Where are the Mormon Community Leaders?

June 6, 2011 | 46 comments
By

At the end of a recent White House meeting with a Mormon focus group White House officials asked an illuminating question: Who are the LDS Community leaders that the White House should try to recognize?

The White House officials at this focus group were not political operatives, and weren’t looking for those who would help President Obama get re-elected. Nor were they necessarily looking for religious leaders. They were reacting to the comments of the focus group, suggesting that the White House could better communicate with Mormons by publicly recognizing their good work at the grass roots in the community. According to one focus group participant, Whoa-man, who wrote about the meeting on the Exponent II’s blog, the focus group was silent in response — they simply could not come up with any obvious Mormon to suggest.

No doubt most Mormons would suggest general authorities, but wouldn’t the White House be well aware of who they are and many of their activities? And while recognizing general authorities might be good (and I believe the White House is interested in working with the Church to some degree), I’m not sure that recognizing general authorities would be seen as particularly helpful if the object is to recognize grassroots efforts. Likewise, I’m sure the White House is well aware of the national LDS politicians (as well as their agendas), so suggesting politicians isn’t as likely to be useful. Instead I believe that what is needed in this situation is Mormon community leaders.

I suspect the concept of Mormon community leaders might be a bit uncomfortable for many LDS Church members—outside of local and general Church leaders I’m not sure we have much that would be considered as community leaders. We don’t have the same decentralized structure that other religions have, and as a result we don’t have a lot of organizations independent of the Church that are well known and somehow represent the Mormon community. If there is a Mormon “Focus on the Family” or a Mormon “Southern Poverty Law Center,” I doubt many Mormons are aware of them. The few charities we have aren’t necessarily focused on Mormons (either in terms of fund raising or in terms of the services and goods provided). And even the businesses that exist to provide materials and services to Mormons (bookstores, publishers, music providers, clothing and ring producers, travel agents for LDS curises, etc.) are either small or are owned by the Church and aren’t seen as really community leaders.

So, what reply should those at this meeting have given? Should Mormonism even have the kind of community leaders we’re talking about here?

None of this suggests that we don’t have such Mormon organizations or community leaders; just that they aren’t well known and aren’t as significant to the community. Unfortunately, I think that the chances are slim that anyone could reach a level of notoriety and respect that would make them a community leader outside of the Church hierarchy. This is true, I think, for several reasons:

  • The Church already provides what members need in most major areas, both in terms of the assistance provided, and in terms of the opportunity to serve others
  • Historically the Church has tended to absorb the independent efforts of members who have come up with good ideas — Church schools, many charitable efforts, and many other things all came from member ideas.
  • Members are reticent to be seen as in competition with the general authorities or to be promoting their own agendas in the community.
  • Our emphasis on family tends to leave the community (outside of the Church) as a less-important secondary area.
  • It is difficult to get the word out because of the paucity of widely-read LDS media.

[There are probably other reasons why, and I'd appreciate other thoughts on why in the comments below.]

Despite these reasons, I do think that some members are doing good or have the potential to do good that eventually might be recognized by the White House (regardless of which party occupies it at the moment) or even by the Church or by Church-controlled organizations. I gave it some thought and came up with the following possibilities:

  • Richard and Claudia Bushman
  • Warner Woodworth
  • Steve Young
  • Lavell Edwards
  • Jereby Guthrie
  • Peter Vidmar
  • FAIR
  • FARMS

FWIW, below is a list of the possibilities mentioned in the comments to the post on Exponent II:

General Authorities

  • Marlin Jensen
  • H. David Burton
  • Quentin L. Cook
  • Neil A. Andersen
  • Walter F. Gonzalez

Political Groups

  • Mormons for Marriage
  • Mormons for Equality and Social Justice
  • Chuck Kuck (Atlanta immigration attorney)
  • Carol Lynn Pearson
  • Ardeth Pope
  • George Handley

Charities

  • Shropshire Music Foundation (Liz Shropshire)
  • Inside Out Learning
  • One Heart Bulgaria (Debra Dusku Gardener)
  • Casa de Sion (Vicki Dalia)

Women’s Groups

  • Mormon Women’s Project
  • Judy Dusku
  • Maxine Hanks
  • Neylan McBaine
  • Claudia Bushman
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • Laura Compton
  • Joanna Brooks
  • Courtney Cook (Talents of Sisters)

