LDS Church I attended various protestant churches and recall seeing the US national flag either flying outside the church or inside flanking the pulpit in many cases.

    This flag display thing is not an LDS religious thing, it is a US cultural thing. I gather in other countries, the flag flies over government property as a form of declaration of ownership, not as a mere patriotic display.

  15. Marc D. on October 18, 2004 at 3:54 am

    As a fellow countryman of Wilfried I like to add some comments.
    When American missionaries come to Europe most of them seem to appreciate the European culture and have a lot of love for the people. So when American missionaries taught me the gospel I didn’t feel a cultural difference because we were talking about all of us being brothers and sisters.
    So when you go to Utah for the first time you kind of expect to find this same feeling among all of the saints.
    When you see all of these American flags it is strange, as Mike said we are not used to that over here.
    I was in Salt Lake for general conference in 1991 when the first war with Iraq was going on and I was amazed to see so many young priesthoodholders going to conference in military uniform. I thought well why are you going to church dressed like that?
    When I attended a concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir they sang ‘God bless America’. I thought sure, why not? But shouldn’t He bless all the nations of the world?
    This next comment is probably going to get me in trouble again but this is how I feel about it.
    When President Hinckley defended the American Policy in Iraq in his conference talk I did not see him as the President of the Church but as somebody who was defending his country and the things he believes in.
    A couple of years ago a GA gave the closing prayer in general conference. I don’t know if there was a drought going on in Utah or that this good brother was serving in some African country but he prayed for rain.
    At this time in Europe there were a lot of floods going on especially in Germany.
    I did not say ‘amen’ to that prayer and I don’t think the German saints did.
    Yes, we are a worldwide church but sometimes we seem to forget that.

  16. Quinn McCoy on October 18, 2004 at 4:57 am

    Since i am an american, and i currently live in portugal (not in the military, i’m a graduate student here, and for anyone asking, yes portugal is in europe, and they don’t speak spanish here, i have noticed that many, even educated, dont have a clue about what and where portugal is), i have realized that many americans, like myself, still don’t understand the feelings that others have about their countries, nor the feelings that some have towards the US. We, as americans, can’t untangle ourselves from are US background, and thus our vision is always somewhat, i wouldnt say distorted, but not fully aligned with what others might think about us. But what do i know?

  17. Rob Briggs on October 18, 2004 at 5:23 am

    “. . .we had a rocky beginning, but on the whole the Church has found sufficient saftey within the boundries of the American political system to thrive and flurish. Could this have happened anywhere else? I think it’s possible that it could have, but that’s not the way that the events played out as the Lord prepared the way for the restoration. I think the Book of Mormon makes it clear that the Lord’s involvement was causal in bringing about the establishment of this country as part of the restoration.”

    I have a different take on the Mormon experience in America. The 19th-century American reception to Mormonism was hostile in the extreme. Despite the American ideal of religious freedom & tolerance, there was such a perception of radical difference as to make tolerance impossible for many. Mormons deaths directly or indirectly resulting from religious persecution were higher in the US than any other conntry & possibly higher than in all other countries. The virulence of anti-Mormon prejudice from 1850 to ~ 1925 is still astonishing. It took a hundred years for the common
    American perception of Mormons to shift from “despised” to “despised but tolerated.” Of course things are now “better” but there is still a latent American anti-Mormonism. Google-search for “hate Mormon” for an introductory course.

    All the while things were different in Europe. Throughout the 19th century, Europe, not America, was the seedbed of Mormonism. That dynamic shifted in the mid- to late 20th to Latin America & Asia. I suspect that if we take a historical view of the growth of Mormonism in America it has been primarily due to (1) emigration of converts to the US & (2) population expansion from US Mormons’ relatively high birth rate. As a source of Mormon population growth in the US, convert baptisms have been, I suspect, a distant third.

    For an alternative history of Mormonism, consider Canada, Great Britian or possibly Australia. I think its reception in these countries would have been as good or better than its reception in 19th-century America.

    To be Mormon in 19th-century America was no box of chocolates.

  18. ken on October 18, 2004 at 7:49 am

    This comment is for Mark D.
    I had to laugh out loud at your comment about someone in general conference praying for rain and you not understanding it.
    You see I was stationed in Germany in the army and I married a beautiful German girl 39 years ago.
    She was from Pforzheim in southern Germany (the Black forest). It seemed to me that it rained all the time there and we frequently discussed this because I come from dry old Arizona. I remember telling her on one occasion that people in Arizona never even had umbrellas because we loved the rain so much, and when it did rain, we would dance in the streets. Well I dont think she bought that for a minute. She would say people couldn’t possibly like the rain that much.
    Well after living in Southern Arizona for 35 years, she also prays for rain.

  19. Jack on October 18, 2004 at 8:17 am

    Rob, I agree that it was no box of chocolates. But, I disagree that Europe was the seedbed in the sense that the Church had a good chance of growing to maturity there. If it were not for the dream of pursuing a new and improved life temporally as well as spiritually, I don’t think the Church would have seen the kind of mass conversion in England that it did. IMO those people were primed because of their economic conditions to seek something new and therefore were open to radical change. No doubt, many were dissapointed by the difficulties that lay ahead as they made the transition to the new world, but nevertheless persisted because of the fire of spiritual conversion. Even so, without the dream of finding a new life as Ruth of old, I don’t think they would have started forward with enough momentum to see it through – regardless of spiritual conversion. This is not meant to be a commentary on the character of the British Saints, whom I salute because of their incredible sacrifice, but on humanity as a whole. It’s right that we should seek to improve our lot in a total sense, which brings me to the next point. I think members in the U.S. are sometimes not as sensitive as they should be to the sacrifice required by our foreign brothers and sisters who do not, by and large, have the same kind of cultural support in their religious pursuits as we do. I think we need to bear in mind that we here in the U.S. really have it quite easy by comparison and stop belly-aching over having to visit 3-4 families per month in order to service the typical U.S. ward. I once heard a brother from Ireland relating some experiences about home teaching. He and his companion had 17 families whom they never failed to visit each month in their ward (branch?) in Ireland. I’ve also heard some statistics which indicate that the Church spends more per capita on welfare along the Wasatch Front than in Eastern Europe. Ghastly! (someone correct me if I’m wrong – this was about five years ago) There are many other examples of this dichotomy – we can do better!

  20. Wilfried on October 18, 2004 at 8:32 am

    Ken, I feel I need to say a word in defense of Mark’s comment. No need to laugh because of what he said. His comments express a deep concern for how certain things can be misunderstood.

    There is a difference between your wife living in Arizona and praying for rain, and such a prayer heard all over the world through satellite transmission. Of course, you would expect people in rain-soaked Germany or inundated Haiti to understand the GA is talking about Utah, but not all members listening to General Conference have that perception at that moment. Many have no idea what the weather is like in Utah. They listen to GC as a world conference with timely messages for the world.

  21. Ronan James Head on October 18, 2004 at 9:35 am

    I am positively bursting here, so I will do my best not to erupt. Now, I love the Church and try hard to forgive it of its idiosyncrasies. The calling of Elder Uchtdorf was an important step in moving away from the Church’s American bias. Now, I am not calling for the Church to completely shed its American-ness as that would ignore its roots within the American experience, but….

    I’m British and grew up in Britain. Let me agree that in my experience the Church does little to promote patriotism in its foreign membership. There’s nothing insidious going on, but it is a fact. I can only speak from the perspective of my own life: nothing at Church made me feel “British”, only “Mormon”. If anything I was left feeling a little “American”. I well remember when I first felt “patriotic”. As a Scout (at a non-LDS troop), every year we used to celebrate St. George’s Day (England’s national Saint) at the local Anglican cathedral. There we sang all the patriotic songs one could want and my heart would burst with pride. And of course we sang those songs – we were at the Church of ENGLAND! I have only heard the national anthem sung at a British Ward once – the Star Spangled Banner the Sunday after 9/11!!! Now, no-one from Salt Lake is telling foreign members how to approach their patriotism, but the “America is best” attitude, whether explicit or not, pervades the church. That is just a fact.

