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Latest from Mormon Land: Why having kids helps society, and why government welfare is welcome

Also: The late Sen. Harry Reid lies in state.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Children sing as part of an international choir at General Conference on Easter Sunday, April 4. 2021.

These are excerpts from The Salt Lake Tribune’s free Mormon Land newsletter, a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want this newsletter with additional items in your inbox? Subscribe here. You also can support Mormon Land with a donation at Patreon.com/mormonland, where you can access, among other exclusive gifts and content, transcripts from our “Mormon Land” podcasts.

The children are our future

Parents need not feel guilty for those car seats in their vehicles, those strollers in the trunk and those snacks in the cooler. It turns out that having kids is a boon, not a bane, to society.

So argues data scientist Stephen Cranney, who recalls a time in graduate school when he, his wife and young family had to go on government assistance.

“Even though we were in a low-income area of West Philadelphia, and a lot of people were on government assistance,” he writes in a recent Times and Seasons blog post, “we still got the awkward stares when the cashier tried to figure out our WIC [women, infants and children] checks while the line stacked up behind us.”

What those judgmental sets of eyes may not realize, Cranney notes, is that those little ones are going to be paying the benefits of those bigger people later in life.

“It does not make sense mathematically to avoid having children because of a concern about being a burden on society, since in the final balance sheet those who have children are subsidizing those who do not have children,” he writes. “…The reason is intergenerational transfers of wealth. In the U.S., we provide for old people by taxing younger workers. Those younger workers don’t just grow on trees, they come from the sleepless nights, stretch marks, anxieties, medical bills, and food budgets of people who choose to have children.”

Cranney cites an expert who calculated that each child adds $217,000 to the national balance sheet.

Of course, he adds, there are a lot of other variables in the “how many kids to have” equation. That’s a question only couples can answer.

“The decision about how many children to have and when to have them is extremely personal and private,” the faith’s General Handbook states. “It should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Two girls sing from a Latter-day Saint hymnbook.

Why government welfare is needed

Governmental public assistance programs in Utah may be benefiting from the church’s welfare system, as ProPublica recently reported in The Salt Lake Tribune, but the inverse is true as well.

In a recent Religion & Politics post, Allison M. Kelley, a visiting assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, offers a history lesson on the myriad ways federal programs (think the Civilian Conservation Corps and the GI Bill) helped get Latter-day Saints through tough times during the Great Depression and after World War II.

“To its credit, the LDS Church created one of the most impressive charitable systems in the world,” the article states. “…But many members would not be in a position to donate so much to the welfare plan had the government not revitalized Utah’s economy and created generational wealth.”

Another first for Harry Reid

(Chip Somodevilla | Pool) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, touches the casket of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Washington.

The late Sen. Harry Reid reached one Mormon milestone when he was alive (becoming the highest-ranking elected Latter-day Saint in U.S. history) and another after his death as the first church member to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

The Nevada Democrat, who died last month at age 82, was visited Wednesday in the Capitol by President Joe Biden, the nation’s second Catholic commander in chief, who, The Associated Press reported, made the sign of the cross at the flag-draped casket.

“Harry Reid made the world a better place,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in the AP account. “…To see him lead and legislate was to see a master at work.”

This week’s podcast: What Latter-day Saints can learn from the Emmett Till case

(AP Photo, File) This undated photo shows Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old black Chicago boy, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1955 in Mississippi.

For more than a dozen years, Devery Anderson, a white Latter-day Saint studying history at the University of Utah, was obsessed with the 1955 killing of a 14-year-old Black youth, Emmett Till.

Anderson’s quest for details culminated in 2015, with publication of his book-length exploration, “Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement.”

Now, nearly seven years later, Anderson’s book is the basis of a new miniseries, titled “Women of the Movement,” airing this month on ABC.

Anderson, who consulted on the show, is deeply aware of his own faith’s past involvement in a racist policy denying Black males ordination to the priesthood and Black females access to temple ceremonies. That practice ended in 1978, but racism in the church remains a problem to this day.

On this week’s podcast, Anderson talks about his groundbreaking work on the Till biography and his church’s racial history.

Listen here.

From The Tribune

• Black Latter-day Saint James C. Jones, co-host of the “Beyond the Block” podcast, has developed an anti-racism course for members.

He urges listeners to read and study history, to develop close friendships with Blacks in their congregations, neighborhoods or cities, and to listen to what they say about their experiences.

“Trying to understand Christianity from a white point of view is like trying to understand Jesus from a Roman point of view,” he says in the course. “This idea of needing to understand those on the margins in order to understand Christ is validated by Jesus’ words when he himself identifies with the marginalized.”

Read the story.

(Planet Labs PBC via AP) In this satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC, an island created by the underwater Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano is seen smoking on Jan. 7, 2022.

• Church relief officials are watching closely after an undersea volcano erupted near the Kingdom of Tonga, which has the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints (62%) of any country in the world.

“An unprecedented disaster hit Tonga,” Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni told CNN, noting a “volcanic mushroom plume” covered all of the country’s roughly 170 islands — of which 36 are inhabited.

“We are praying earnestly for our brothers and sisters in Tonga,” general authority Seventy Ian S. Ardern, the church’s Pacific Area president and a native New Zealander, said in a news release. “We are working with government and other officials in the region to identify urgent needs and how we can support efforts to alleviate suffering and help communities get back on their feet after this disaster.”

The BBC reported that about 1,000 people have taken refuge at Liahona High School, one of six church schools on the main island of Tongatapu.

Quote of the week

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

“When you are being hammered on the anvil of adversity, when your soul is being refined with severe lessons that perhaps can be learned no other way, don’t cut and run. Don’t jump ship. Don’t shake your fist at your bishop or your mission president or God. Please stay with the only help and strength that can aid you in that painful time. When you stumble in the race of life, don’t crawl away from the very physician who is unfailingly there to treat your injuries, lift you to your feet and help you finish the course.”

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland in a speech this week at Brigham Young University.

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