“Making a Difference,” Ensign, June 1976, 49
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Benjamin Franklin is said to have observed, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
By definition, democracy requires of its constituents involvement, concern, and “hanging together.” To a hard-working Relief Society president with a family, or to a conscientious elders quorum president, not to mention bishops and stake presidents, civic involvement may sound like a bit too much to expect. In some areas it might even sound like the kind of activity to be left up to nonmembers. But it is possible to be involved in the community; we are committed as a Church to community involvement; and we know that more of us can do it because many of us do.
But from many areas came reports of busy, active members who are involved in government, politics, or local affairs, or who are just doing something to make their communities more pleasant. The following is a sampling of the wide range of activities in which Latter-day Saints have been and are making contributions.
Frequently Church members involved in their communities are fighting what they consider to be pornography. Alfred E. Hall, bishop of the Minneapolis Third Ward, Minneapolis Minnesota Stake—and serving his fifth term as mayor of Burnsville, a Minneapolis suburb—recently led a campaign to close a bowling alley where “lingerie shows” featured “go-go” dancers. Bishop Hall’s concern brought about passage of an antiobscenity ordinance. “I’m not trying to push my morals on anyone else,” he says, “but I don’t want them pushing their immorals on me, either.”
In Beaumont, Texas, Brother David D. Geddes, vice-president for Academic Affairs at Lamar University, has worked to organize a local chapter of Morality in Media. This is an interfaith organization “working to stop the traffic in pornography, constitutionally and effectively.” Brother Geddes has spoken out frequently in his community against pornography and says that “as concerned citizens, recognizing that we have a right to a better community, we should demand local ordinances that prevent the spread of obscenity.”
Latter-day Saints concerned with these problems are not only those who are citizens of the United States. For instance, Alan F. King, president of the Invercargill Branch, Otago New Zealand District, has been active in opposing an objectionable sex-education program in the school that his daughter attends.
While involved in the community, Church members have many opportunities to teach and to set an example of their moral standards. In many ways they can improve the community and be effective missionaries as well. Brother Ianthus B. Romney, first counselor in the El Paso Texas Stake, has had this kind of experience. As president of the National Food Service Organization he successfully suggested opening with prayer at their meetings. At the organization’s national meetings he discouraged smoking, persuaded his colleagues to cancel the cocktail hour, and convinced about half the delegates to drink milk. As commissioner of the Yucca Council of Boy Scouts of America, he led an effort to cut out Sunday hikes and camp outings. At his suggestion the council stopped having board meetings on Monday nights so that could be a family night and initiated interfaith religious services at Scout camps.
A member of the Littleton Colorado Stake presidency, C. Grant Goodson, has been president of the South Suburban Park and Recreation District Board for several years. Through his efforts, several parks, lighted ball fields, and skating rinks have been developed in the unincorporated areas of Arapahoe County.
Brother Mike Mattys of Morley, Western Australia, is a member of the local school’s Parents and Citizens Association. He has been instrumental in revoking permission to the schools to raise funds through gambling. Another Australian, Brother Peter Masson of Greenmount, Western Australia, brought about the discontinuation of his political party’s meetings on Sunday. He is also involved in taking up moral issues with the Department of the Media.
Chesley N. Pierson of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has been active for many years in the Richmond Community Association and has served the last three years as president. As president of the Knob Hill School Association, he has developed parent seminars on such subjects as “new math.” In 1967 Brother Pierson was appointed to the Canada Centennial Committee for churches; in 1975 he was in charge of clergy relations for Family Unity Month; and he is presently general chairman of Family Unity Month for the community.
Another Canadian, Ted Brewerton of Calgary, was recently honored as “the most outstanding pharmacist in community service outside the profession” by the Alberta Pharmaceutical Association. His service in the Church was noted, along with community work in the fields of drug abuse and education. Brother Brewerton is a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve.
Another example is Marjorie Peterson of Madison, Wisconsin. Sister Peterson is the mother of five children and has been Relief Society president for twenty-three years in three different wards. She is also president of Wisconsin Friends of Public Broadcasting, which works to support public radio and television and serves as an information exchange center between educational broadcasters and the public. She has campaigned for quality programming and for enlargement of the listening audience. During her term as president, the bylaws of the group have been revised and updated. She has also been instrumental in getting the organization declared tax exempt.
Sister Bernice West, director of Young Women for the Bristol England Stake, has worked with the Bristol Youth Committee in promoting the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. This is a national program that encourages service and the development of personal and character skills. Sister West also frequently speaks to girls’ schools on moral standards.
Many times citizens make efforts to help others without the benefit of an organization. Sister Elizabeth Lund has started a reading club in Manly, Brisbane, Australia, to help adults as well as children who have reading problems. Bishop Will Merrill of the Fort Knox Ward, Kentucky Louisville Stake, looks for chances to improve his community and has recently helped to make a bike trail in his town. Audrey Elizabeth Grindley of Manchester, England, won a road safety competition five years ago and since then has visited schools in Manchester teaching children to ride bicycles correctly, to check their bikes for road worthiness, and to discuss the highway code.
There are many more Church members who have an impact in their communities. Bishop M. Dunham of Gaythrone, Brisbane, Australia, is president of Parents and Citizens at the local school and successfully sought to have a pedestrian crossing installed where a child was killed going to school. Sister Katherine Schumacher of Louisville, Kentucky, is active in Parent Teachers Association, is a room mother at her children’s school, and has spoken out on local television stations against the Equal Rights Amendment. Zane S. Mason, bishop of the Falls Church Ward in Arlington, Virginia, is president of the Arlington Optimist Club and the Parent and Teacher Association, is active in the Arlington County Republican Party, and serves on tenant and fair housing committees.
President Ralph Pulman, president of the Merthyr Tydfil Wales Stake, has had tremendous impact in Scouting and is on the National Scouting Board of Great Britain as well as the National Scouting Board of the Church. Sister Dorothy Pash of Tasmania, Australia, is active on school committees and has convinced them not to meet on Sundays.
In 1976, two hundred years after Benjamin Franklin’s statement, there is ample evidence that many citizens are “hanging together.” The list could go on and on. To more completely explain what community activity means individually, a few more examples follow.