    About a year ago there was a painting in the Ensign of the Founding Fathers framing the Constitution with tears rolling down their cheeks. Quite apart from it being a rubbish painting, I thought it was disappointing. I’d be happy for the Ensign to print it IF we could expect a picture of the signing of the Magna Carta, or the declaration of independence of any number of other states. But we won’t. So what is the message: “America is best”.

    Now at this stage many Americans turn to their trump card: America is the promised land, no? So I will refrain from my blasphemy now and bow humbly before the glory and righteousness of the US of A. Forgive my colonial rumblings….

  22. Kim Siever on October 18, 2004 at 9:39 am

    Mike Clark,

    I have been in many Canadian classrooms, and I have never seen a Canadian flag flown in a classroom. I started school about 10 years after you were there. Most Canadian churches do not fly the national flag, but the Church has this notion that the national flag must be flown (whether in the United States or elsewhere), so our church is one of the very few churches in Canada that flies the national flag.

    Very few Canadians fly the national flag at their homes. In fact, I would be willing to go as far as saying more American flags are flown at private residences in Canada than Canadian flags are.

  23. cje on October 18, 2004 at 10:42 am

    Ronan

    You’re not the colonial you’re the colonist and shoud be bloody proud of that fact. God Bless the Queen ;-)

    I’m an expat Brit living in the usa and your comments are right on–thanks.

    cje

  24. john fowles on October 18, 2004 at 10:43 am

    Marc D. wrote, A couple of years ago a GA gave the closing prayer in general conference. I don’t know if there was a drought going on in Utah or that this good brother was serving in some African country but he prayed for rain.
    At this time in Europe there were a lot of floods going on especially in Germany.
    I did not say ‘amen’ to that prayer and I don’t think the German saints did.
    Yes, we are a worldwide church but sometimes we seem to forget that.

    This is the type of thing that I cannot understand. Even though I live in the US right now, I would be more than happy to pray for Saints in e.g. Haiti in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes. Why wouldn’t a Belgian Saint be willing to add his amen to a prayer to break the devastating drought in Utah? I was living and working in Hamburg Germany at the time Marc D. is referring to and would have had no problem praying for the Saints in Utah to have relief from their drought, or for Saints in Belgium if they were having some kind of natural disaster. If some old man from Utah wants to take the opportunity in GC to invoke the faith of the entire Church to break a region-specific drought (the drought is afflicting Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California–an area larger than Western Europe), then why in the world begrudge him that desire and withhold your amen? Marc D., if a couple of dykes in your neighboring Holland should break, should I employ your same logic and withhold my amen (and thus my faith on behalf of those Dutch Saints) if I hear a prayer in Church for their benefit?

    Ronan, I know you and understand your comment. I would just point out that I never took offense at singing some of the British specific national songs at Church. In fact, I loved it. I’m sorry for the “American bias” of the Church, as you have phrased it. I can’t do anything to change it except point out that it is very natural considering the history of the Church and its American origins. I was a little startled by the vehemence of your opinion, however, especially considering the pride many Latter-day Saints have in their British origins and ancestry.

    When I personally am in Europe, I don’t try to push Americanisms on my fellow Saints at all and usually just sit by without comment when America-bashing starts up. I do reflect on why the Saints can’t just chill out about it and enjoy the gospel without having a chip on their shoulder that it was restored in the US and not England or Germany (or Belgium).

  25. Jordan Fowles on October 18, 2004 at 10:59 am

    John-

    je suis d’accord.

  26. Jim F. on October 18, 2004 at 11:08 am

    John Fowles: Isn’t the point that it would be unusual for such a prayer for events in Haiti or Belgium to happen in General Conference? If it would be unusual, then we continue to give the impression that we are, first of all, a Utah or American Church. Of course a Belgian or other saint can add an “amen” to a prayer for relief from the drought in Utah, but he can reasonably expect also to hear similar prayers for other places where the saints dwell. If he doesn’t, then it is not odd for him to conclude that the place prayed for is special in the eyes of those offering the prayers.

    What evidence do you have that European or other saints feeling that the culture of the Church sometimes excludes them means that they have a chip on their shoulder about the Gospel being restored in the US rather than in their country? You seem to me to impute motives to them that goes beyond the evidence, at least the evidence we see on this thread.

  27. Justin H. on October 18, 2004 at 11:33 am

    John: To second Jim’s comment, presumably the drought in question was also devastating to northern Mexico (in addition to the U.S. states you mention)…

  28. Bob Caswell on October 18, 2004 at 11:36 am

    John Fowles,

    Another aspect of this, which hasn’t quite been mentioned is that, generally speaking (from my own experience), when prayers are offered in General Conference for events in Utah, the prayers rarely include any reference to Utah. It can be very confusing. “We ask thee for rain” would sound so much better if worded more like this: “we ask thee for rain in Utah”. Only specifying the region when it’s not your own is a pretty big symptom of what many might refer to as egocentrism.

  29. Marc D. on October 18, 2004 at 11:56 am

    john fowles wrote:
    ‘This is the type of thing that I cannot understand. Even though I live in the US right now, I would be more than happy to pray for Saints in e.g. Haiti in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes. Why wouldn’t a Belgian Saint be willing to add his amen to a prayer to break the devastating drought in Utah? I was living and working in Hamburg Germany at the time Marc D. is referring to and would have had no problem praying for the Saints in Utah to have relief from their drought, or for Saints in Belgium if they were having some kind of natural disaster’

    Actually I was kind of joking about this incident but since you seem to be all so very serious people or maybe my strange sense of humour got me in to problems again I like to react to your comments.
    Of course I would be more than willing to pray for rain in Utah but I’ve learned that if we say a prayer in Church we pray not only for ourselves but for the people in the branch. I thought that if we pray in general conference we would pray for the membership worldwide and not just in Utah.
    I heard our leaders preach to us that we need to be more specific in our prayers. If this GA would have been more specific in his prayer he could have said: stop the rain in Germany and send it to Utah.

  30. Mark B on October 18, 2004 at 11:56 am

    I remember my disappointment when a general authority spoke with gratitude of the very small loss of life in the war of George Bush the Elder. I don’t imagine that the thousands of Iraqis who lost sons and husbands and fathers in that war felt that the loss of life was small.

    I realize that there aren’t many Iraqi saints, but I don’t think that excludes them from being my brothers, and their widows and fatherless children suffer the loss of their loved ones just as deeply as American widows and orphans.

    I’m all for cutting down the flagpoles at our meetinghouses (luckily, there’s no room in New York City for flagpoles at our buildings), or else taking down the US flags and replacing them with the ensign that Isaiah prophesied would be raised.

    As John Taylor said “The Kingdom of God or nothing.”

  31. Bob Caswell on October 18, 2004 at 11:57 am

    “…what many might refer to as egocentrism.”

    Whoops! I actually wanted to ethnocentrism. But you probably got my point either way…

  32. Sean Harrison on October 18, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    Well Wilford you certainly have stirred up a hornets nest here. First as matter of establishing some perceived credibility (or the lack thereof) let me say that my only experience abroad is two years in Chile as a missionary and extensive but brief business trips to Europe and Asia.

    Secondly, let me state clearly that I fail completely in my attempts to understand the anathema with which intellectuals view American Patriotism. I buy in completely to De Tocqueville’s assertion that America’s greatness stems from her goodness. This observation and his stern warning that followed it can be corroborated scripturally in Mosiah 29.

    Thirdly, While America is a flawed nation led by flawed leaders and supported by a flawed populace, that is universally true (see The Fall). Has America made blunders? Without question. Is America nonetheless as a nation and a people fundamentally dedicated to global principles of freedom, liberty and justice? Indisputably.

    Fourthly, How do my (speaking as an American and a Mormon) manifestations of love of country reflect negatively on you or your country? If I were to demean you, your family, your culture, your government, or any of the institutions you esteem I could understand your anger. But I fail to grasp how my support and love of that which I hold dear bears negatively on that which you do (or do not as the case may be).

