I found the blog on “Is the church Fragile and Anti-Fragile” quite interesting. Only a few hours after reading this I happen to listen to a podcast from MormonDiscussionPodcast with Bill Reel and “Radio Free Mormon” where they discussed thoughts from the April 2017 General Conference (part 1 and part 2).
They did take a bit of a critical stance on several talks and themes and even received a few comments saying they were too disparaging, but I will leave it up to each person to make up their own mind on that issue. They did look into Elder Mark A. Bragg’s depiction of a fire in a stake center in California that seems a bit embellished when looking into the details.
But the one other story told in conference that they dug even a bit deeper on was on in Elder Gary E. Stevenson’s talk. This “miracle” story was about a mission president in Japan being inspired before the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in 2011 to invite more than the normal set of missionaries inland for a conference, thus saving them from dealing with the tsunami. I can say that I was inspired by the story and to me it was clear that all his missionaries were saved from the tsunami due to his heading this prompting. Elder Stevenson’s said:
President and Sister Tateoka and all missionaries were safely assembled. They were out of harm’s way and miles from the devastation of the tsunami and the nuclear fallout.” (emphasis added)
In the podcast they dig in a bit and show how it looks like this rendition of the story paints an image that goes beyond what actually happened. I am not going into all the details they bring up, (if you are interested you can listen to it in part 2 @ 1:06:30) but they find a detailed letter from the mission president posted on the mission page. What this letter describes is 2 Elders a bit more north are trapped in an evacuation shelter and they even had to move to the second floor due to the bottom floor being flooded by the tsunami. There were then 2 sister missionaries initially called in as safe, but it was 4 more days before any more contact could be made with them. Other missionaries were trapped for 20 hours in a chapel by the tsunami. Just 24 hours of the earthquake the mission president was able to locate 30 of the 72 missionaries and sounds like it wasn’t until about 4 days later that everyone was fully accounted for – which is understandable given the devastation and disruption of communications. Oh how I feel for the parents AND this mission president having to deal with that and so glad that all the missionaries in the end were not seriously hurt in any way.
On the podcast they do mention that in the talk some words at the start of the story talks about how not ALL the mission was invited, but the story from that point on seems to use words that paint a picture that all the mission was saved from having to deal with the tsunami. That depiction does not seem to line up with reality.
Which would bring one to ask why this story is depicted as it is? One explanation could be that Elder Stevenson received this 3rd or 4th hand, but he was the Area President at the time and you would assume he knew what was going on the first days of the disaster. Another explanation is that telling it just like it is does not make it as miraculous as leaving the impression that the entire mission is spared.
I am not the first person to mention that some people are leaving the church when they encounter less than perfect issues with church history and leaders. In my opinion this is because the church, both leaders and much of the membership, paint a picture that everything is faith promoting and near perfect. It has even been described as “whitewashing” of church history and some leaders have been on record saying such. The miraculous history of the church is put so high on a pedestal that when that gets much of a bump, things can come tumbling down rather quickly. The higher the pedestal the more at risk it is for a tumble.
Even if I give Elder Stevenson a pass and assume this is made up, I feel I am seeing modern day white-washing occurring right before my eyes. Even if it was 100% innocent, the story has been given from the pulpit in General Conference and short of a correction/ clarification being made (which is very rare) the story will live on.
So why is it that there is such pressure to paint a perfect picture of the church? For some I think is due to insecurity and people attempting to get rid of that insecurity. We all would rather feel like we are doing what is right and being sure of it. So I would certainly chalk up some of the whitewashing as being motivated by this insecurity. This is in no way limited to just those in the church and can be found most everywhere. Also we all occasionally exaggerate things to bring attention to ourselves and make ourselves look better (see Paul H. Dunn) I am sure I have done it often. Also, our memories can change as we recount them over and over. We have all heard the saying about how the fish that got away grows bigger each time the story is told.
Whatever the motivations, the fallout can still be the same as people find out they have been told less than the truth. In fact many people that have left the church indicate that they feel very betrayed once they found out what they now consider the “truth” about past events.
