“LDS Groups Serve Members in War Zone,” Ensign, Apr. 1991, 75
In groups that may be as small as five members or larger than two hundred, Latter-day Saint personnel stationed on the Arabian Peninsula are meeting to worship together.
More than five thousand Church members are among the armed forces deployed in the Persian Gulf region. They are being served by more than one hundred organized Latter-day Saint groups.
“It is somewhat a miracle” that so many groups have been organized so well and so quickly, said Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the Seventy, who is chairman of the Church’s Military Relations Committee.
In many cases, group leaders were called even before military units were deployed to the Gulf region, said Ron Jones, manager of military relations for the Church. This was possible because the exact number of Church members included in a unit is often known, he explained. However, some worship units combined with others after arriving in the Gulf region, when they found that proximity allowed the added strength of numbers. LDS chaplains serving in the Gulf region—there are twenty-one of them—have been given authority to call and set apart additional group leaders as needed, Brother Jones added.
Church members from British military units have been invited to meet with some of the established groups of Americans.
Both the group leaders and the individual servicemen and women are given items needed to conduct meetings and to continue individual worship and study. Group leaders receive supplies, including sacrament trays and song booklets. Individual service personnel receive pocket-size editions of the scriptures, which are allowed among personal gear taken with them when they are deployed. Group leaders can supply those books to members in the military who have not received the set.
Most of the LDS groups meet to worship on Sunday, although some meet on Friday, the day of worship in Muslim countries. While Muslim countries often do not permit the practice of other religions, service personnel have encountered no problems because they confine their worship to the posts where they are assigned, Brother Jones said. However, members are cautioned not to do any teaching or proselyting among residents of the country where they are stationed.
Some LDS groups have difficulty getting together because the servicemen and women are in so many different areas that there may be transportation problems, Elder Hanks said. But average weekly attendance ranges from 3 or 4 in some groups to as many as 175 in others.
“Some of the groups are like fully organized branches,” he added. “They have a quorum structure, home teaching, and activation and activities committees.”
He said that when conditions permit, the Church organization will be set up for Latter-day Saint personnel in the Gulf region as it was in Vietnam, where four districts were organized during the Vietnam War.
Church members and leaders in areas outside the war zone should be concerned not only about the servicemen and women in the Gulf region but also about the families they have left behind, Elder Hanks said. Local priesthood and Relief Society leaders, and neighbors as well, should be conscious of the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of these families.
He urged members also to express “neighborly concern” to those around them who are not members of the Church but whose family or personal lives have been affected by the war.