    Finally, let me reduce my final arguement to one of LDS religiosity and culture and further circumbscribe it within the US. While this potentially jeopardizes my position by defining it nationally, I will risk the stigma.

    There is a fairly common antipathy among American Mormons toward Utah Mormons. My daughter is a junior and a Utah Mormon at BYU and regularly is accosted with perhaps the most laughably ironic of all statements, “I hate Utah Mormons, they are so prejudiced”.

    And so, international saints are displeased with the americanism of American saints, American saints are offended by Utah saints, Utah county saints are put off by Salt Lake saints and we in Salt Lake stand against the world (only kidding…) It seems to me that we ought to drop our antipathy toward each other and instead view ourselves and others as what we are, products of diverse cultures welded together by eternal truths that now and ultimately transend differences.

  33. Keith on October 18, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    “I remember my disappointment when a general authority spoke with gratitude of the very small loss of life in the war of George Bush the Elder. I don’t imagine that the thousands of Iraqis who lost sons and husbands and fathers in that war felt that the loss of life was small.”

    On the other hand, I remember specifically a regional conference we had the day the ground war started in the first Gulf War. One General Authority talked about the need to stop evil, just as we had stopped Hitler in WWII. Elder Maxwell spoke with a slightly different attitude, urging us to pray and reminding us to remember that the Iraqis were also children of Abraham.

    It is unfortunate that the “America is best” attitude keeps being perpetuated. A Promised Land for restoring the gospel, sure–as well as a base from which to go to all the world. But we can’t forget (as we probably do) the ways the gospel simply runs counter to most of mainstream culture. One danger here is that US Staints may be less aware of that fact and drift right along with it. Saints in other places may notice more a distinct difference between their life in the Church and values of the surrounding culture–something they can help teach the US Saints (though perhaps with limited success since the Brethren have been saying this for some time).

    I really think there is a greater awareness of the International Church that’s been developing for some time. Perhaps the discourse hasn’t been as sensitive to an international audience as it might be, but that may simply take time, experience, and imagination. Granted that many talks use examples that make most sense to an American audience, but I think there is a good-faith effort to be better in this area. Notice how both Elder Oaks and Holland (after being sent to live for a time in Chile and the Phillipines) have spoken of these places in their talks. Elder Perry will be living in Europe for awhile. These sorts of things help. The video “Ensign to the Nations” was made at a time when great focus was placed on the pioneer activities in the U.S. I remember reading that President Hinckley said he was slightly dissapointed that the Saints in even more places were not represented.

    By the way, one of the most interesting articles on this is Arthur King’s “Patriotism”. It usually does a good job of making American saints a little unsettled, just as Wilfried has done here, or as Spencer W. Kimball did in his “The False God’s We Worship”–a message that showed up in the June 76 Ensign just in time to temper our overconfident patriotism.

  34. john fowles on October 18, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Marc D. wrote, If this GA would have been more specific in his prayer he could have said: stop the rain in Germany and send it to Utah.

    Excellent! That would have been an ideal solution. Thanks.

  35. Wilfried on October 18, 2004 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks for all the comments! Vivid and engaged!

    Sean Harrison’s comment (nr 34), however, went into the direction I feared – but it was more a response to previous comments, not to my post.

    Speaking about the saints from abroad who visit Utah I said:

    “No, they are not anti-American. It’s more that they thought Deseret and the Kingdom of God were beyond any national connection. They thought that in the U.S. a strict separation of church and state prevailed. And now they have to mentally adapt to a new reality where churches in America seem to have a peculiar, visible and heartfelt relation with the nation.

    “So I approach this blogging task with some caution lest any comparison would be viewed as anti-American. International issues are quickly misunderstood and polarized. If something international came up in previous T&S discussions, the comments had a tendency to turn into political skirmishes, sometimes with quick judgments based on ill-defined -isms. Only a spark was needed to get America defended – attacked or not.”

    That being said as a reminder, I concur with Sean’s conclusion: “… view ourselves and others as what we are, products of diverse cultures welded together by eternal truths that now and ultimately transend differences.”

  36. Russell Arben Fox on October 18, 2004 at 1:39 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think that patriotism–or, better put, cultural, civic, or national affection–is an important virtue, though one that is often misunderstood or misused. I have no particular argument for or against flags being flown at church buildings, or national anthems being played at church schools; those are just means of identifying, marking, and/or expressing one’s affections and attachments, and depending on the context such means may be more distracting than they’re worth. (Flags, for example, as Mike Clark noted, operate differently as signifiers in different places, sometimes expressing cultural devotion, sometimes political allegiance, sometimes both.) So the ways in which patriotism is melded with contemporary Mormon institutions and habits is something which should be regularly critiqued and disputed, as Wilfried and others have done. But should that critique suggest that the church membership ought to embrace a cosmopolitan and globalist ethic, in which the particularities of cultural, civic, or national membership are minimized or kept separate from a presumably universal faith, then I’d have to disagree. For better or worse, Mormonism does not claim to take an acultural, apolitical (or anti-cultural, anti-political) stance in the world; perhaps it once did, but even that is debatable. If anything, I think our church needs to do much more to develop deeper ties in the specifics of the peoples of the world: I don’t see any reason not to be proud of being (and sensitive to the particular risks of being) an “American Mormon,” insofar as the institutional church allows/encourages there to be German Mormons, Korean Mormons, Mexican Mormons, etc.

    In short, I agree with those who worry about the (often unthinkingly narrow-minded, in my view) “Americanness” of Mormon rhetoric and institutions, but not because I think “-nesses” need to be purged in the name of a greater Mormon whole. I think we need more Mormonisms, not just one.

  37. J. Stapley on October 18, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    I think that there is some criticism to be bourn on all sides. I am away from my library, so I won’t have the reference for several hours (if any one is interested), but Joseph Smith Jr. was not equivocal in his support of the US government as an archetype, stating (paraphrased) that the US constitution was a palladium of righteousness and that it would be adopted about throughout World. Then there is the whole Zion and New Jerusalem thing. I don’t want to justify any ethnocentrism, but there has to be a recognition of the primacy that the US government played in the roll of the Kingdom (This despite the atrocities dealt by its hand) and of the momentum that a hundred years of emigration has on a collective psyche.

    On the other hand, just as in the days of the US government sponsored persecution of the Saints, the US has issues. It is not Zion and is not the seat of New Jerusalem. Moreover, do we not believe that God raises up all governments?

    I had a French girlfriend that happened to visit me in the States during the 4th of July and was appalled that anyone would put the flag out at their residence. Whereas here it is a symbol of virtue, in France it is a symbol of wacky nationalism.

    I personally cringe when missionaries try to export culture and I sorrow that there is not better communication and understanding between all the peoples of the church (and world for that matter). But the onus of empathy is not to the Americans alone. Can the missionaries realize that they don’t have to a Thanksgiving Ward Party in Hong Kong? Can the French saints recognize that the US saints have a disparate culture in which raising the US flag means something different to them? And just as American missionaries need patience for the church to start “working� abroad, those abroad need patience for the Americans to learn and grow.

    And as an alumnus of the Mission Belge de Bruxelles (albeit a pure and unadulterated francophone incarnation), I welcome you Sir.

  38. Mark B on October 18, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Moreover, do we not believe that God raises up all governments?

    No.

  39. J. Stapley on October 18, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    Mark B.:
    I don’t disagree. Curiously, do we believe he has raised up any?

  40. Kim on October 18, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    It’s been interesting to read the comments on this thread. I am a native Finn and have lived in Finland all my 26 years (the only exception is my mission to Great Britain). The church here is perceived as very American, due perhaps largely to most missionaries in the Finland Helsinki Mission being from the US. However, lately the amount of native Finnish missionaries (and also Swedish missionaries) has been on the rise. I think this is great, and it will give people a feel of the church also being truly Finnish, while at the same time having ties to the US.