So I have already admitted in previous blogs that I am both a podcast junkie and a science nerd. So I have already mentioned a podcast and that leaves me with needing to make an obligatory science analogy. That is where the Fragility post from earlier this week comes in – mixed in with some interesting physics phenomenon. I really am fascinated by Prince Rupert’s Drops. Wikipedia describes these as:
Prince Rupert’s drops are produced by dripping molten glass into cold water. The water rapidly cools and solidifies the glass on the outside of the drop, while the inner core remains molten. When the glass on the inside eventually cools it contracts inwards, producing significant compressive stresses on the surface of the drop while the core solidifies in a state of tensile stress. The quasi-spherical shape of the bulbous head gives it great strength, such that it can be hit with a hammer or struck with a bullet without breaking while the quasi-cylindrical shape of the tail makes it fragile and easily fractured. When any portion of the tail is damaged, the large amount of potential energy stored in the internal structure is released, causing fractures to propagate through the glass toward the head at very high speeds which breaks the entire structure into flakes and powder.
Now the technical description above is interesting to a nerd like me, but to see one of these pieces of glass taking almost 20 tons of pressure before it cracks is amazing. I would say that qualifies as “anti-fragile.” But then on the other hand if a little kid were to “crack” the thin tail with their hand, the entire structure EXPLODES almost into dust. The rate of the fracture traveling through the glass is approximately 3,700 miles per hour (5,950 kilometers per hour)! I don’t see how that could be defined as anything but “fragile.” So in these glass drops we have something simultaneously very fragile and at the same time very anti-fragile.
To me these amazing Prince Rubert’s drops are a analogous to some people’s testimony of the truthfulness of the church. They can often take a REAL pounding and not give and inch. They are unphased by trials like an untimely the death of a close loved one, significant health issues, others trying to dissuade people from their faith, persecution, financial losses, etc. But also many of us have one thing that shatters the whole once pressure is applied. This is different for different people. And Maybe we all have this “one thing”, but for some it just isn’t pricked.
I do give credit that the church is trying to rectify some of the whitewashing of the past with the essays and efforts such as the Joseph Smith Papers project, but it really takes the wind out of my sails to see what appears to be to be more than one instance of whitewashing of a story in a single general conference. I am just disappointed and even discouraged if a real openness and honesty (and ability admit issues) is going to happen within the church. I must admit, I feel at this moment it is a, “not in my lifetime” situation.
So is Happy being too grumpy – making a mountain out of a mole hill?
Am I missing the bigger picture that is more positive?
“Even if it was 100% innocent, the story has been given from the pulpit in General Conference and short of a correction/ clarification being made (which is very rare) the story will live on.”
This is the problem with both Elder Bragg’s and Elder Stevensen’s talks (and others that have yet to be uncovered). They will live on in Sacrament talks, RS and Priesthood lessons, YW and YM lessons, etc. to emphasize the miracles occurring in the church today. (Just the thought of having to sit through those lessons bores and frustrates me. ). But, the speakers are not the only ones complicit in the coverup. Do you think the Mission President in Japan at the time will clarify or correct? Will the stake President or Bishops in Southern California speak up and tell the reality? Will someone stand up for the fire chief who apparently risked firefighters lives (and his job) to rescue paintings ? Because of the nature of “speaking out against authority is akin to speaking out against God” church culture, I highly doubt someone will challenge a GA, but I would hope there are still a few brave underlings.
I should clarify that the reason I hope someone does speak out is that the results of “glorified” faith stories is actually quite damaging to faith in God. I have way too many friends and family that hear these stories, believe these stories, are falsely inspired by these stories, find out they are not true, lose trust in leaders, lose trust in the church and ultimately lose trust in God. Therefore, what starts out to turn people to God ends up turning them away from God. God is truth. TRUTH-We should not fear that, especially in the church that proclaims it is THE only true church on the face of the earth.
On three successive Sundays leading up to Gen. Conf., our Primary kids tagged each member of the Q15 with an identifying story. Elder Stevenson = all missionaries safe in tsunami.
