“This assignment will be due two weeks from Friday,” said Mr. Perkins. “I’m distributing a reading list to aid you in your research.”
Hastily, John Salinger jotted down the details of the assignment on the back of the reading list: three-page paper, due on the fifth, world hunger, population explosion, use reading list.
The bell rang, and John made his way down the hall toward the cafeteria. Near the library he passed the locker informally shared by most of the LDS girls at Royal High. As usual, John found most of the LDS boys there, too. By the time they reached the cafeteria, other LDS students and nonmember friends had joined them.
When the “Mormonism-for-lunch-bunch” were seated in their usual places in the cafeteria, John asked Julie Marshall a question:
“Did Mr. Perkins give your class an assignment on population and hunger today?”
“Yes, he did,” replied Julie. “I hope I can find my research notes for the paper I did on this same subject for him last year.”
Soon it was established that not only had Julie’s history class received the assignment, but also Kamio Kamura’s economics class, as well as John’s government class.
“It’s not just Mr. Perkins,” added Lisa Ballard. “It seems as though I’ve received a similar assignment at least once each semester from one teacher or another ever since I started here as a sophomore three years ago. If it isn’t overpopulation, it’s abortion, or capital punishment, or world hunger.”
“I think some of the teachers at this school have a one-track mind,” said Julie. “And the stuff 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’re running out of food.’ I don’t believe all that stuff.”
“Maybe we’re being unfair to the teachers,” said John. “It seems to me that Mr. Perkins is a genuine idealist. He gives lots of assignments on these subjects because he’s really concerned about them. I think the same is true of the other teachers, too. 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 square with what the Church teaches?”
“Right!” agreed Rick Baker, a recent transfer student from Utah. “I know what the Church teaches, and I believe it. * But how do you disagree with a teacher? Can you just put what you believe in a term paper? How do you go against everything on the reading list? Will Mr. Perkins take a quote from the scriptures?”
These young people have raised some interesting questions. Frequently, the opinions of teachers will differ from Church policies, the statements of Church leaders, and the scriptures.
Teachers are seen as authority figures, persons whose positions are based upon their having considerable knowledge of their subject field and persons who are the judge and jury at report-card time.
In the case of Royal High School, the LDS students found some good guidance close at hand.
“Well, it’s quite a riddle,” said John, “and I don’t have the answer. But I do know where to find the answer. Let’s go talk to Mr. Morgan. He’s taught at this school for a hundred years, and he’s been a bishop and a seminary teacher longer than that.”
Bishop Morgan was in his room in the science wing when the “Mormonism-for-lunch-bunch” arrived. John quickly related the group’s questions.
“I can see that you do 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. Perkins’ 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 that 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 on subjects like abortion, capital punishment, mercy killing, and the like. 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 also 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.”
As the bishop concluded, the students were quiet for a moment. Then Kamio asked one last question:
“But what about Mr. Perkins? Are you sure we won’t be penalized if we turn in reports that disagree with his point of view?”
“I know Carl Perkins,” said the bishop. “Yes, he has strong opinions, but he’s a good teacher and a fair man. He won’t grade you down for differing with him. He’d be pleased if you went beyond his reading list. Just be sure that what you do is well written and researched, and don’t automatically assume that everything on that reading list is wrong. Read it with an open mind.”
In the next three weeks John, Julie, and Kamio did a lot of hard work. Working together, they carefully read everything on Mr. Perkins’ reading list and then began digging into both the school and the public libraries.
They contacted Church Social Services in their area and their bishop and obtained some useful materials and references. Both the U.S. Government and United Nations agencies were found to have prepared good statistical summaries. An LDS anti-abortion filmstrip, “Very Much Alive” (available in both an LDS and a worldwide edition), was borrowed from the meetinghouse library and used. Other teachers were consulted.
John and Julie and Kamio received top grades for their work in presenting the Church’s stand. They were invited to present their findings to their respective classes and to answer questions from other students. They were well prepared to defend their positions. They had found facts to back up their beliefs.
Best of all, they learned that there really are good and valid reasons for the Church’s stand on tough moral issues. They discovered that some teachers with strong opinions respect students who do a good job of disagreeing with them. And they learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ is always in harmony with truth from whatever source.
If you have had similar experiences with important current issues in your schools, share them with us. Have you done research, prepared papers, participated in discussions? What were the results? What did you learn? Share your valuable insights with those who will face similar challenges.
Where can I look?
The enclosed bibliography is not a list of Church-approved books, but it is representative of some of the materials favorable to the Church’s position most readily available in local school and public libraries.
Abortion, Prenatal Development
“Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it.” (D&C 59:6.)
Garn, Senator Jake, “Debating Abortion,” National Review, Nov. 11, 1977, 29:129+.
Grisez, Germain, Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments, World Publishing Co.: New York, 1970, 559 pages.
“Life before Birth” (Education Reprint No. 27), Time-Life Publications: New York, 1965, 20 pages.
Nilssen, Lenmart, Alex Ingelman-Sundberg, and Claes Wirsen, A Child is Born, Dell Books: New York, 1975, 160 pages.