    I think the church is making a lot of progress in internationalizing itself. Some things of course still need to be improved. For example, I start boiling whenever I hear a GA in some satellite broadcast using the dichotomy of Zion vs. the mission field, as in “I grew up in the mission field.” :) But I guess these things just take time.

  41. Mark B on October 18, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    J. Stapley,

    Other than the theocratic governments in the Old Testament or Book of Mormon? I don’t believe so.

    I read the Doctrine and Covenants to say that He raised up wise men, who then established the U.S. constititution, but that puts Him at one remove from raising up the government. And a long, long way from electing or appointing the people who upon commencing their terms of office swear to uphold and defend the constitution.

  42. Ronan James Head on October 18, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    I have nothing against American Saints being as hyper-patriotic as they want (or not). I just wish the institutional church was a little more sensitive. So fly as many flags as you want outside of your ward-house, but at Temple Square – the home of world Mormonism – should we not gather, as Wilfried suggested, under the banner of Zion? And Zion, though its center is to be on the American continent, is not synonymous with the state that currently occupies part of the land. Sorry, guys.

    We can only speak from experience. From mine, non-American Saints are made to feel inferior. I don’t think it’s deliberate, just a byproduct of cultural and historical dominance. This will have to change for the Church to fulfill it’s mission. Less and less people in the world are in awe of the US (unlike my parents who joined the Church in England in the 50s), and any church perceived as being American is going to have a tough time.

  43. J. Stapley on October 18, 2004 at 6:09 pm

    Mark B.
    I concur. This is certainly in line with DC 101:77. I have to admit I am still pondering the meaning of “WE believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man� (DC 134).

  44. Greg on October 18, 2004 at 6:30 pm

    Russell said: In short, I agree with those who worry about the (often unthinkingly narrow-minded, in my view) “Americanness� of Mormon rhetoric and institutions, but not because I think “-nesses� need to be purged in the name of a greater Mormon whole. I think we need more Mormonisms, not just one.
    ___

    But isn’t this the great fear among us and our leaders? If not, why is there always testimony given about how great it is that “the church is the same all over the world”? And our policies certainly appear to have the intent of being vigilant against the development of many Mormonisms. To me, the question is how do you eliminate the conflation of American culture with the Church, while still cultivating a Mormon culture that provides a modicum of uniformity.

  45. ed on October 18, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    Speaking of exporting Utah mormon culture to the rest of the world, here’s a brief story from this week’s “Church News.”

    ABOBO, Ivory Coast — Priesthood members of the Church are now wearing white shirts and ties to Church, thanks to members in the Asheville North Carolina Stake. Abobo Ivory Coast Stake President Kalogo Norbert Ounleu said the 58 used white shirts and ties, which arrived here Sept. 30, will be distributed to needy members and African missionaries having trouble acquiring necessary clothes to begin their missions.
    The Asheville stake found out about the need through correspondence sent by Sister Linda Cooper, who is from North Carolina and who is serving a mission in Ivory Coast with her husband, Elder Bradley Cooper. In an e-mail sent the Church News by Elder and Sister Cooper, they wrote: “In buildings that housed more than one ward, we . . . noticed men leaving Church exchanging their white shirts with someone coming to Church.”

  46. Jack on October 19, 2004 at 12:17 am

    “…I concur with Sean’s conclusion: ‘… view ourselves and others as what we are, products of diverse cultures welded together by eternal truths that now and ultimately transcend differences.’ ”

    I agree.

    However, I hope that none will take offense if I don’t retire the Colors.

  47. Larry on October 19, 2004 at 2:08 am

    One of the features of Americans that I have always loved is their patriotism and enthusiasm for their country – as a people. One of the things I like least about some Americans is their arrogance. There is not a more benevolent, caring people I can think of anywhere. They have a culture that is deeply rooted in their Constitution which has been the model for so many other constitutions. Their patriotic music is rich and stirring. As a nation they are the envy of the world.
    The Church needed to be founded there, persecuted, and sent into the wilderness as part of the purifying process. Who were those who participated? They were those from other nations who hearing the Gospel responded with joy. Their experiences were not easy nor their burdens light.
    As the Church matured and became better able to communicate with the “world” and show itself worthy to stand intellectually, it needed the U.S. Constitution for a safeguard to be able to appeal to reasonable people.
    There is much to celebrate for American members of the Church. As one who hales from Canada I have learned to appreciate my country more because of the example set by the Americans. I am deeply moved by both national anthems. I came to appreciate the history of my country, study the politics and recognize correct principles
    I love Great Britain. I am eternally grateful for the Magna Carta, The Petition of Rights, the Bill of Rights, the history and the legal genius of British Common Law which laid the groundwork for the Canadian and U.S. legal systems.
    As a missionary in England I learned that there is more nationalism when it comes to the Queen and to British sovereignty than almost anywhere in the world. However, they and other nations display it differently than Americans do. Viva la difference!
    So when General Conference is held in Salt Lake City I am not surprised when prayers are said with respect to local issues. I would be flabbergasted if at Regional Conferences in other parts of the world reference was made to U.S. issues like weather and did not reflect local issues..
    The prayer that was offered in General Conference re. the drought excluded Canada which was severely hit – ask Kim. The fact that it was not mentioned was not the fault of the Church – it was probably a lack of knowledge on the part of the GA praying. I doubt that his prayer would have had any serious impact on the situation anyway. It required the fasting and praying of the local saints. Now the golfers are regretting that their prayers were so readily answered.
    Having said all that let me broach one more subject re: governments. Read Orson F Whitney’s “Elias, An Epic of the Ages” especially Canto IV. This would make for an interesting blog in this group.

  48. Tom Manney on October 19, 2004 at 6:32 am

    Speaking as an American with an internationalist bent, I would submit that patriotism tends toward pridefulness and is excessive in our country. There is nothing wrong with being grateful for what your country has given you — and it is indisputable that America’s history, ideals, and prosperity have blessed us richly — but there is great danger in leaping to the conclusion that being American makes you more fortunate than people in other nations because it fails to recognize how egotistical and, therefore, distorted that assumption is. The next thing you know, we’ll be trying to force our blessed state on other countries at gunpoint. Oh wait…

    On the other hand, to defend American patriotism at least a little, I think Europeans fail to see that it is a fundamentally different animal than that which is found in European nations and even among members of the British commonwealth. American pride is traditionally about pride in principles of freedom. German pride, Italian pride, Japanese pride, etc. is traditionally pride in a genetically or at least culturally similar people. It is racial pride, which is not nearly as acceptable, morally, as pride in correct principles.

    “Americans” have no inherent ethnicity the way being a “German” or a “Pole” implies something racially. I recognize that many Europeans nowadays are not native to their countries, however it is important to keep in mind that the tradition of patriotism in Europe is one of pride in a racially/culturally similar people, which in turn leads to a hatred of other races. Such patriotism reached a fever pitch in Europe in the first half of the Twentieth Century, and we all know the consequences it had for certain “other” races. That is one reason why Europeans now condemn patriotism as offensive, threatening, and evil.

    And although American pride was once mingled with racially biased, WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) pride, we have gone to hell and back in an effort to rid ourselves of this bias and embrace an ethic of racial harmony and equality. It’s still a work in progress, of course, but the ethic is yet another principle Americans take pride in their country for. American patriotism, therefore, stands in direct opposition to one of the worst aspects of traditional patriotism.

    I don’t think Europeans give America much credit for this distinction, perhaps because many of them are doubtful of the benefits of heterogenous harmony, regardless of whether they have accepted the principle of heterogeneous equality. Just ask Muslim schoolgirls in France.

    But, to repeat myself, pride of any kind is wrong and can lead to disastrous consequences. Old World pride leads to the erroneous belief that outsiders are inherently inferior and ought to be eliminated. New World pride leads to the erroneous belief that outsiders are conditionally inferior and ought to be assimilated (philosophically, economically, tactically, etc.). Both attitudes can lead to unjust violence. Indeed, they have.