Other

  • John Dehlin
  • John Burger (Abolitionistjb)

Tags: , , , ,

46 Responses to Where are the Mormon Community Leaders?

  1. Jax on June 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    If they want community leaders, then I would ask “for what community?” The term community connotes small scale to me and so it would depend on the specific community. We don’t have a community leader that serves all of our communities if you don’t count the Church GA’s. Relief Society Presidents, Stake Presidents, Bishops, High Councillors, ….. Boy Scout leaders, etc. I don’t think it is that we lack community leaders, it is that we have so many that you can’t name just ONE! Because we don’t pay a clergy almost everyone who is willing is a leader of some kind. IMO

  2. anon on June 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    They can call my bishop or my ward’s PR rep.

  3. jks on June 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    We’re different. We don’t have paid clergy so a preacher can’t get famous. Our bishops and RS Presidents are awesome, but they do it part-time and then when they are released they fade into obscurity. Even the GAs are careful not to try to become famous and popular. They try to serve in their calling but don’t try to go around rallying people to their own agenda.
    We have scores of mission presidents and their wives who serve tirelessly…..but they do it in the same way that others do. They don’t go rogue and try to differentiate themselves with trying to switch things up and make the news with pushing the envelope.
    Because we have a handbook, our Primary leaders do things by the book so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can have awesome Primaries, but the seem like regular types of things to us. It would seem odd to us to have a local primary president or even the General Primary President honored by the President of the US. But it really is an AMAZING program serving millions of kids.

    If you need famous Mormons, maybe some of those people who write books and tour with Time Out for Women?

  4. anon on June 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I think you’d find that “famous” Mormon athletes probably don’t have any particular sense of Mormonness or spirituality or political astuteness than the rest of the Mormon population at large. Why set them on some pedestal? (You almost certainly couldn’t pick a sports person — most of the Church would either not know who he was or would be in the habit of rooting against him.)

    And if you decide to nominate bloggers or writers, I think you’ll find a huge yawn from the Morg.

    Mormon community efforts are like the Internet — widespread, decentralized, and without a formal head. They certainly only speak for tiny segments of the Morg. If you want a more formal/visible representative, then it almost has to be a GA or general auxiliary officer of the Church.

  5. Kent Larsen on June 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Jax, anon & jks, did you read the whole post? You are repeating what is already said there. I came to the conclusion that the kind of people the White House is looking for is only found OUTSIDE of the traditional leadership, in those who are doing charitable and other work.

    anon (4), I included athletes not because they were famous per se, but because a few athletes do have the notoriety and leadership skills to actually become community leaders. However, I admit that no Mormon athlete has really done so — they don’t seem to have much of a passion for solving problems from what I can tell. Those I listed have come closest, IMO.

    And yes, “a more formal/visible representative, then it almost has to be a GA or general auxiliary officer of the Church.” — I think I said as much in the post when I said “I think that the chances are slim that anyone could reach a level of notoriety and respect that would make them a community leader outside of the Church hierarchy.”

    The real question is why? Have I listed all the reasons?

    And, do you know of others I should include in the list?

  6. Kristine on June 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    “We don’t have paid clergy so a preacher can’t get famous. Our bishops and RS Presidents are awesome, but they do it part-time and then when they are released they fade into obscurity.”

    Bingo–it’s good in that nobody gets all of the recognition, but it’s unfortunate because nobody stays in long enough to cultivate the kinds of community relationships that make for effective involvement in civic projects, ecumenical outreach, etc. And nobody has any significant time to devote to anything except family and profession and church callings.

  7. Kristine on June 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    And, btw, the stunned silence didn’t last that long, and afterwards we had the conversation we’re having now about how LDS church structure tends not to produce the same kinds of groups/leaders community organizing types are used to working with.

  8. L-d Sus on June 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “And, do you know of others I should include in the list?”

    Another category to consider are community leaders who just happen to be Mormon. Three random examples:

    Blaine Leonard served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

    Terry Tempest Williams is a a leading naturalist.

    Gordon Gee is the president of Ohio State.

    Before someone else does it, I will go ahead and state the obvious: These individuals are leaders in communities that are not Mormon-specific.