Remsberg, C. and B., “Second Thoughts on Abortion from the Doctor Who Led the Crusade for it,” Good Housekeeping, March 1976, 182:69+.
Williams, Mary Kay, Abortion: A Collision of Rights, Life-Cycle Books: Toronto, 1972, 32 pages.
Willke, Dr. and Mrs. J. C., Handbook on Abortion, Hiltz and Hayes Publishing: Cincinnati, 1975, 208 pages.
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10.)
Arthur, Henry B., and Gail L. Cramer, “Brighter Forecast for the World’s Food Supply,” Harvard Business Review, May 1976, 54:161–6+.
Bahr, Howard M., Bruce A. Chadwick, and Darwin L. Thomas, Population, Resources, and the Future, BYU Press: Provo, 1972, 352 pages. (Copies available for 74¢ each.)
“Books in Print 1976–77,” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, UNIPUB: New York, 1977, 87 pages.
Canby, Thomas Y., “Can the World Feed Its People?” National Geographic, July 1975, 148:2–39.
Canby, Thomas Y., “The Rat: Lapdog of the Devil,” National Geographic, July 1977, 152:60–87.
Clark, Colin, Population Growth: The Advantages, Life Quality Books: Santa Ana, 1972, 108 pages.
De Marcellus, Richard, “Failure in the West—a Demographic Insight,” America, Oct. 29, 1977, 137:278–80.
Frantz, Stephen C., “Rats in the Granary,” National History, Feb. 1976, 85:10+ (bibliography on page 95).
Friedrick, Otto, “Population Explosion: Is Man Really Doomed?” Time, Sept. 13, 1971, pages 58–59.
Hale, Elizabeth, and Paul Cameron, “Our Failing Reverence for Life,” Psychology Today, Apr. 1976, 9:104–6+.
Kasun, J. R., “Population Bomb Threat: A Look at the Facts,” Intellect, June 1977, 105:412–14.
Lappe, F. M., “Fantasies of Famine,” Harper’s, Feb. 1975, 250:51–54+.
Libby, Willard J., and Edwin F. Black, “Food Irradiation: An Unused Weapon Against Hunger,” Bulletin of Atomic Science, Feb. 1978, 34:50–55.
U. N. Demographic Yearbook, Population Reference Bureau: Washington, D.C., 1978.
Wade, N., “Inequality—The Main Cause of World Hunger” (World Bank Study), Science, Dec. 10, 1976, 194:1142.
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” (D&C 104:17.)
Boyd, James, “Materials Supply: The Impact of Human Institutions,” Science, vol. 191 (1976), no. 4228, pages 650–53.
Calvin, Melvin, “Photosynthesis As a Resource for Energy Materials,” American Scientist, 64:270–78.
Fuller, Buckminster R., Utopia or Oblivion, Bantam Books: New York, 1969.
Fuller, Buckminster R., “Planetary Planning: The Historical Philosophical Background,” Scholar, Spring 1971, pages 285–304.
Fuller, Buckminster R., Earth, Inc., Anchor Press: New York, 1973.
Ireland, Lloyd C., Is Timber Scarce? The Economics of a Renewable Resource, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Bulletin #83; 1973.
Kahn, Herman, William Brown, and Leon Martel, The Next 200 Years, William Morrow and Co.: New York, 1976, pages 241.
Maddox, John, The Doomsday Syndrome, Macmillan Publishing: New York, 1972.
Mamdani, Mahmood, The Myth of Population Control, New York Monthly Review Press: New York, 1972.
Mitchell, Edward J., U.S. Energy Policy: A Primer, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research: Washington, D.C., 1975.
Moore, Thomas G., “Choosing or Judging: A Time to Choose,” in No Time to Confuse: a Critique of the Final Report of the Energy Policy Project of the Ford Foundation, Institute for Contemporary Studies: New York, 1975, pages 77–78. (See also Walter J. Mead’s chapter in the same book.)
What one girl did
In 1975 Janelle Griffin was a sophomore at Woods Cross High School in Bountiful, Utah. An assigned paper on the population explosion started a chain of events that eventually led to a sound filmstrip called “Very Much Alive.”
Janelle and her father, Dr. Glen Griffin, now members of the Val Verda 10th Ward (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 used in the Career Day event at school by Dr. Griffin, a nationally-known pediatrician and author.
The slide presentation 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.”
After they had seen it, the Presiding Bishopric agreed. Many revisions and refinements followed, and then followed distribution in 17 languages to all the Church. As word got around, copies were purchased by other churches and by anti-abortion groups.
Now another edition of “Very Much Alive” has been prepared. Entitled “Very Much Alive—Worldwide Edition,” this filmstrip contains no mention of religion and is being used in many schools as part of their approved curriculum libraries.
Countless lives have been touched and others will yet be touched for good because of a filmstrip that had its beginning in a homework assignment to a Latter-day Saint girl in Bountiful.
Babies’ lives have been spared. Unwed parents have been influenced to make wise choices. Adoptive parents have rejoiced to have infants placed in their homes.
How about you? Is there something you could do with your life to touch countless lives for good?