  49. Wilfried on October 19, 2004 at 7:46 am

    Thank you, Tom. Very helpful comments and excellent insights.

  50. ken on October 19, 2004 at 8:51 am

    Wilfried, I’m sorry that what I said was probably not taken the way I meant it to be.Thats the problem with people like me who can barely type trying to express what they feel and mean by the written word instead of being face to face and speaking. When I said I laughed out loud about about the GA praying for rain and the saints in Germany not saying amen to it, I was not really laughing about them, its just that I all of a sudden I got this picture in my mind of what My girl friend and I had talked about many years ago in Germany and I laughed about THAT.I understand there are places that get a lot of rain and they dont like it as much as we do here in Arizona. I was not laughing at their situation believe me.

  51. Max Lybbert on October 19, 2004 at 9:45 am

    OK, I’m late to the party. I found it interesting on my mission in Brazil that I would refer to American history in the first-person plural (“we won the war” “we told Germany, …” etc.), and they would use second-person (“the Brazilians could have, …” “the Brazilians need to, …”).

    I now live in North Carolina, where people register Democratic and vote conservative (google “Dixiecrat” to get an idea why). One of the local members asked me if I knew why Utah is predominantly Republican (I didn’t have a good answer). This week, I think I know where the Republican side, and the patriotic side, of the church members comes from (no, I don’t know this poster’s religion, but I do think most US members are A-A under his system)..

  52. Russell Arben Fox on October 19, 2004 at 11:03 am

    Greg wrote: “But isn’t this the great fear among us and our leaders?…To me, the question is how do you eliminate the conflation of American culture with the Church, while still cultivating a Mormon culture that provides a modicum of uniformity.”

    My response would be: I’m not certain there can be a Mormon culture, at least not if “culture” is understood in a thick, robust sense. Nobody speaks Mormon, for one thing. We speak English, or German, or Korean. The strictly Catholic culture of Roman Catholicism had been dying for centuries, given the way the church had organized itself in the world; the final stake was driven through its heart when the recitation of the Mass was shifted from Latin to local vernaculars. There are, of course, more or less universal Catholic norms, references and texts, in the same way there are–or ought to be–Mormon such as well. But Catholic culture–in terms all the everyday mores which constitute one’s sense of cultural attachment and “affection” (food, dress, manners, histories, stories, habits, etc.)–as those familiar with the church know well, is strictly speaking Anglo-Catholic, or Franco-Catholic, or Spanish/Mexican Catholic, etc. I would assume and hope that our church will move in that direction as well.

  53. Spencer on October 19, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    I did a quick search of the photos of LDS temples at http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/ and found eight pictures of temples outside the U.S. that show flagpoles on the temple grounds, many of which are flying the flag of the nation in which the temple is located:Bogota, Columbia: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?bogota&operating
    Manila, Philippines: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?manila&operating
    Montevideo, Uruguay: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?montevideo&operating
    São Paulo, Brazil: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?sao_paulo&operating
    Papeete, Tahiti: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?papeete&operating
    Sydney, Australia: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?sydney&operating
    Tampico, México: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?tampico&operating
    Tuxtla Gutiérrez, México: http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/cgi-bin/pages.cgi?tuxtla_gutierrez&operating

    I wonder: Is there a similar outcry from Latter-day Saints who visit *those* countries? Any complaint about, say, the flag of Mexico being flown over temples in Mexico? The Tahitian flag flying over the Pepeete temple? The Australian flag over the Sydney temple? I doubt it.

    My thought is that anti-Americanism is the cause, not the effect, of complaints about the Salt Lake Temple and/or BYU flying the American flag. I don’t think people object to national flags being flown over temples, unless it happens to be the *American* flag.

  54. Tom Manney on October 20, 2004 at 3:19 am

    Spencer, I couldn’t find a single picture of a European temple with a national flag flying. Interesting that all your examples are in places that were colonized and have mixed-race populations.

  55. Tom Manney on October 20, 2004 at 3:25 am

    Oh, and just to add one more thought in response to Spencer. My thought is you, like most Americans, are overly defensive because Americans so rarely hear dissenting opinion about how they think and what they do. This is because the United States is a vast nation with few foreign neighbors (and Canada barely even counts as “foreign”). Nobody is complaining about the Mexican flag because the Church headquarters are not there.

  56. Kim Siever on October 20, 2004 at 10:14 am

    Spencer,

    You may also want to consider that many of those countries do not fly flags frequently outside of government buildings and a few other public places. It is quite possible that the reason the temple flies the national flag in those countries because some American church bureaucrat decided it was an American cultural practise that needed to be practised in other areas of the Church. That is the only explanation I can give, at least, for why LDS chapels in Canada are virtually the only Christian churches that fly the national flag.

  57. Spencer on October 20, 2004 at 10:54 am

    Tom,

    > Spencer, I couldn’t find a single picture of a European temple with a national flag flying.

    ==So what? How does that justify griping about a national flag being flown on temple grounds *only* when it’s an American flag?

    > Interesting that all your examples are in places that were colonized and have mixed-race populations.

    ==Again, so what?

    > Oh, and just to add one more thought in response to Spencer. My thought is you, like most Americans, are overly defensive because Americans so rarely hear dissenting opinion about how they think and what they do.

    ==Utter bilge. We hear *plenty* of criticism, from within and without.

    > This is because the United States is a vast nation with few foreign neighbors (and Canada barely even counts as “foreign”). Nobody is complaining about the Mexican flag because the Church headquarters are not there.

    ==Right. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the *Internet*, none of those matter. Americans are ignorant because our country borders only two others.

    ==In this day and age, international boundaries make not one scintilla of difference as to whether Americans are cognizant of international views.

    Kim,

    > You may also want to consider that many of those countries do not fly flags frequently outside of government buildings and a few other public places. It is quite possible that the reason the temple flies the national flag in those countries because some American church bureaucrat decided it was an American cultural practise that needed to be practised in other areas of the Church.

    ==Wow. Normally it’s the anti-Mormons that assume the worst about the LDS Church. I didn’t expect to see it here. In the absence of, well, actual knowledge, you speculate that the reason the Church flies national flags over its temples is merely another example of American cultural hegemony. Pathetic.

    > That is the only explanation I can give, at least, for why LDS chapels in Canada are virtually the only Christian churches that fly the national flag.

    ==Right. Let’s assume the worst about the LDS Church.

  58. Kim Siever on October 20, 2004 at 11:15 am

    “In the absence of, well, actual knowledge, you speculate that the reason the Church flies national flags over its temples is merely another example of American cultural hegemony.”

    Well, that IS how a theory works, after all. In the absence of knowledge, one must posit a theory to explain why a certain behaviour or process exits. Since no knowledge seems to exist as to why LDS temples and meetinghouses outside of the States fly national flags when few other religious buildings do the same, one can only put forth a theory. Feel free to provide evidence to prove my theory wrong. Or feel free to put forth your own theory.

    “Let’s assume the worst about the LDS Church.”

    That is you prerogative, but I would rather not.

    Oh, and please do not get caught in the trap of equating with church employees or committee members with the Church itself.

  59. Tom Manney on October 20, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Spencer, if you had read my comments dated 10/19/2004 you would have realized the relevance of European temples not having flags vs. mixed-race nations having flags.

    Second, your comments seem typical of overly defensive assertions that assume, without any argument to back them up, that people are just picking on you, your country, your church, etc. Does that make any sense? Why would people do that? Are they just mean-spirited?

    I’m not trying to slam you. I just don’t understand where you’re coming from. It would be appreciated if you could back these assertions up so that you don’t merely sound self-pitying/paranoid.

  60. Wilfried on October 20, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    Oops… Indeed, as I wrote in the post supra: “International issues are quickly misunderstood and polarized. If something international came up in previous T&S discussions, the comments had a tendency to turn into political skirmishes, sometimes with quick judgments based on ill-defined -isms. Only a spark was needed to get America defended – attacked or not.”

    But I do appreciate your exchanges!

