Hastily, John Salinger wrote down the details of the assignment on the back of the list of materials to read: three-page paper due on the fifth, about world hunger, use the list of materials to be read.
The bell rang, and John walked down the hall toward the cafeteria.
When the Mormon students who ate lunch together were seated in their usual places in the cafeteria, John asked the question: “Did Mr. Perkins give your class an assignment on population and hunger today?”
Soon it was established that not only had John’s government class received the assignment, but also Kamio Kamura’s economics class, as well as Julie’s history class.
“It seems as though I’ve received a similar assignment at least once each semester from one teacher or another for the last three years. If it isn’t overpopulation, it’s abortion or world hunger,” added Lisa.
“And the material in the reading list makes it pretty clear what your conclusions are supposed to be: The world is overcrowded. No one should have a large family. Abortions are needed to control population growth. We don’t have enough food! But, I don’t believe all that!” protested Julie.
“Maybe we’re being unfair to the teachers,” said John. I think Mr. Perkins and the other teachers give assignments on these subjects because they are really concerned about them. And many of them agree with what the Church teaches.”
“Maybe so, John,” answered Lisa, “but how do we do the assignment when the teacher’s opinions don’t seem to agree with what the Church teaches?”
These young people have asked some interesting questions. Frequently, the opinions of teachers will differ from Church policies, the statements of Church leaders, and the scriptures.
“Let’s go talk to Mr. Morgan,” said John. “He has taught at this school for a long time and he has been a bishop and a seminary teacher even longer.”
“I can understand that you have a problem,” said Bishop Morgan, “but it’s not the problem you mentioned. You are assuming that you may use only the sources on Mr. Perkin’s reading list and that you must reach the same conclusions as the authors on that list. I have no doubt,” continued the bishop, “that you are welcome to use other sources, and to state other points of view, and to reach different conclusions if that is what your research leads you to.”
“But are there books and articles that support what the Church teaches?” asked Lisa.
“Certainly,” replied Bishop Morgan. “There are few fields of study without controversy. Honest, sincere researchers, working with the same data, may come to widely different conclusions and then publish documented articles and books in support of their conclusions.
“Some scientists are sure the world is overcrowded with four billion people. Others feel that the earth is capable of providing well for 40 or 50 or even 100 billion people.
“And among social scientists the differences of opinion are probably even greater because they work with the most complex subject of all: people. That’s why you get strong conflicting opinions like these. There are no easy answers.
“As Latter-day Saints, we are fortunate to have revealed truth to guide us in these controversial subjects, and we should be grateful for that. And there are many researchers, both LDS and otherwise, whose writings agree with what the Lord has revealed. Your problem is simply to find these writings and then decide which of them will be useful in your assignments.”
In the next three weeks John, Julie, and Kamio did a lot of hard work. Working together, they carefully read everything on Mr. Perkin’s reading list and then began doing research in both the school and public libraries.
They contacted various social service and government agencies and obtained some useful materials, references and statistics. Other teachers were consulted.
John and Julie and Kamio received top grades for their work in presenting the Church’s position. They were invited to present their findings to their respective classes and to answer questions from other students. They were well prepared with information to support their beliefs.
Best of all, they learned that there really are good and valid reasons for the Church’s position concerning difficult moral issues. They discovered that some teachers with strong opinions respect students who do good, thorough research, even when they disagree with them. And they learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ is always in harmony with the truth from whatever source.
In 1975 Janelle Griffin was in the tenth grade. An assignment to write a paper about population explosion started a series of events that eventually led to a tape and filmstrip called, “Very Much Alive.”
Janelle and her father, Dr. Glen Griffin, now members of the Bountiful, Utah Val Verda Stake, went through the family photos and selected some good slides. These were matched with an anti-abortion story-script that Janelle and her father wrote. The resulting slide presentation, emphasizing the sanctity of human life was enthusiastically applauded by students and teachers. Refinements and revisions followed. A sound track was recorded on cassette tape. Some who saw the presentation suggested that every LDS youth should see “Very Much Alive.”
Many revisions and refinements followed, and then followed distribution in 17 languages to all the Church (VVOF1420.).