  9. Bob on June 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    I think the reality is Mormons do very poorly with community efforts outside their Church. There are few, if any, community workers names to give. IMO, working through the Church does not count. The only thing I ever did for my community was in youth baseball. ( And the paper drive as a kid ).
    The only big name man working in the community__ is Glen Beck (?)

  10. SouthernMan on June 6, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Where have you been? Under a rock?

    How about Rebecca (Becky) Douglas and her Rising Star Outreach charities. She has organized and helped so many people, men, women, children. Her organization has mobilized many successful LDS individuals and business, built a school in India, provided micro-lending for women, crafts for disabled, impoverished “untouchables”, provided doctors for leper colonies near Chenai, on and on. I would certainly call her a “Mormon Community Leader”. Maybe its because she lives in Georgia, not Utah.

    http://www.risingstaroutreach.org

    Check the board of directors for pretty much a who’s who in the LDS community.

    There are many LDS who are involved in their communities all over the country, all over the world. And not necessarily just Stake Presidents and GA’s. Go to a ward in New York City and ask that question. Go to a ward in Charleston, SC and ask. Go to Baltimore and ask some members there. There are many many LDS people involved in every level of almost every community in which I have been involved.

    They just might not be famous, or columnists for Deseret News. How about some of the “LDS Mommy Bloggers” ? Talk about community. CJane in Provo and her rooftop concert series. There may not be community organizers like Mr. Obama getting paid for their organizing, but they are affecting many many lives.

  11. Jim W on June 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    He could always reach out to those involved in Scouting in the various communities. The church is heavily invested in the BSA programs for young men, and those have community impact. Greater involvement in recognizing Eagle scouts and their projects comes to mind.

  12. Jax on June 6, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Southernman,

    You echo my sentiments…there are many individuals who are leaders in their communities. It isn’t that there aren’t leaders, it is that there are so many that you can’t name ONE. So if you ask who a leader in the community is, then you have to ask “for which community?”

    I would suggest that if we fail to have recognizable leaders in the community that is is because others refuse to recognize us. Here in the South there have been many efforts by our LDS people to be ‘community leaders’ by giving service and organizing community efforts. But because we are Mormon they don’t want us involved. We organized a project videotaping life histories of people in our community. We worked with the historical society and other churches. The group of people organizing it (from all groups) didn’t want us putting out press releases about it because they didn’t want to publicize their working with us. During a response to a tornado disaster we showed up to the home of a woman who had put in a request to help, she turned us away because we had on our yellow ‘helping hands’ shirts, but then put in another request for help, to which we responded again and were turned away again. She put in a 3rd request for help with specifics she did not want Mormons to come. It is hard to be recognized as community leaders when the community despises us. The only recognition we recieve is from the church hierarchy, but the leaders ARE out there!

  13. John Mansfield on June 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    That Presidential Medal of Freedom that was awarded to President Hinckley filled any need for public recognition of Mormon good-doing quite sufficiently for at least another decade.

  14. Bob on June 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    @Jax: Next time, don’t wear your Mormon t-shirt.
    @ John M.: Look at who has given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and you will see how little it means. And that’s not a put down of President Hinckley good doings.

  15. SilverRain on June 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Exactly. Pick just about any ward, and you’ll find at least one person quietly doing some kind of service for the community as part of their daily life.

  16. Bob on June 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    How about Rommey’s work in the Olympics? Wasn’t that a good community service by him?

  17. Kent Larsen on June 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    FWIW, I agree that there are a lot of possible community leaders. The problem is that they are NOT well know among Mormons, and usually NOT oriented toward Mormons either in terms of fundraising or in terms of where they provide services (not that either of these are must haves).

    The question remains, WHY don’t we know about the people mentioned by L-d Sus (8) and SouthernMan (10)?

    FWIW, I’m in a NYC ward and while I’ve heard of a few things, I don’t hear that much. I know that there is a lot I haven’t heard of. I have been to a presentation for Rising Star Outreach, and I know that Warner Woodworth at BYU has a long list of charities started by Mormons (many as a result of his preaching to his studnets). But they don’t show up in my consciousness enough to make much of an impact.

    Part of the reason for that is that we don’t have widely-read LDS media of any consequence (except for perhaps the Church News), and what we do have is too often quite lame. So we don’t hear much about these organizations.

  18. michelle on June 7, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Clayton Christensen was someone who came to mind.