(Elder Christofferson = stole a candy bar when he was little, and his mother made him tell the truth!)
Finding out that this story isn’t all true might be a blow down the road, but we do the kids another more serious disservice, I think. What happens when they start thinking maturely and empathetically about all the people who were not saved?
The question is when does overemphasis approach “whitewashing”? I mean, in the Elder Stevenson story, it may very well be that the mission president did feel inspired to gather that one zone, even if not the others. In that case, that group would indeed have been blessed from that inspiration, even if the other missionaries were not. On the other hand, a skeptic could say that the mission president was motivated more by his own importance (the whole zone should hear him!) than inspiration, and since it worked out, he claimed revelation. Or maybe he didn’t, but Elder Stevenson felt like he had. There’s scriptural precedent for this. For example, if you read the story of the Amlicites in the Book of Mormon, Mormon waxes philosophical about how the Amlicites had fulfilled prophecy by marking themselves on their foreheads. He cites prophecy that God would place a mark on the people who sought to destroy Nephi’s people. But it doesn’t look at all like God set a mark on the Amlicites — it looks like they were simply trying to make sure that when they joined with the Lamanites, so the Lamanites wouldn’t confuse them with the other Nephites and attack the wrong people. Miracle? Fulfillment of prophecy? Guess that it depends on your point of view.
I remember reading a story about one of the early missionaries of the church (can’t remember which future leader) in which he was suffering terribly from a fever and felt he couldn’t go on. Remembering that he and his companion bore the priesthood, he asked for a blessing, after which he immediately received strength, arose, and resumed his journey. He made it a day or two more and collapsed again. He probably had malaria, and that disease comes in waves, so was there really a miracle? He apparently hadn’t been completely cured, but he had made it to a place where he could be cared for instead of just collapsing there on the road. Does the fact that when he reports the story as a miracle and doesn’t mention in his accounts how he collapsed into bed a day or two later mean that he whitewashed the account? Or that what he experienced wasn’t a miracle?
I think whitewashing is absolutely happening today. It’s everywhere, including official church teaching manuals. And I think, as you remark in your second comment, that whitewashing is particularly insidious because it exists to supposedly increase faith (hence the slyly ironic Mormon term “faith promoting rumors”) but ends up doing the opposite. When I hear someone telling a story over the pulpit that I know isn’t true, it turns me off of whatever else the speaker is saying because I don’t believe the Holy Ghost can witness the truth of things that just aren’t true. But I think this question gets to a deeper issue, and that is the entire project of the church trying to promote/encourage faith and belief:
I agree that some of this has certainly to do with insecurity, both institutional and individual, but I think it goes deeper than that. The question I have is this: What is the source of that insecurity? If our leaders doubt the ability of the Holy Ghost to witness the truth of things and feel they have to “help” things along by telling false stories that are designed to “promote faith” through falsehood, then that is a huge problem. That seems to me to be an exercise that is deeply cynical and speaks to the doubts the leadership itself may have about the power of faith, the truth of the church, etc. If you’ve got to exaggerate (some would say “lie”) in order to bring people to the truth, that just seems about as backward as you can get, not to mention the fact that doing so exhibits a complete ignorance about how the Holy Ghost works. So no, I don’t think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. You’re trying to understand how important truth is and, sadly, you seem to be approaching that issue more earnestly and with more honesty than some of our leadership.
Editing and rewriting causes this.
I used to see it all the time as a young lawyer in legal briefs. One person wrote them. Another edited them to make them stronger. But the rewrite often led to flaws.
Which led to losses.
Happy Hubby, love the post! There was another one this week on the First Vision that I wish had been written like this one. You addressed the facts of the case, and I appreciate that.
I had some relatives in Japan at the time, and Elder Stevenson was in their ward during the tsunami and earthquake. Stevenson should have known the issues with the missionaries, and I personally don’t believe he received it 3rd or 4th hand. He was on the ground there and would have been aware that missionaries were unaccounted for days. It seems to me that since his call as an apostle, he wanted to bolster his claim to miracles and exaggerated the facts a bit to make it sound more faith promoting. Thanks for pointing out the facts without making this a hit piece. I think you told the story well, and I really liked the side-note about the amazingly strong, yet fragile glass. That was a great analogy.