Copies of “Very Much Alive—Worldwide Edition” (VVOF258) are available from Bonneville Productions, 130 Social Hall Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111 for $15.00 per copy.
A copy of “Very Much Alive—LDS Edition” (VVOF1420) should be in your meetinghouse library. Additional copies may be ordered from the Church Distribution Center, 1999 West 1700 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104 for $2.50 per copy.
What if …
If each family had had only two children—
John F. Kennedy (3rd child) would never have been president.
Mohandas Gandhi (4th child) would never have been the great spiritual leader of India.
George Washington (5th child) would never have been “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Robert E. Lee (7th child) would never have been the gentleman hero of the Southern States.
David (8th child) would never have been king of Israel.
Benjamin Franklin (10th child) would not have been a diplomat, printer, statesman, inventor, philosopher, and genius.
Joseph (12th child) would never have fathered Ephraim and Manasseh.
President Spencer W. Kimball (6th child) would not be our current prophet.
Nor would there have been an Enrico Fermi (3rd child), nor a Johann Sebastian Bach (8th child and father of 13), nor a William Shakespeare (3rd child), nor a Thomas Edison (7th child), nor a Thomas Jefferson (3rd child).
How about you?
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 of heavy human population. Solution needed as soon as possible.
2. Find a way to cheaply convert salt water to fresh, thereby turning many deserts near oceans into productive farm lands. Hint: Solar power? Patent rights should provide financial security. Solution needed as soon as possible.
3. Find a way to make tractors and tools available to more farmers in more areas, including equipment that is suitable for small farms. Solution needed yesterday.
4. Find better ways to prevent spoilage of food in underdeveloped areas, thereby reducing waste and feeding millions more. Please hurry.
5. Find a way to make cheap, dependable solar power available in all areas as a replacement for nonrenewable energy sources. Should provide millions of jobs for others, good pay for the inventor, and a greater world food supply. Solution needed right away.
6. Find a way to make ocean food sources widely available in pleasing form at low cost. Recommend plankton steak, algae au gratin, and seaweed soup. Hungry people request that you hurry.
Other Nobel Prizes may be awarded to young Latter-day Saints 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 ice-cap moisture, and similar projects.
Certainly there are hungry people in the world. Certainly there are problems. But shall the sharp, young minds of Zion join the doom and gloom purveyors 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 handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2:28–29.)
The answers are there, and the answers to the tough questions will be found. Great breakthroughs 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 forseen what electricity would do in the next hundred years? Who, in 1902, could have predicted what Orville and Wilbur Wright would start in 1903? (Not even the Wright Brothers would have found it credible that man could fly from Paris to New York in under three hours only a few decades later.) Who, in 1940, could have forseen atomic energy or color television or lasers or transistors? And how many people in 1957 could believe that the first artificial satellite would lead to footprints on the moon only 12 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.
Why is there hunger?
Q: How crowded is the world?
A: If all of the world’s 4 billion people were divided into groups of five, each five-person group could have nearly 2 1/2 acres of land in the United States. Canada, Mexico, and Central America would be empty. South 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 4 billion people; the area of the United States is 3,615,122 square miles; there are 640 acres per square mile.)
Q: Is there enough food for the world’s people?
A: Yes. Food production has grown faster than population for many years. (Harvard Business Review, May 1976, pages 162–64: “Food production has been improving markedly; since the early 1960s, per-capita production has risen 21% in the developed countries and 3% in the developing nations.” See also, Newsweek, October 4, 1976, page 12.)
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. (National Geographic, July 1975, page 17: “Burdened by a ballooning population, India finds shortages aggravated by self-defeating policies. To provide cheap food for the urban poor, farmers must sell part of each crop to the government at below-market prices. Result: Sales shift to the black market, where prices soar beyond the reach of the needy.”)
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. (Newsweek, October 4, 1976, page 12: “America, for instance, has gotten its food spoilage rate down to an average 15%. Contrast this with a 50% rate in India.”)
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 long.” Read the entire article.)
5. Inefficient farming techniques result in low yields per acre. (National Geographic, July 1975, page 13: “Where an Asian or African spends five days in the field to produce a hundred pounds of grain, the American spends only five minutes.”)
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 pounds of plant protein to raise one pound of meat protein. (National Geographic, July 1975, page 15: “Meat production constitutes the least efficient use of cereal grains, yet the escalating affluence of Japan has generated an explosive demand for it.”)
What’s being done?
Helping the people of the world to feed themselves is a major concern of the Ezra Taft Benson Institute in Provo, Utah. Organized two and a half years ago, and directed by Dr. Delos Ellsworth, the Institute is engaged in extensive research in food, nutrition, agriculture, and food storage.
Numerous research efforts have been undertaken dealing with small-plot agriculture, food storage in tropical climates, home-storage options, and high-yield gardening. Yet other research is planned.
Asked if members of the Church are engaged 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.
Advice for young Latter-day Saints? Dr. Ellsworth counsels New Era readers to “follow the prophet’s advice. Get involved in gardening and home storage and all aspects of family preparedness.” He further adds, “Use good sense, and don’t follow fads.”
Church statements on abortion, birth control, and other issues are usually available through your bishop or your seminary.