    So if you ask who a leader in the community is, then you have to ask “for which community?”

    Well said.

    The question remains, WHY don’t we know about the people mentioned by L-d Sus (8) and SouthernMan (10)?

    Many people do! I think part of the reason many don’t, though, is because their particular focus or realm doesn’t cross into that of these people who are out doing good. I imagine you know of more people of influence in your field or in areas about which you are passionate than outside of them.

    So, I think some of what we see is that different people are passionate about different things, much impact is pretty focused/specialized/local, and there is just plain too much good going on out there (both by members and by many others) that it’s impossible to keep tabs on them all. We are living in a headline-driven culture, but the reality is that most good is done quietly, as SilverRain said.

  19. JamesM on June 7, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Not only is the Mormon community not aware of those who happen to be engaged in their communities through charities or other pursuits, they wouldn’t readily acknowledge them as a “community leader” even if they were aware. At least not in the sense the White House was asking. They wouldn’t have enough Mormon “street cred” to be accepted as a universal voice for Mornos w/o an official calling.

    Another example of great community leaders that wouldn’t work are Mormon choral or orchestral groups that exist in areas with enough critical mass to organize them…I know leading members of such organizations in DC, Orange County, and Mesa. Great organizers. Meaningful contribution, but not in a position to speak on behalf of the Mormon community as a whole.

    The only types of called leaders that would probably be tenured long enough at the local level to be able to establish meaningful communities ties are probably stake presidencies. There have got to be at least half a dozen stake presidencies that are heavily plugged into civic affairs in the US, right? What about the Stake Presidency in the Bay Area that I heard spearheaded so much outreach to the LGBT community following Prop 8? Now THERE’S a possibility.

    Only trouble there is you have no female representation…

  20. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 7, 2011 at 7:27 am

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1301990370

    Executive Director, Senior Staff Attorney at The Immigration Project

  21. Naismith on June 7, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I don’t think there is a Mormon community. Or a Mormon culture. Yeah, I know, I always get shouted down at that. But I joined the church in Europe, lived in South America, and have traveled extensively in Asia. A lot of things that we assume are typical LDS just don’t exist in other places.

    Like Southern Man, I think a lot of us are involved in community affairs. My husband and I have both served in leadership of our respective professional organizations (national and international). Several Mormons have served in our local League of Women Voters.

    Ardis once explained that in the intermountain west, non-LDS discourage LDS participation in such groups, so that they can have some turf to serve themselves. Out in the rest of the world, not so much. We had a stake president who was a county commissioner, etc.

  22. Naismith on June 7, 2011 at 8:39 am

    “some turf to serve themselves”

    Oh, dear, it sounds like they are serving themselves only, which is not what I intended. What I meant was that they can have some turf to themselves to serve others, the way Mormons have church service.

  23. Last Lemming on June 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Too bad Lowell Bennion is not still with us. I think someone like him is what the White House is looking for. I see a few similar candidates mentioned here.

  24. Chris H. on June 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Me!

  25. Tim on June 7, 2011 at 11:00 am

    About 18 months ago, a recently-called area authority came and spoke to some of the members in my stake and a couple of neighboring stakes. He discussed his involvement with a large, well-known community charity organization (which had occurred before he became an area authority). Other churches were involved with this organization, but he had to really push to get his stake involved in it–not because of opposition from outside, but because of resistance from leaders within the church. I believe he did eventually get his stake involved with the community organization. He himself devoted some serious time to the leadership of this organization within the community.

    Although it was not his main intent, the relationships he built with other religious leaders in the community while involved with this organization had a positive impact on the church. When the church announced it was building a temple in the area, these religious leaders actually supported it, because they knew this member of the church and the good things he had done for the community.

    I think there are many members of the church who are community leaders. Unfortunately, right now, I’m not sure the church is doing as much as it should to encourage them. This area authority actually told us that sometimes we have to push reluctant church leaders in the right direction. The meeting was for local leaders (bishoprics, EQPs, RSPs, etc.) so I don’t know if that advice was for the general membership or just for ward leaders, but it was interesting to hear from this area authority that sometimes leaders are reluctant to change how they do things and need a bit of prompting from the rest of us.

    I do think the church is moving very slowly in this direction. It’s up to us to help it move faster.

  26. gst on June 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I am here.