I absolutely agree with Brother Sky. I used to have a regular discussion with a friend at church on the importance of pointing out to other people when they were feeling the spirit. Her take was that we need to do it more. New members and kids won’t realize they are feeling the spirit unless we tell them (which in practice was her (as R.S. pres) starting every R.S. meeting with a “wasn’t the spirit amazing in Sacrament? That feeling you got is the Holy Ghost!). My argument was that feeling the spirit is about the relationship between an individual and God. We need to trust God that He will do his part and make Himself known to people. While we don’t want to discourage that or stop sharing when it happens to us, we also don’t want to get in the way of other people’s experiences by telling them what they were supposed to have felt. My daughter once leaned over to me during one of the R.S. meeting pronouncements and whispered, ‘That was the spirit? I thought it was just feeling bored.”
We, as a church, don’t particularly trust God. We want to make things happen ourselves instead. I find this all over the church.
8000 Japanese died in the tsunami, but we’re glad the missionaries were saved? Why didn’t the MP warn everyone?
I find no reason to think anything has changed when Oakes so very recently asserted that the church doesn’t apologize and, for the most part, the Brethren hide behind the Newsroom.
It doesn’t speak well for the church’s sense of its own morality and, as the noted sage, George W. Bush, has said, “Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again“
I agree with SCW. I think the bigger scandal here is we are so worried about our own selves that it doesn’t seem distasteful to be excited that “our missionaries didn’t die.” I also agree with Stephen Marsh. As an attorney myself we are generally told not to attribute to malice was can be explained by stupidity. Beyond some language getting taken out in re-writes, is it possible he might not have found the other omissions as offensive as clearly many people here have? For example, when something spectacular happens to me I tend to focus on the part that I think was spectacular. This isn’t even something I think about. I get right to the really cool part right away because it is the part that I am most excited about. I don’t mind you or Bill Reel or Radio Free Mormon “fact checking” conference talks, but I do wonder how Bill Reel, Radio Free or frankly myself would hold up to that type of fact checking. I think if put under the microscope we would find that many of the things we say, other people would yell “whitewashing!/embellishment” in our direction.
I agree with Jason. While I realize there are situations where speakers consciously withhold important information, I doubt it was the case with Elder Stevenson. In his case, I think it was more just bringing out the most important elements (inspired mission president – missionaries in that zone out of harm’s way), and leaving secondary details by the wayside. This, of course, can be just as damaging down the road. Whatever the intent someone has for leaving out details others find significant, the effects are the same.
Happy Hubby, this essay was truly excellent. The analogy to Prince Rupert Drops was spot on.
When I found out the “Seagulls Saved the Crops” story was an urban legend, it did irreparable damage. It is one little story. It shouldn’t have so much power in my life. That simple story had been taught to me so many times in my life. I saw it as a true miracle and evidence that God cared for His LDS people.
When stories leave truth behind, people don’t just get hurt, they feel betrayed.
One of the things that drives me crazy about the “and the missionaries were miraculously saved!” stories is that if a “miracle” HADN’T occurred, and missionaries were injured or killed? We’d make THAT into a faith promoting story too.
Lying and “whitewashing are wrong. I’m still put off by Elder Paul Dunn. Where did he get the idea to fabricate stories to teach gospel principles. I remember MH piece , “Lying for the Lord”. He could just a well write a piece titled, “Lying for the adversary”.
Yes, stories do get embellished, people lie. It is twice as bad when someone does it in the name of religion. However, it works both ways. Does whitewashing occur at W&T and else where in the bloggernacle? Does the ugly part of human nature occur just among advocates for the church? It is a given that lies, embellishment, errors, and the like are ubiquitous among humankind.
