On a recent Sunday, a few hundred members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in an LDS chapel just outside the Washington D.C. beltway, in Alexandria Virginia, to listen to an Obama administration official recount his conversion to Mormonism.
The speaker was Larry Echo Hawk. Echo Hawk was born on 2 August 1948 in Cody Wyoming. He and his family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 14. He is an attorney, legal scholar and politician. He is also a member of the Pawnee Nation. He was sustained by Church members as a General Authority and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy on 31 March 2012. Prior to becoming a General Authority, he was the United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. On 20 May 2009 he joined the administration of President Barack Obama as the head of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Echo Hawk also served as Attorney General of Idaho from 1991 to 1995. At the time he was elected State Attorney General of Idaho he was serving as a member of the board of trustees of LDS Social Services. His other Church callings have included: President of a student Stake on the campus of Brigham Young University, Bishop, and Stake High Council member. He resigned from his position in the Obama administration a few weeks after his presentation in Alexandria Virginia.
Echo Hawk told the audience, ““I have never in my life had a more powerful experience than that spiritual moment when the spirit of Christ testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true.” The fact that Echo Hawk, a Democrat, was at the pulpit of a Latter-day Saint chapel bearing his testimony is noteworthy for a couple of reasons: (1) the White House does not normally send out its officials as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ to bear their testimonies, and (2) the majority of Mormons are Republican.
It appears that Washington D.C. has become a Mormon stronghold as more and more Latter-day Saints become more actively involved in the Washington establishment. The presentation given by Echo Hawk could well be a key indicator of what Americans can expect if Mitt Romney, the son of a Cabinet Secretary under Richard Nixon, is elected the next President of the United States in 2013 and arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Seated within the congregation on that particular Sunday were representatives of inside-the-beltway Mormon power. In attendance were such people as: (1) a Mormon Stake President who came to Washington to write speeches for Ronald Reagan, and now runs a lobbying firm in downtown Washington D.C., (2) a retired secretary to the U.S. Supreme Court, (3) the special assistant to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and (4) a local Mormon Bishop who came to Washington to work for Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and now leads a congressionally chartered foundation.
Regardless of which party ends up controlling the White House, Mormonism will continue to grow as it has for decades. The LDS Church says that there are 13,000 active members within a 10-mile radius of Washington D.C. However, the Washington D.C. Mormon Temple serves a much larger population, as many as 148,000 Latter-day Saints, reaching from parts of South Carolina to New Jersey. Crystal City, a Virginia neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Washington, has become so popular with young Mormons that it has become known as “Little Provo,” – Provo Utah being the home of church-owned Brigham Young University. There are presently 15 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in congress indicating that the 2% Mormon population of the country is slightly overrepresented on Capitol Hill.
Lewis Larsen, a local Bishop, has stated:
Kids growing up in the LDS Church have been told, ‘Go ye out in the world and preach the gospel of Christ – don’t be afraid to be an example,’ . . . So we are on our missions, converting people to Christianity . . . .And coming to Washington, for me and probably for a lot of people, came out of that interest. We see it as our career, but also we’re going out to preach the word of Christ. (Dan Gilgoff; CNN.com Religion Editor; “With or without Romney, D.C. a surprising Mormon Stronghold”; http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/12/hfr-with-or-without-romney-d-c-a-surprising-mormon-stronghold/)
These days, the Mormon impulse toward Washington is often as much political as patriotic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for its part, is politically neutral and avoids pressuring Mormon elected officials to tow a Church line. The official stand of the Church is that, “The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians.”
Despite the growing political power of Latter-day Saints in Washington, the official Church stance is to remain clear of politics. Furthermore, in spite of any perceptions that may exist amongst the general populace, Mormons are not in Washington with an objective to take over the U.S. government, but rather they are in Washington to live and pursue their careers just like anyone else. Young Mormon single adults choose to come to Washington because they are able to associate with the already growing population of young Mormon single adults that live in Washington and the surrounding areas as they attend school and/or pursue their own careers. As the Mormon faith continues to grow, the success of Mormons in Washington serves as a testament of their high moral values and their willingness to be that light that shines on Capitol Hill.
God always gives blessings to those who are willing to obey His commandments. Such blessings may not be material things, and the more valuable blessings are not, particularly those that last even beyond the grave. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the “Mormon Church” by others) teaches that families can be together forever. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sacred nature of the family.
Many prophets have testified about the value and importance of the family. “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between a man and a woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in the family is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World“).
Many people might have wondered about Mormon Families, especially about the way these families deal with life. Many Mormon families face tremendous trials, just as all families do, but they might respond differently to their trials because of their doctrinal knowledge and faith. Mormon families have great hope from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Disintegration of families leads to the most common and destructive problems of society. Whereas countries and nations may be greatly honored and blessed when there is love in its citizens’ homes.
Mormons are taught to be happy, healthy, and loving people. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches them to love to mingle and to share with others the blessings they have received as they are obedient to the commandments given in His gospel. Mormon families are also taught to share what they have and to gladly lend a hand to those who might need help. There are so many things that these Mormon families can share with and testify to others about the effect of the gospel in their lives.
God has designated the family as the central unit of the Church and the gospel. His eternal plan is centered on families, where each of His children can further develop their talents and attributes, be loved, and be taught the eternal truths of the gospel. God wants His children to obey His commandments so that they will experience a long-lasting and complete happiness as they strive to live righteously here on earth. It is in the rearing of families that each of us can receive the blessings of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is in the four corners of our home where vital lessons can be learned and applied in life.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the central core in which these families build their strong foundations. “And now my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, which is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
Throughout the history of the Church, the family is one of the most important aspects which has been discussed and emphasized. For example, the Church reserves Monday evening free of church responsibilities for the individuals to focus and have time with their families. Likewise, Mormon missionaries all around the world are instructed to put emphasis on teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to their investigators in the home, where their families can gather together and hear the glorious message of the gospel.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the admonition of the Lord. He said, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). The greatest gift is to have eternal life with your family.
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