  27. H.Bob on June 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Um, Huntsman Cancer Foundation? Sorenson Legacy Foundation? George S. and Dolores Dore’ Eccles Foundation? Those are the big three in and among Utah organizations, and all at least founded by if not currently run exclusively by Mormons. Mark Willes counts as the head of DMC, which funds and runs the LDS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Church’s for-profit holdings.

    And why not GAs? Bishop Burton and his counselors have as much to do with how and where the Church intersects with the private sector in charity and philanthropy as any member of the Twelve; it’s the Presiding Bishopric’s bailiwick, after all. Managing Director-level or below employees of LDS Humanitarian Services would be good candidates, too. I mean, I’d have to look up who the current head of FEMA is, but the difference between an adequate response and a Hurricane Katrina response depends largely on who’s in charge and whether the bureaucracy works efficiently, and as has been said ad infinitum, Mormons are pretty good at emergency response.

    And in my own experience as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, Carlton Christensen (Clayton’s brother) is a fantastic model of what a Mormon serving his actual constituency in Salt Lake City should look like (i.e., more concerned with the actual community and how it runs than with political theater or ideological purity). Ben McAdams seems to be cut from the same cloth, though he and Carlton are in opposing parties.

    It would be interesting, as well, to see how many of the candidates we could come up with would be at all comfortable with being singled out and recognized. It’s a credit to most of the Mormons I can think of that most of them would rather quietly serve and do good than attend a rubber chicken dinner and get a plexiglas plaque.

  28. Kent Larsen on June 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    H. Bob, Huntsman, Sorenson and Eccles are all but unknown outside of Utah, even among Mormons.

  29. Kent Larsen on June 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Naismith (21) wrote: “I don’t think there is a Mormon community. Or a Mormon culture.”

    In order for this to actually be true, Naismith, you’ll have to define what you mean by “community” and “culture.”

    The definition I’ve always gone by says that a community happens whenever a large enough group works and lives together, and a culture exists whenever there is a group. Under this definition, your comments don’t make any sense.”

    Now, it could be that you mean that there is no full-blown Mormon culture at the level of the various national cultures around the world. If that’s what you mean then I agree, what we call “Mormon Culture” is more like a collection of similar sub-cultures in the various national cultures where Mormonism is active. But still, these sub-cultures do have a number of elements in common–if nothing else the elements that make up our religious practices (structure of worship services, hymns, scripture and manuals, etc.). Like it or not, this is culture, and it is the minimum of what we mean when we say “Mormon Culture.”

    I agree that many of the elements that Church members assume are universal are, in fact, not universal. Fine. But the Church itself enforces the universalities of certain elements.

    As for Community, at the very least Mormons in the Church are a community — they live, work and pray together. I don’t understand the definition that would allow you to say that this is not a community.

  30. chanson on June 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    It’s nice that you’re willing to venture out as far as John Dehlin, but what if outsiders are interested in hearing from some organizers of the secular (cultural) Mormon community as well? I guess the sharp dividing line between “you’re in” and “you’re out!!” is one if the more quaint and charming aspects of Mormon culture. ;)

  31. Kent Larsen on June 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Oh, chanson (30), I’m not sure that the dividing line between in and out is so unique to Mormonism.

    Isn’t the in/out dividing line basically what is behind the whole immigration debate?

    Personally, I think that the dividing line should be a lot less important in Mormon culture than it is. There is that whole idea in Christ’s teachings that we should be accepting of the sinner, and all that.

  32. H.Bob on June 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Kent (28), I think a lot of that depends on what your definition of “unknown” is. The Huntsmans were #4 on the 2007 Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Top Donors” list, and Sorenson was #1 in 2008, the year he died and his entire personal fortune, some $4.5 billion, founded the Sorenson Legacy Foundation. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn’t heard of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or their work, but they don’t show up on that list all that often, mainly because their commitment is an ongoing one, not just a one-time thing.

    So asking who our community leaders that might be recognized are, and then discounting any that don’t meet some test of being recognized world- or even nationwide smacks of what Gene England used to call “provincial anti-provincialism” (also known as “can any good come out of Nazareth [or Utah]“?). How many of the community leaders that President Obama has honored in the way we’re talking about are people anyone outside their communities would have heard of? Is that percentage any different than what we’re talking about here?