But that isn’t the real problem when it comes to Mormonism. In my opinion, the real problem is that far too many church members are not tapping into and maintaining the Spiritual power that is available to them. In its simplest form this power is available to those who read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Speaking from experience, once one taps into this power and then moves forward faithfully they are not deceived or confounded by lying, whitewashing, errors, and etc. They have a witnesses and the ongoing blessing of Spiritual power in their lives.
Read Elder Nelson’s Oct and April talks. He lays it out clearly why so many are failing to grasp the Spiritual power that will allow them to stand fast in the difficulties of our day.
The main problem is lack of current “direct experience” within this church. “Prophets” don’t provide revelation and personal revelation is (supposed to be?) kept personal. We are the only Christian church that claims ongoing revelation but we simply do not provide it while other Christian churches make no such claim while providing it! Prophets don’t need whitewash, whitewash is apologetically offered in a vacuum of divine revelation.
Jared. In a way I agree with you. Looking back I guess I didn’t have that “Spiritual Power” that you mention and my testimony leaned on the miraculous presentation by the church. I tried for many decades and I did the mission, temple marriage, tons of kids, doing all my callings and lots of increasing callings of responsibilities, never breaking the commandments, prayer, scripture study, fasting, attended every Sunday … I couldn’t fine that power no matter what I tried. I never received any of that spiritual power. Once I realized I only have another decade or so to live, I realized I didn’t feel God was in the church. I just couldn’t feel him there. And then I started reading the real history and I felt REALLY upset and manipulated. It is probably the strongest case of my trust being violated in my long life. And then I prayed like never before asking God, “I need you to tell me if this is the church you want me in and I will commit to it even with these problems I see in the church and history.” I never once received any promptings. So I was left with no “testimony” of the church. I still think it does some good, just like other churches do.
And not to pick on your wording, but it does come across as “I was able to get this Spiritual Power, so everyone else will” Well – after 40+ years of adulthood following all the rules, I can no longer say I believe. I have to stand at the judgement bar and now if feels to me that I will feel better at that judgement day if I say, “I don’t see God in this”
I’m not sure why some church members are able to tap into Spiritual manifestation and others don’t have exactly the same level of experience. We’re taught that some in the church are required to believe based on the testimonies of those who are given manifestations. See D&C 46.
The Book of Mormon provides examples. Consider Lehi and his family. His sons provide insight into the question you pose. Nephi, Sam, and Jacob believed. Laman and Lemuel also believed. They knew, because of all the manifestation they were given, but they wouldn’t follow God consistently.
Then there is the example of Amulek. He closed his mind to God. He said, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning this things, yet I would not know… Alma 10:6.
I have some in my family who say what you expressed. Their wonderful, good people, but they have not so far, acquired a testimony. I accept what they tell me. They accept what I tell them. Life goes on.
The larger problem with these type of stories goes to SCw’s comment. Why was he not inspired to help everyone? These type of stories fall apart quickly.
Joni (above) YES. That is one of the major problems with such faith promoting stories, and the mind-set in general—that God is intervening with all aspects of our lives, and that miracles are happening. Members and believers with that mindset can “answer” any good or bad circumstance away, so that when missionaries are NOT saved from a disaster, or the prayers of the righteous do NOT cure someone from cancer, or that young boy was NOT found in the woods…well they can chalk those up to “it was meant to be” or “it was their time to do work on the other side.” And that doesn’t work for me.
I thought Bill’s and Radio Free Mormon’s podcast was great—the perfect cliff notes version from someone I align with.
I thought the details of the Tsunami map and and the various cities was a bit tedious, and could have been cut down to 1 minute. But these things are great to point out—to fact check these stories. I hope there’s an opportunity to respectfully push back if these stories pop up in my Gospel Doctrine class or RS in our ward.
Some people feel emotions strongly. Some are isolated from their feelings.
The same seems true of the Spirit. I’m not really sure why that is, but theologically we do not have a well developed answer or general approach to that besides the gifts of the Spirit being distributed in different amounts rather than all at once.
I do find that judging people using the same standards they use can be very toxic.
I’d rather view them through my own lens. I’ve yet to find much success mirroring back to people what they are doing. That is often taught in ADR but it only seems to cause harm.