    Just a hint to change the focus: I’d love to see some reactions to my comment nr. 31 in the other post “From Mormon to LDS”. Pls see there!

  61. Spencer on October 20, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Kim,

    > Well, that IS how a theory works, after all.

    ==”A theory” requires making the worst possible assumptions about the LDS Church? News to me.

    > In the absence of knowledge, one must posit a theory to explain why a certain behaviour or process exits.

    ==The problem here is that there need not be an “absence of knowledge.” Methinks a small amount of effort, such as calling the temple department at church headquarters, could provide some explanations. But I suppose that might interfere with your attempt to portray the LDS Church’s practice of flying national flags over its temples as merely another example of American cultural hegemony.

    Tom,

    > Spencer, if you had read my comments dated 10/19/2004 you would have realized the relevance of European temples not having flags vs. mixed-race nations having flags.

    ==I read it. I still don’t get it. You suggest that flags represent a hybrid of patriotism and racial pride (speaking of unsubstantiate assertions, I’d like to see this one backed up). So what? How does that justify people who get offended at the U.S. flag? Columbia is also ethnically diverse (mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%), but nobody complains about the Columbian flag being flown over that nation’s temple. Why?

    > Second, your comments seem typical of overly defensive assertions that assume, without any argument to back them up, that people are just picking on you, your country, your church, etc. Does that make any sense?

    ==It’s not “overly defensive” to respond to an attack on my country or my church, particularly when that attack is not warranted.

    > Why would people do that? Are they just mean-spirited?

    ==Not necessarily. In this case, however, anti-Americanism seems to be the driving force. Nobody complains about flags flying over temples outside the U.S., which to me suggests that the complaint is about the *American* flag being flown.

    > I’m not trying to slam you. I just don’t understand where you’re coming from. It would be appreciated if you could back these assertions up so that you don’t merely sound self-pitying/paranoid.

    ==Back up what assertions? That the complaints about flags on temple grounds stem from anti-Americanism? I’ve done that. Unless you can point to similar complaints about, say, visitors to Australia getting offended that that country’s flag flies over the Sydney temple, my point appears to have been substantiated.

    ==Nobody seems to complain about flags being flown on temple grounds outside of the United States. If there are such complaints, let’s see ‘em. Otherwise, it appears that those who take offense do so not because they have a legitimate grievance (if they did, they would complain about flags on *any* temple grounds), but rather because they are anti-American.

  62. Ronan James Head on October 20, 2004 at 3:53 pm

    Was not the original grumble the existence of patriotic symbols at Temple Square (the Flag and the shrine to the Constitution)?

    Again, fly as many flags as you want, or none at all, but at the headquarters of *world* Mormonism some of us would hope for a certain neutrality.

  63. Kim Siever on October 20, 2004 at 5:10 pm

    “A theory requires making the worst possible assumptions about the LDS Church?”

    Apparently you missed the part at the end of my last post regarding differentiating between the church and its employees. That aside, do a search for “Mormon” on Google to see what the worst possible assumptions are that others make about the Church. I am not so sure why you are being so melodramatic about this.

    So far, of the six people I talked to at HQ, 100% said, “I don’t know”. Apparently, there is an absence of knowledge after all. They did take my number and “somebody will call you back”.

    “Nobody complains about flags flying over temples outside the U.S…”

    Actually, I am; and over the eight years I have been participating in the online LDS community, many others have as well. Not all of them were from outside the US either.

  64. Tom Manney on October 20, 2004 at 5:32 pm

    Spencer,

    I don’t recall anyone here saying that they were anti-American. In fact, Wilfried has repeated several times that fact that the puzzlement of his countrymen at the U.S. flag on U.S. church properties is NOT based on anti-Americansim. So for you to nevertheless assert that anti-Americanism is the cause of the criticism of flag-flying in this thread seems utterly baseless. That is why I asked for some justification of your conclusion that anti-American sentiment underlies the criticism. I still haven’t read any.

    And you say, “You suggest that flags represent a hybrid of patriotism and racial pride (speaking of unsubstantiate assertions, I’d like to see this one backed up). So what? How does that justify people who get offended at the U.S. flag?” This isn’t exactly what I said. What I said was that any national flag, to the minds of some people, represents racial pride even if that isn’t the case in New World countries. The reason no one is complaining about the Colombian flag flying outside the Colombian temple is because the Colombian temple is not the Church headquarters. I would have thought that was obvious. (Also, it’s because no one has mentioned flag usage in S. America until you brought it up. It just hasn’t been an issue. It’s the Old World travelers who have the visceral reaction to flags, and apparently none of the ones who are commenting have been to Latin American church sites. The subject just hasn’t come up, so I don’t think any conclusions can be drawn.)

    All I’m saying is that your language and attitude repeatedly suggest a kind of self-pitying “everyone is picking on me” attitude that, to repeat myself, seems utterly baseless. If I’m wrong, I’d be very grateful if you could explain why my understanding of your assertions are off base.

    And I must apologize because I feel like I’m giving the appearance of harrassing you for an answer, when I really just want to understand your position because I think it motivates millions of Americans’ burgeoning anti-Europeanism, a position I do not understand and wish I understood better.

    Unfortunately, I have a feeling we’re not going to come to any understanding of each other, so I promise to stop giving the appearance of needling you. I don’t want a fight; I want a dialogue. Since that may be unlikely, this is probably my last post in this thread. God be with you. :)

  65. Mark P. on October 21, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    I know this post is probably not relevant anymore, but its my first one and I wanted share my feelings/experiences relative to US/foreign matters:

    When at BYU, I took a Swiss girlfriend to the Patriotic fireside that happens every July 4th in the BYU Marriott Center. She was aghast at the blatant patriotism that she saw; and not simply the patriotism but the fusion of religious zeal and national patriotism. I asked her to explain herself. She explained that in Switzerland, one would never see the kind of patriotism that she witnessed, particularly after WWII. I pressed further. She explained that the Swiss grew to harbor a deep mistrust of their government for the events of WWII and patriotism isn’t celebrated there like it is here.

    She would frequently be critically of how American-centric we were as a nation. I remember once she browbeat me when she saw me reading USA Today, saying that Americans have such a narrow vision of the world and think that the world revolves around us.

  66. Wilfried on October 21, 2004 at 8:16 pm

    Hello Mark!
    Thanks for sharing this thought. Reactions against patriotism can be just as emotional as those in favor. Much has to do with the semantic and cultural concept of patriotism as it has been planted in our minds through education and experience. I can understand and I respect US-patriotism as a cultural concept that is part of this nation. At the same time, I can understand the deep mistrust against patriotism, as you mentioned about your Swiss friend. I come from tiny Flanders (the Northern part of Belgium). In the course of the centuries, it was overrun, time and time again, by patriots from Spain, Austria, Prussia, France, Germany… They left their trace of blood and ruins. They picked our countryside as battle fields. Some names still resonate abroad: Waterloo, Battle of the Bulge, in Flanders fields. In our history lessons we learned how “de Patriotten” was the name for the French revolutionaries of the 1790s who plundered our churches and art collections (now in the Louvre). “De Patriotten” equals in our collective conscience “Danger”. I was born in 1946 and my parents, who lived through two world wars, taught us children a deep mistrust of patriotism as a source of menace and of war. And then, yes, it requires a strong sense of relativization to watch expressions of US-patriotism, especially because this patriotism belongs to the mightiest nation on earth, with the largest amount of WMD’s. It scares people.

    See also the excellent comment of Tom Manney above (nr. 48).

  67. John Mansfield on October 21, 2004 at 9:08 pm

    Some data points beyond American and West European attitudes toward patriotism would be in order. My amateur observation is that Argentine and Mexican patriotism is not so different from that of the United States. The three countries share the experience of creating for themselves identities as new, independent nations. They are physically large nations that could disintegrate like the Soviet Union (and Canada?) without a deliberate reinforcement of a common identity that is in some ways constructed.