    I mean, of the top ten from 2011 on the philanthropy list, I recognize two names (well, three if you count “Anonymous”), the Perelmans and Taubman. I suspect that if I were to find a list of community leaders that the President has recognized, only a miniscule number of names would mean anything at all to me, though they most likely mean a great deal to the communities they serve.

    I’d humbly suggest, as well, that Huntsman, Sorenson, and Eccles have a greater reach than just Utah, but that might be my own provincial anti-provincialism talking.

  33. Gdub on June 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I think pointing them toward the Presiding Bishopric and the General Relief Society Presidency is a good call. So much of what the outside world would classify as “community outreach” falls under their leadership.

    There were a couple neat areas in my mission where the church was very public, and our church leaders seen as community leaders. This was odd because I was in the Bible Belt. Generally, the attitude toward Mormons was not favorable. However, in each of these areas, local members had run for political office (one state-wide and another federal). As well, both bishop worked in local government. This allowed them to volunteer church members for much greater work int he community and it became quite obvious to other citizens that the LDS Church members were active in cleaning up the city and serving others.I think they provide a great model for what we can do to be more involved in shaping our communities.

  34. Raymond Takashi Swenson on June 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    In American society outside of the LDS Church, it is often the case that a large church is affiliated with an auxiliary organization that is active in public policy and community activism, such as organizing aid to lower income families, such as community food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters for abused women or pregnant teenagers. The church sponsors the auxiliary through providing core manpower, funding and often physical facilities. This involvement with auxiliaries also leads to political involvement, both at the local level and in applying for Federal grants for the organization, as well as in helping individual beneficiaries of the programs obtain assistance from government programs that they are entitled to but don’t know how to apply for, such as medicaid, AFDC, food stamps, and veterans benefits.

    In many communities, specific wards and branches have become involved as supporters of these kinds of charitable enterprises. For example, my stake in Idaho Falls arranged to have different ward Relief Societies man the soup kitchen one day each month.

    However, the LDS Church does not allow use of its funds to create organizations that have a constant need for subsidies that would draw down the funds available for all of the normal capital and operating expenses of the growing LDS Church. At the same time, the Church does not use its physical assets to earn funds, such as through day care or private schools, or even restaurants serving the public.

    Because the Church does not create these kinds of community institutions, as a rule, it does not have people who are “community leaders” promoting services to people in need in the general locality, which can attract support from other elements in the locality besides the Church, and may serve as targets for government grants and thus promote a certain level of political activism and the kind of quid pro quo that is desired by politicians who love to be able to say they did something for the community, so voters should support them in return. Such auxiliaries can be ready-made elements for building political coalitions to lobby for particular kinds of social legislation. That is what Obama did as a young man, and it is the kind of organizating that President Bush 43 had in mind when he offered his “Faith-Based Charity” initiatives.

    The main community auxiliaries that have been created by the Church have been BYU and its Idaho and Hawaii campuses. Because they have continued to be tightly integrated into the Church structure, rather than going their own way in the pattern of many Catholic and formerly Protestant universities, the BYU campuses are not recognized as community entities apart from the Church. Because they do not depend on government funding, or other substantial funding from outside the LDS community, they have not had to compromise their positions on standards of behavior for students and faculty. I suspect that the Church will continue to prefer to limit such auxiliaries to those it can be confident will not be a long term financial burden on the Church generally, and which will not therefore require the Church to compromise its positions in order to fund. In other words, the opportunity for Mormons to become “community leaders” in a Church-supported organization is very limited.

    There are some free-standing organizations that draw on LDS teachings and affiliations (e.g. BYU Management Society, Clark Law Society, Southern Virginia University, etc.) but don’t represent substantial direct financial commitments by the Church. One could classify those as “Mormon community leaders”, but they are either so broad or so local that they don’t resemble the kind of “communities” that have potential for political impact, as mediating between politicians and church members the way many politicians would like. Some of the charitable organizations mentioned by other commenters seem to fall into this space.

    Mormons are also free to become leaders in other “communities”, including professional and political ones, but those will not in most cases be “communities” with a Mormon identity, and therefore they will not be “Mormon community leaders”.

    Since the interest of politicians is often in the ability of community auxiliaries to draw on the voter interest and financial power of the core church organization, politicans are going to be largely disappointed with the LDS Church, where even an email sent around by BYU MBA program professors supporting Romney’s first run for the presidential nomination was seen as violating the political neutrality of the Church and therefore of BYU in its entirety. The Church has few community auxiliaries, and those it does have cannot function as a bridge between the Church and political Babylon, contrary to the case in many other churches.