As for those who leave and suddenly start using drugs and alcohol and wife swapping I think it is understandable how people might conflate behavior with reasons for leaving.
Not saying that is correct but it is understandable. I also understand how someone who has always been monogamous and did not engage in premarital sex might feel that they are entitled to that experience when they leave the church.
Not leaving because of that, but having left feel that they should get to have that experience too. Especially if their partner had that sort of experience–why should they be the only one left out if it was meaningless deprivation.
So I think we need to view those who have left more kindly.
Yeah, every time I hear of the miraculous sparing of one group of Heavenly Father’s children, I despair for those who are able to wall this off as evidence of God’s special love for that group, failing to see the grief of the other casualties. How much more would I feel that if I were a Japanese member. So very amerocentric, so very tone deaf.
Jason, 5:03 PM…”I think if put under the microscope we would find that many of the things we say, other people would yell “whitewashing!/embellishment” in our direction.
I agree, but the more important issue in this context is that you and I don’t make any claims to be inspired by God, chosen by God to lead, one of the Lord’s “anointed.” The level of responsibility is so much higher with them!
After reading this story, I went back and read Elder Steven’s talk. He clearly states in the beginning of the story that he is only talking about one zone. Anyone that has served a mission or is familiar with mission at all should know there are many zones in the mission. In the mission I served in, zones were 20 to 30 missionaries. This was in the states and I think in other countries zones are probably even smaller. Later he does use the word all missionaries without the addition of “in the zone” but I feel like that can be excused since he mentioned it was only one zone only moments earlier. I was discussing this talk with my daughter at dinner on Sunday night of General Conference, and she mentioned all the missionaries being saved. She’s 8. I told her it was one part of them then. I personally was never confused by this, so I was surprised it was a big deal.
The actions of LDS missionaries during the tsunami in Japan really hacked me off. Here were a couple hundred big strong young American guys (and sisters), many of them eagle scouts with camping experience ad wilderness survival skills and some descended from hardy Utah pioneers. What did they do in the face of danger? They ran away to safety.
What a missed PR opportunity. They should have been mobilized forward , not backward. The Japanese authorities were not going to let them get too close to any real danger. Then they should have rolled up their sleeves and gone to work . With luck they might have saved someone or maybe a pet cat..This work went on for weeks and weeks. All that time they could have been building good will and making friends and changing the image of Mormon missionaries in Japan. Instead they were far from danger congratulating themselves on all being safe. Yes, 8000 people died. but millions in harm’s way did not. How is it a miracle that 200 American boys with chicken-hearted leaders ran away to safety?
So the ones that were gathered at the Stake Center, do we know exactly what they were saved from? What greater damage exactly they were spared by going to the zone conference?
Whitewashing absolutely occurs. In part I believe it occurs because many in Church leadership only want positive news and reports. It also occurs because employees and members under these leaders perceive that leaders only want positive reports.
While working in the temples I had very abusive managers and worked daily in a hostile work environment. Management, HR, Legal, and the Temple Department General Authorities didn’t want to hear about it. The Provo Temple Recorder (Who is no longer at the Provo Temple but a temple nearby) personally told stories of himself and the temple engineers golfing in the temple, off the temple roof, of jumping out of alters to scare people, of engineers taking temple property to build their homes, of illegal, unethical and inappropriate behavior. Threats were often made and the recorder daily called people, including general authorities, “scum sucking maggot”, “cheese monkey”, “dirt bag”, “weasel”, etc. (See my blog by googling “abuse in lds employment” for full details).
I blew the whistle and was forced out, in part, for bringing things to light that never should have happened in any temple. The men I worked for were brutal and the most manipulative, cunning, and self-centered individuals I had ever met. They never should have been employed in management positions let alone positions of sacred trust. Regardless, when I started reporting issues I found the church turned a COMPLETE blind eye to the issues. When a recorder is threatening the employment of individuals and covering up illegal, unethical, and inappropriate behavior you would think the Church would want to know so that they could correct the situation. They don’t want to know! Period! I never received one response to my letters to HR, the Temple Department, or the General Authorities where I not only reported full details of the abusive and hostile environments I worked in (from daily journals, not from memory). I never received one response to explicit details I provided about the aforementioned recorder and Temple Department Director (which I also had audio recordings detailing their behavior).