    How about the war-torn Asian nations? They don’t seem to have gone the West European route regarding nationalism.

    More to the original point, I have always just assumed that the Vatican feels Italian and Mecca is Arab. Is this incorrect?

    Regarding the mixing of national identity with Mormonism, the United States played an obvious role as the cradle of the restoration and still as the main location of the saints. I have known some for whom being a Mexican Mormon is being a living fulfillment of the Book of Mormon. I am not sure, though, what being a Belgian Mormon means beyond being a Mormon who is Begian. What is the difference between Idaho Mormons and Arizona Mormons? Latitude and family groupings, particular details of similar histories. So I expect would be a comparison of Swedish Mormons with Italian Mormons. One group that does seem to have a special identity within the Church is the Pacific Islanders.

  68. Jack on October 21, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    “… fly as many flags as you want, or none at all, but at the headquarters of *world* Mormonism some of us would hope for a certain neutrality.”

    Ronin, this is probably an unfair question coming from an American: is the presence of the American flag at Church headquarters solely an expression of unchecked american culture? Or is it possible that there are good reasons for it’s display which may, in fact, meet with Divine approval?

  69. Jim F. on October 21, 2004 at 10:34 pm

    Unless my memory is wrong, flag-flying at U.S. LDS temples is a relatively recent phenomenon, perhaps since the 60s. If so, that seems relevant to the question of why they are there. Also relevant is the fact that, like those Wilfried describes, early Mormon settlers weren’t exactly trusting of the government of the U.S.

    My suspicion is that there is, in fact, no one reason or one set of reasons for why we fly the flag. It is something that happened over time because it seemed natural or right. Now, after the fact, we give explanations for what happened. I think the same thing is true of the reasons we give for why we don’t have crosses in our churches: we did it for various reasons, perhaps never making an explicit decision not to. Now that we don’t, we invent reasons to explain the fact that we don’t.

  70. Bryce I on October 21, 2004 at 10:45 pm

    John Mansfield–

    For what it’s worth, patriotism is a dirty word in Japan, for obvious reasons.

  71. Kim Siever on October 21, 2004 at 10:59 pm

    Jim F,

    It makes sense to fly flags at temples and meetinghouses in a country like the United States where the national flag is flown in many public places. What I do not understand is why it is flown at temples and meetinghouses in countries that do not fly their national flags in many public places.

  72. Jim F. on October 21, 2004 at 11:04 pm

    Kim Seiver: I don’t think it is the general practice to fly the flag in countries that do not fly their flags in many public places. So my absolutely uninformed guess would be that when you see a flag at a temple or meetinghouse in such a country it is because a leader decided to fly them and now no one feels that they can change. (We get these kinds of practices all of the time, especially in a context in which hierarchy is important.) That leader might have been an American who thought to imitate what was familiar to him. Or it might have been a native who thought to imitate what he saw at American chapels and temples.

  73. John Mansfield on October 22, 2004 at 8:13 am

    Bryce,

    The word patriotism may be taboo in Japan, but that people still has a reputation for a strong national identity. This photo of Japanese baseball fans in Anaheim looks nicely patriotic:
    http://www.lauriat.com/baseball/anaheim/P7010065.jpg
    Also, when I attended the Women’s World Cup soccer final in the Rose Bowl, Chinese flags far outnumbered American flags.

    Here is a funny account from LA writer Steve Sailer that indicates that Koreans REALLY like their country:
    Is there any country in the world more hyper-patriotic when it comes to sports than South Korea, now in the World Cup semifinal? Granted, El Salvador invaded Honduras to avenge Honduras beating it in a World Cup qualifier. (It sounds funny, but it wasn’t to the thousands killed in this insane little war). Still, in my limited experience, the South Koreans are in a class by themselves (although God only knows what the North Koreans are like). My introduction to South Korean sports fans was at the 1984 L.A. Olympics. At some early round boxing matches at the Sports Arena, I sat behind about 150 Koreans, including three Buddhist monks in saffron robes Through the first half of the scheduled card, they all sat absolutely impassively. The Koreans showed zero interest in boxing pour le sport. Even the most gallant display by a non-Korean boxer failed to inspire them to utter a peep of approval. Finally, the one Korean boxer of the afternoon was introduced. The fans exploded into an utter frenzy of flag-waving. The Buddhist monks jumped up and down and screamed. The mob howled its head off through the entire 45 seconds it took the Korean lad to get knocked cold. After their boy was hauled off on a stretcher, even though there were a half dozen fights left, the Koreans arose as one and silently filed out.

  74. Wilfried on October 22, 2004 at 10:58 am

    Thanks for the feedback! I’d better not spoken about flags in my post!

    As to waving national flags at a sport event, in relation to patriotism, some observations:

    1. On the one hand, sport events are of a different nature: it’s about competing, and winning, and the feelings associated with such are the same as with an encounter between two high schools teams. It may then move to competitions on regional or national levels. It just depends on the situation whether you wear and wave BYU’s blue or UofU’s red, or national colors at the Olympics. With good sportmanship and a dosis of humor, no problem.

    2. On the other hand, the emotions that such sport events can trigger are also an indication of their danger. Listen to some in the crowd and what they shout. The beast inside is awakened. Look at what some carried away fans are led to do. When such emotions are getting mixed with nationalism and patriotism in other situations, and misused by leaders, history is there to show the consequences.

  75. Kim Siever on October 22, 2004 at 11:12 am

    Fim J.,

    I could understand a reason like that if the phenomenon was present in a community here and there. When it is across an entire country, however, I have to wonder if it is something other than a bishop’s decision to put up a flag because it looks nice.

  76. John Mansfield on October 22, 2004 at 11:37 am

    Maybe it was Sheila Copps’ doing?

  77. Kim Siever on October 22, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    :)

    Naw, it would’ve cost hardly a penny to do it. If she would’ve done it, it would have been on every religious building in the country. Much more money that way.

  78. Bryce I on October 22, 2004 at 12:31 pm

    John Mansfield –

    I think that Tom Manning’s distinction in post 48 is useful in understanding Japanese pride. Being Japanese is much more about cultual and ethnic identity than about citizenship and geography.

    Patriotism (of feelings of love of country, as it is rendered in Japanese) as Americans understand it is a different beast.

    As for China and Korea, I don’t know much about those countries, but I do know they’re different from Japan.

    Unrelated: Your story about Korean sports fans reminded me that South Korea is by far the leading international power in video gaming. You can actually be a professional video game player in South Korea. Repeat after me: You can actually be a professional video game player in South Korea.

  79. Ben Huff on October 22, 2004 at 12:58 pm

    I am an American, and I think it is dead obvious that General Conference should reflect an international audience in every way it reasonably can. That means that prayers for rain driven by the peculiar conditions in Utah, and showing no acknowledgement of what’s going on in the rest of the world, are incongruous. The man who gave that prayer meant no harm (Utah badly needs the rain), and we must be gentle in dealing with this sort of issue — after all, the point is for us all to be united in love! but he showed a certain kind of insensitivity. It’s a little thing, but perfectly illustrates a recurring problem within the church, a failure of fellowship, and there are enough cases of it that it makes many Saints uncomfortable and interferes with the international growth of the church. I’ve noticed a lot of similar incongruities since becoming sensitized to the issue as a missionary in Japan, and I remember being pained at that reference to Utah weather, as just one more example.

    The fact that so many of us don’t see examples like this as incongruous shows how far we as a people are from the global perspective we should have as a church. Of course, the whole point of the church is that we are not perfect; we need Christ, and we need each other. My impression is that as far as General Conference goes, this sort of thing has been improving over the past ten years or so that I have been paying attention to it. More of the stories are about Saints outside the U.S., more of the speakers are from outside the U.S., and the themes of talks generally are more fitting for the diverse audience. I was thrilled to hear Liriel Domiciano sing in Portuguese recently, in conference! We need more of this sort of thing.

