Subject: The LDS church is SO out of its league in Africa
Date: Jul 20, 2010
Author: Stray Mutt

On the heels of a recent post about the Aba, Nigeria, temple closing and a missionary couple in Guatemala being afraid to leave their compound, I watched Anthony Bourdain in Liberia last night. The country is slowly emerging from a long civil war. The infrastructure is in shambles, the economy is awful, but people are doing what they can to cope and get back to something resembling normalcy. This is a too-common story in Africa. And it's a situation the LDS church is totally unprepared and philosophically unwilling to help.

The show told of a turning point moment in the Liberian civil war. Fighting in the capital made its way to the central market. The markets are run completely by women. Powerful women. Tired of running away, the women took a stand against militiamen, unarmed. They shouted them down and, to shame the men, stripped off their clothes and stood naked before them. Can you imagine the brethren trying to wrap their heads around that? Oh, and the president of Liberia is now a woman.

An important hub of male life are small clubs where they play Scrabble, drink strong tea, read the papers and discuss important topics like politics and the economy. Imagine trying to convince a Liberian that he's wasting time and breaking the WOW in his club and what he really needs to do is put on a tie and sit in priesthood meeting so he can listen a canned lesson (no debating, please).

The show also talked about Liberia is profoundly Christian and how the churches -- most of them small nondenominational evangelical groups -- are critical to the mental well being of the believers. They talked to a minister whose church is in what was once the worst neighborhood in the capital. He talked about God's forgiveness and how it heals people who suffer. He's down there in the literal and metaphorical dirt with people, giving comfort and support, not grilling them about their worthiness. And, of course, their worship service was full of energetic singing and dancing. Imagine potential converts going from that to the dreary snoozefest of the proper LDS meeting.

Then Bourdain went way "off the map" to a typical village where they live pretty much the same way they have for centuries, except with T-shirts and plastic dishes. Here their Christianity takes a back seat to animism and a belief that devils control their world -- in good ways and well as bad. It's a complex, deeply rooted belief system that one can't just toss aside to become a proper Mormon.

Africa was supposed to be the bold new frontier once the brethren decided blacks are no longer cursed. They had a little flush of success (zero to ANYTHING would be a success). The brethren probably imagined all they had to do was show up with The One True Gospel®, white shirts & ties, tell a nice story, dunk some people and, presto! The LDS church doesn't really know how to minister to people. It's not what they do. They command an organization, direct the troops, extract conformity. You serve the church, the church doesn't serve you. Help people deal with hard-core tragedy? Create a safe harbor in a world or chaos? Interact on a deeply personal level with people, putting them first before some rigid institution? Getting their suits dirty? Yeah, right.


Subject: Loved this insight
Date: Jul 20 10:36
Author: NormaRae

Especially your last paragraph. It couldn't be said better. There is zero true ministry in TSCC. It's so sad to think of the good that could be done in the world if their missionary force was allowed to even spend half their time doing ministerial-type work instead of 100% prosletizing. But they're not about doing good in the world. They're about, as you say, commanding an organization.


Subject: One article on the story said...
Date: Jul 20 10:41
Author: btc

"The Mormon Church has closed their Aba Nigeria Temple indefinitely due to violence and crime in the surrounding area of the temple. Temple workers were evacuated in mid-June after an incident in the area involving gunfire that struck the actual temple..."

That's all it'll take to close the temples? God strikes the Oquirrh Mtn. Temple with a bolt of million-Watt lightening and they just buy a new trillion dollar Moroni to put up there...but a single bullet hits the temple and they close it?

"With god, everything is impossible. Fear man and not god," is the Mormon dictum.


Subject: Great post, Stray....
Date: Jul 20 10:47
Author: RAG

The 'church' is so out of touch that they have to save souls in the Third World...but even the Third World is slowly rising into mass communications that will eventually threaten LDS, inc.


Subject: awesome post, Mr. Mutt
Date: Jul 20 11:07
Author: Enlightened

What you describe I do not have a word in my vocabulary. Maybe it's irrelevance...but it goes's also arrogance on the part of organized religion. This is the reason why I believe in God and Jesus, but not organized religion per se.

Those people who are struggling to survive and overcome are the true intended audience, if you will, for the word of God and the gospel of JC. For many people, it's when life is the bleakest and most difficult that spiritual seeds bloom and thrive.


Subject: agreed!!!
Date: Jul 20 12:42
Author: sherv

Terrific explanation of the Christians there truly helping and ministering and the Mormon way- just show up, expect the locals to flock to them without the dirty work. They truly don't get it. Good post.


Subject: Think of how much money THE CHURCH spends...
Date: Jul 20 11:18
Author: rhonda

....on real estate and malls and salaries from the bretheren, and how much that kind of money would help the people of Nigeria and other poor places in the world, hell, even the US.