Wanted: Young Latter-day Saints with sharp minds to serve their fellowmen and possibly win Nobel Prizes for the following:
1. Find a way to eliminate rats, thereby increasing the food supply in some areas by 25 percent. Technique must be safe for use in areas where a lot of people live.
2. Find a way to cheaply convert salt water to fresh, thereby turning many deserts near oceans into productive farm lands. Hint: Solar power?
3. Find a way to make tractors and tools available to more farmers in more areas, including equipment that is suitable for small farms.
4. Find better ways to prevent spoilage of food in underdeveloped areas, thereby reducing waste and feeding millions more.
5. Find a way to make cheap, dependable solar power available in all areas as a replacement for energy sources that cannot be replaced once they are used.
6. Find a way to make ocean food sources widely available in pleasing form at low cost.
Young Latter-day Saints may win prizes for extracting water for irrigation from the atmosphere; for finding alternate energy sources; for finding better techniques for harvesting, processing, packaging and distributing foods; for desert farming; use of moisture at the north and south pole; and similar projects.
Certainly there are hungry people in the world. Certainly there are problems. But shall the sharp, young minds of Zion join those who talk about doom and gloom or join in the search for answers? We are the children of divine Heavenly Parents, created in their image. We are capable of solving tough problems.
“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh,” said the Lord through the prophet Joel,” and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2:28–29.)
The answers are there, and the answers to the difficult questions will be found. Great discoveries will come after hard work and many failures. Sometimes those receiving inspiration may not even recognize it as such.
Who in 1750, could have predicted the avalanche of fundamental changes that would follow James Watt’s development of the steam engine? Who, in 1870, could have foreseen what electricity would do in the next hundred years? And how many people in 1957 could believe that the first artificial satellite would lead to footprints on the moon only twelve years later?
What next? Take one sharp, young Latter-day Saint. Add a good education and a seeking mind, determined to solve a problem. Add a prayerful attitude, ready to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. That young person may help feed millions.
Q: How crowded is the world?
A: If all the world’s four billion people were divided into groups of five, each five-person group could have nearly 1 hectare of land in the United States. Canada, Mexico, and Central America would be empty. Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the islands of the world would be empty. The world’s people may be poorly distributed, but is the world overcrowded? (World population is four billion people; the area of the United States is 9,399,317 square kilometers; there are 100 hectares per square kilometer.)
Q: Is there food for the world’s people?
A: Yes. Food production has grown faster than population for many years.
Q: Then why is there hunger in the world?
A: The reasons are many and include:
1. Distribution of food is very inefficient in some areas, especially in underdeveloped areas.
2. Much food is left in the fields by present harvesting technology. (Mechanical harvesting is estimated to leave up to 25 percent of some crops in the field. Given high labor costs, it is not economically feasible to retrieve that which is left. Much of what is lost is not quite ripe, or too ripe, or in the corner of a field, where machinery cannot operate.)
3. Poor food packaging and storage results in great losses of food.
4. Rats eat enormous quantities of food. (National Geographic, July 1977, page 63: “In India rats eat enough grain to fill a train 3,000 miles (4,800 km.) long.”)
5. Inefficient farming techniques do not produce as much food as possible on a piece of land.
6. Much land that could produce food is used to produce tobacco, opium, and ingredients for alcoholic beverages.
7. In some areas governments intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) encourage farmers to raise less food.
8. Some areas use many kilos of plant protein to raise one kilo of meat protein.
Helping the people of the world to feed themselves is a major concern of the Ezra Taft Benson Institute in Provo, Utah. Organized three years ago and directed by Dr. Delos Ellsworth, the Institute does extensive research in food, nutrition, agriculture, and food storage.
Numerous research efforts have been undertaken dealing with growing food on a small plot of land, food storage in tropical climates, different things to put in home-storage and methods for gardening that can produce more food. Yet other research is planned.
When he was asked if members of the Church are involved in the work of feeding a hungry world, Dr. Ellsworth produced a directory of over 2,000 LDS food and agriculture scientists. Indeed, the Church and its people are concerned and involved.