  80. Bill on October 22, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    I was happy to hear the Brazilian sing in GC as well, but why did it take some kind of outside validation (in this case, the ersatz endorsement of winning the Brazilian version of American Idol) in order for it to happen? There are hundreds of talented church members all over the world, but it seems we have a cult of fame which is mostly interested in those who appear on reality shows or win game shows.

  81. Ken Jennings on October 22, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    Win game shows? It’s true, I was never asked to answer trivia questions in Conference before my Jeopardy! appearance. Shameful.

  82. Kim Siever on October 22, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    You should get a blog, Ken.

  83. Mark B on October 22, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    I don’t believe that is really Ken Jennings.

  84. Wilfried on October 22, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    How can we know he is the real one? That opens the matter of faith again.

  85. Kim Siever on October 22, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    Why wouldn’t it be? He was a guest blogger here.

  86. Bryce I on October 22, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Well, the real Mark B. would have been much wittier than that.

    /rips mask off of fake Mark B.’s head

    Hey, it’s that creepy guy from the carnival! He’s trying to impersonate Mark B.!

  87. A creepy fake Mark B. on October 22, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    It would have worked too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling bloggernackers!

  88. danithew on October 22, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    I’m not prepared to pursue my line of inquiry any longer as I think this is getting too silly!

  89. danithew on October 22, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Hint: that’s a line from a sketch involving a very dead bird.

  90. Keith on October 22, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    With regard to Liriel Domiciano, I remember reading that she was invited by Pres. Hinckley because he heard her sing at the rededication of the Temple in Brasil. I suspect that, more than the fact that she was the winner of the pop idol contest, was the reason she was invited to sing. Members of the Church around the world were grateful to hear her (and Brasilians I know especially felt a part of everything).

    Do we sometimes fall all over ourselves to hold up LDS folks who do well in something or other? No doubt. But I’m reasonably certain that in some future day, “Who is Ken Jennings?” will be the Jeopardy question/answer to “This Mormon blew everyone way on Jeopardy! but was never asked to speak at General Conference.” (It’s an little known rule in the Church that you can’t read the top ten on Letterman and then speak at General Conference.)

  91. Bryce I on October 22, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    For what it’s worth, as far as I can tell, that’s really Ken.

    A) He used the same email address as the real Ken (assuming that the real Ken posted here previously)
    B) He’s funny like Ken
    C) He included the “!” in Jeopardy!.

  92. Bryce I on October 22, 2004 at 4:42 pm

    Also for what it’s worth, my uncle sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and as I recall, he said that the decision to have Sis. Domiciano sing came from the top at the last minute. He was impressed with her.

  93. John Mansfield on October 22, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Did he use proportional fonts or superscripting?

  94. Ken Jennings on October 22, 2004 at 4:46 pm

    It’s sort of hard to prove I’m Ken Jennings in this forum. Should I tell you what the capital of Swaziland is, or what opera Puccini left incomplete at his death? Surely anyone–even non-Jeopardy champs!–could Google up “Mbabane” and “Turandot.” Bryce and the other ex-Quiz Bowl guys wouldn’t even have to resort to Google.

    Jeopardy! put the kibosh on my blog when I tried to start one over the summer, afraid that media outlets would purloin quotes from it when Jeopardy! wouldn’t grant them interviews. But it’s an idea I’d like to come back to.

    I guess I should post something mildly on topic before I return to lurking. As an American Mormon who grew up overseas, I’ve been fascinated by the turns this thread has taken, especially as it’s touched on the problem of anti-Americanism. I’m never sure if “anti-Americanism,” as used in this thread, refers to something I can understand (after all, we haven’t always been the best stewards of our superpower status) or something I disagree with (holding problems with our government against individual American citizens personally, or blindly condemning all things American, from Mark Twain to Pop Rocks, just because of isolated disagreements over policy). Anti-American feeling, whether it’s the just variety or not, is going to be on the rise worldwide in the years to come, and the Church’s reputation could take a huge overseas hit as a result, depending on how successful we are at “re-branding” ourselves as an international church. Maybe I’m stating the obvious here…I assume our full-time missionaries in Europe and elsewhere are already dealing with this problem every day.

    I’m heartened by occasions where I’ve seen an international “community of saints” form, seemingly blind to national boundaries and devoid of the more divisive aspects of patriotism. I once attended a Singapore branch where U.S. and Commonwealth expatriates served and worshipped happily alongside the native Singaporean members, ethnically Chinese and Malay. The unity was really quite seamless. When the Area Presidency chose to divide the unit into two branches, one native and one expat, to allow for more leadership opportunities among locals, it was a tough, tough time for all concerned. Tears were shed, as President Monson might say.

  95. Wilfried on October 22, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    Well, if it’s really Ken and if he is reading these comments, I want to say a heartfelt thanks, not only for his breathtaking performance and his kindness, but for the wonderful impact he has on the name and image of the Church. And he is identified as a Mormon, not as an LDS! (by the way, to those who have no idea what an LDS is, when they hear it on radio or TV, they wonder who an Eldeeyes is, or an El Dies, or an Eldeajez).
    Thank you again, Ken!

  96. Bruce Andrew on April 2, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    Brother deCoo — You won’t remember me, but I recall clearly an impressive missionary fireside you gave on the Book of Mormon in the Antwerp Branch meeting house in late 1983, when I was serving a mission in the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission. Your eloquent and gripping synopsis of the basic story line revealed your intimate knowledge of this great book and your sensitivity to the context in which non-LDS Europeans would view it.

    Aware from that 21-year-old experience of how thoroughly you know the Book of Mormon, I trust you already have a clear understanding of why for American members love of country and love of the gospel are bound together. In line with what John Fowles and other commentators have said, the establishment of the United States as a free land was foretold by Nephi as a prerequisite to the restoration of the gospel to the earth. The scriptural text leaves no doubt that God directed the preparation of this land of promise for the fulfillment of His great purposes.

    The patriotism most American Latter-day Saints feel is an appropriate expression of gratitude to God for the gifts of freedom in America that made possible the reestablishment of Christ’s church. The display of American flags on the grounds of temples in the U.S. seems a fitting extension of this sense of appreciation — and, I should add, a symbolic reminder that we as a church are committed to the principles upon which the twelfth Article of Faith is grounded.

    I concede that Americans could stand to be more aware of the differing cultures from which our membership is drawn, and that our leaders in particular ought to be sensitive enough to deliver messages during the conferences of the Church that have the broadest, culture-blind references. Like Ken Jennings (and no, he won’t remember me, though I was in the Yongsan Servicemen’s Branch with him in Korea when he was a high school senior), I’ve seen the Church thrive in multicultural environments where members from many cultures share the blessings of fellowship and understanding without prejudice or division. In any case, those of us Americans who have the privilege of living our day-to-day lives in other countries typically do understand this important dynamic in an increasingly diverse and international church. But it is unrealistic to expect that the many ordinary U.S. Saints who only ever leave their country for short vacations (if at all) will feel the need to internalize a sense of international cultural sensitivity or have the occasion exercise it.

    Brother deCoo, I think you, who understand these issues, bear a responsibility to help educate European Saints as to the true nature of American members’ love of country and its relation to their faith. It behooves you also to help explain to Americans why Europeans generally don’t seem to feel similar passion about their own nations of origin. (I don’t profess to understand it, though I have some ideas insufficiently developed to present in this forum.) You, who are in the rare position of having broad experience observing both American and European cultures, can best bridge gaps in understanding by softing the harder edges of opinions held about those on the other side of the cultural divide. In this case, it seems it’s the Europeans whose opinions seem to have become most hardened.

    In truth, each of us, regardless of cultural origin, should live by the principle of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. We should be sensitive to the feelings and solicitous of the concerns of others while downplaying our own; quick to listen, slow to speak; anxious never to give or take offense; speedy to forgive, reluctant to accuse. If we do this, cultural differences melt away and we become brothers and sisters in a flagless, borderless Zion. The discourse you’ve begun will certainly help this process. Thanks for what you’ve done.

    – Bruce Andrew (American Foreign Service Officer; Vienna, Austria)