It just makes you sick.


Subject: One of my favorite-ever posts, Stray Mutt. You really put you finger on it . . .
Date: Jul 20 11:20
Author: furtherlightandroughage

with "The LDS church doesn't really know how to minister to people. It's not what they do."


Subject: Well done, Mutt.
Date: Jul 20 11:50
Author: Laban's Head

The mormon church has NEVER been about the people -- ALWAYS about the organization. It took me years to see through all the warm fuzzy crap and get to that, but once I finally saw it, leaving was not hard.

A very sad sham of a religion.


Subject: Re: The LDS church is SO out of its league compared to these guys
Date: Jul 20 11:57
Author: JoD3:360

>Africans have a good understanding of Christian theology, but need Community of Christ–specific instruction,” said Wanga. “I can look at our church history, skeletons and all, and see the shift from one true church to one of many true churches.”

>Charmaine Chvala-Smith noted, “Some younger ministers were particularly interested in exploring inherently African ways of communicating Community of Christ theology and practices.” Tony Chvala-Smith commented, “In Zambia, a young adult pastor and seminary student named Dyson told me, ‘The church has a good theology. All it needs is to find its African voice in the lives of our congregations.’”

I totally agree with you Stray Mutt-
Isn't ministry supposed to be people specific?


Subject: One of the things that has allowed Christianity to spread...
Date: Jul 20 12:08
Author: Stray Mutt

...(other than the old Catholic convert-or-die tactics used by conquerors) is its willingness to adapt to meet the needs of believers and potential believers. There are only a handful of core doctrines. The rest is style. Adjusting the style is not a huge issue with most.

On the other hand, Mormonism is very much our-way-or-the-highway, and little of it has anything to do with core doctrine.


Subject: Yes, style!!! Never heard it expressed that way but so true.
Date: Jul 20 12:45
Author: sherv

Another great point.....yes, Christians do adjust their style of ministering. That is not a problem for them. They respect the culture where they are at. Well, what you said about the Mormon way, everyone here know.


Subject: Excellent post. Those well-scrubbed Utah missies have a childish,
Date: Jul 20 12:04
Author: I believed this all once, years ago...

simple-minded idea about how the world works, thanks in no small part to the TSCC. "Read the scriptures. Believe in Jesus. Pay 10% of everything you own to the TSCC and God will provide abundantly."

The Missionary Training Center sends them out with ZERO idea about what would make a real difference in the lives of people who are struggling to survive. What a waste!!


Subject: Wonderful insight.....Utah Mormonism with their lay ministry... in that culture? Hah! NT


Sbject: Excellent post, Mutt!
Date: Jul 20 13:05
Author: JackMormon'sWife

I have long maintained that Mormonism does not translate well into a world-wide religion.

At best, it is a provincial, inter-mountain west faith . . . based on U.S. frontier fringe theology.

Shannon ;o)


Subject: A Mormon community isn't complete without a Deseret Book pumping its patrons full of mind numbing..
Date: Jul 21 05:06
Author: hell's angel

garbage. I doubt that kind of commerce could survive in tribal Africa. :)

Nice post!


Subject: I agree completely....
Date: Jul 21 05:27
Author: Chris Vreeland

Colonial Britain was well-armed and willing to get their hands dirty but seemed to decide they didn't have the stomach for it anymore. What makes the Mormons think they stand a chance?


Subject: Thanks for this thread
Date: Jul 21 09:35
Author: cludgie

I have no experience in Liberia, but do in Central Africa, where the church tries to claim how strong it is. But really, it's pitiful. They have about 80 missionaries for a mission the size of the 48 states that includes both Congos, Central African Republic, Gabon, and Cameroon, to name most of the countries. Talk to the church leaders there, and they are really making an impression, "saving thousands." They are really just squeezing the hapless Africans into the mold the church uses throughout the world, for it is an American church, and according to the American thought model, you can take it and just overlay it onto any culture and it will operate well and thrive. *puts finger down throat*

In truth, the LDS leadership has no clue about the culture in Central Africa or any other region of Africa (or of the world), and the only reason that it even successfully has missionaries in Africa is because for a small 1.5 - 2 year window in the life of a young African LDS missionary, he or she will have money, food, and a real flat to live in. No one could or would go otherwise. After they return home to their impoverished huts, they have the same letdown as LDS missionaries anywhere, and many merely walk away. As for the mission presidents and senior missionaries, they have no knowledge about what actually lies beyond their tiny see, nor do they really even care. When the church first came to Africa, the leaders put up with the singing and traditional music for a small time, then cracked down. Members can't help but notice that during their drool-inducing sacrament meetings, carried out silently in the extreme heat of their building, people in the church next door are having a genuinely happy time singing and praising God.


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