Because the Church has ignored me I feel I have no choice but to make the abuse I experienced public. It should be embarrassing to the Church that I was treated the way I was but they hope by ignoring me the problem will just go away. It won’t and unfortunately will cause larger issues for them until they try to silence me through legal action. But, I am not reporting this out of a desire for revenge. I am reporting it publicly because 1) the abuse and hostility needs to come to light, 2) I want to see changes in Church employment policy to ensure this never happens again to another employee and that abusive managers are properly dealt with, 3) victims need to be treated with respect when reporting issues and their reports need to be taken seriously, and 4) the Church needs to practice what they preach and reach out to victims and ensure they are made whole.
So why is it that there is such pressure to paint a perfect picture of the church? Because the Church wants the perfect picture. However, by ignoring obvious issues, like those mentioned above, larger problems occur until you have scandals such as the sexual abuse cases the Church has been sued for. In my opinion, especially now with the amount of resources the Church has, it would be far better to admit mistakes or problems occur and face the issues head on even if it ends up costing a few dollars.
Jules, the missionaries were all from coastal cities (including Fukushima) so they were away when the 2011 tsunami hit and Fukushima’s subsequent nuclear fallout.
Fukushima is the name of both the city, not coastal, and the prefecture which includes part of the coast and in particular the coast where the nuclear reactors are situated. Elder Stevenson appeared to be confusing this.
I have sympathy with handlewithcare’s point. At the very least it is unseemly and insensitive, given the death toll associated with the disaster. However, to Jule’s point, we can’t know what might have happened to some of the missionaries within that zone had they not been called to the meeting. That missionaries in other zones had difficulties but came through the ordeal might point to their being invited as unnecessary. The mission president has particular responsibility for the missionaries. Assuming this was inspiration he was following, I don’t have a problem there. The problem lies in the oversimplification of the story presented to a worldwide audience. Perhaps this is why we don’t hear so many such stories over the pulpit because laying out every contextual detail renders it so unwieldy.
But I also know memory can be faulty too. My husband shared an experience as he remembered it in a sacrament meeting talk. My recollection was quite different, though the element of inspiration from the Holy Spirit was still a part of the story, just not in quite the way he described. I had to ask him later that if he planned to share any such stories on the future in which I was present to run them past me first.
Hedgehog. Yes you understood my point. The gathered missionaries were from the city, NOT the prefecture. Thus, Elder Stevensen’s saying that the elders were spared a nuclear disaster is completely inaccurate (or fabricated). My question is “Of all the missionaries at the zone conférence, were there any that were gathered from areas that suffered worse disaster than happened at the Stake Center?” Did the gathering actually spare any of the missionaries (I know we can’t know for certain and this is a bit hypothetical.)?
Why is my last comment not being posted?
There’s a list of places severely affected HERE, the greatest number of deaths occurred in Miyagi prefecture, though there also a high number in Fukushima prefecture, particularly Minamisōma on the coast just to the north of the reactor. Miyagi neighbours Fukushima to the north. This LINK shows evacuation orders and restricted areas around the nuclear reactor.
Personally I’d like to give Elder Stevenson the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there were missionaries from within these areas who got to attend the meeting, and he’s just confusing the place names, since Fukushima is pretty much the shorthand for the disaster. I do think the guys discussing the issue on the podcast have a very high bar when it comes to memory of geography and place names.
But yes, a lesson perhaps to check details, check details, especially in a talk given globally that will live on and on.
Jules, sorry, I clearly didn’t get your question. According to Stevenson’s talk, the conference was specifically for the southern portion of the Japan Sendai mission. Looking at a map of the mission, that would include the Yamagata and Niikata prefectures on the west, and Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures on the east. If he’d pulled in kids from those coastal cities in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, they would have been from some of the hardest hit areas.
Hedgehog, thanks for the links.