  35. Roland Richey on June 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    In our area we are represented by our Stake President on a number of community inter-faith councils – i.e. regional boy scouts, regional homeless shelter.

    He then reports back with a number of good ideas for community service projects for the wards, quorums, youth groups, etc.

  36. Roland Richey on June 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    #34 – Fast offering funds are used for a number of “qualified” community service projects – homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc.
    But obviously not for politicking.

  37. Suleiman on June 8, 2011 at 3:00 am

    #34 – Nicely articulated. Many people of other faiths that I know admire the LDS Church for its Welfare system, but are completely bewildered by an apparent lack on the part of Latter-day Saints of any politicized type of “social justice.”

    While I am aware of the huge sacrifice of time and money that flow from my fellow Latter-day Saints, I don’t think that there will be many Latter-day Saints who would qualify for recognition by any White House, regardless of political party.

  38. danithew on June 8, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I understand you are looking for suggestions or ideas about someone who is outside the formal Church organization but I think that approach is a terrible mistake.

    The obvious person to start with is a stake president. He can 1) act as that leader himself, 2) appoint someone local or even a number of local people to act in the role, or 3) if appropriate, kick the responsibility/assignment up a level to an Area Authority or Seventy.

    Maybe that sounds like a boring orthodox answer. But there are at least three practical advantages to this approach that I can think of:

    1) The Church being what it is, I suspect any contact/request with a stake president that is made from outside the church would likely be deliberated over in presidency meeting or a council – increasing the chances that thoughtful, responsible, inspired decisions are made.

    2) Every stake has access to to a sort of natural local leadership brain trust that has developed over time. Almost by design, each stake will have a core of seasoned men and women – people who are talented, educated, knowledgeable – people who may have proved themselves previously by capably serving in high callings at ward and stake levels. There will also be members who are attorneys, medical doctors, business people, professors, artists, musicians, etc. These are people who could also be called upon to act as community leaders if they are needed. The stake presidency is in a unique position of trust and authority and is best suited to reach out and appoint/assign the right person to fulfill the community leadership role.

    3) Often these kinds of roles and callings are already assigned at the stake or regional level. In many cases a stake president will be able to point at someone who is already serving in that kind of a calling and is already actively engaged in that kind of work.

    Just as an example of number 3 – I know of two senior missionaries, a husband and wife, who are assigned to serve a strictly non-proselyting Public Affairs mission in the New York, NY stake area. They and some others represent the church here locally and routinely cultivate relationships with leaders of other religious organizations and with ambassadors, United Nations officials, etc. These senior missionaries are not from New York – but they have been assigned here and they are doing tremendous work.

    On another note, the couple I am talking about is relatively unknown – I don’t know if they are even well known to most people in the stake. But I don’t know if a community leader being well-known or famous necessarily is all that important or if they have to be permanent local fixtures. Of course that can be useful and bring positive attention to the church – but most of the time the work will likely need to be done by non-famous yet capable individuals are chosen for specific assignments, that they work in those assignments for a time and then others receive the assignment later on.

  39. Kristine on June 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

    It’s so nice to reassure ourselves of our superiority, isn’t it? Especially our superior humility…

  40. Jax on June 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    well Kristine, as the song says, ‘oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when your perfect in everyway’ =)

  41. Kristine on June 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Oh, Jax, believe me, I know!! ;)

  42. danithew on June 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Kristine, I hope that’s not a response to my comment – I’m not feeling superior. I just think the church organization can work in our favor in what’s being described here.

    If White House representatives started contacting regional church leaders and feeling out how the government and the church could work together in support of good causes, I imagine some pretty amazing things could happen.

    I’m sure we could learn from them and their national/regional perspectives as well.

  43. Kristine on June 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    danithew, it wasn’t.

  44. Legacy of Lowell on June 9, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Agreed with the comment about Lowell Bennion. It’s really too bad that we don’t have someone like that to point to today.

  45. Jared vdH on June 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Darius Gray, a prominent and founding member of the Genesis Group comes to mind.

  46. Jenne on June 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    You can also include LDS WAVE as a political group.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.