Devan Jensen is the president of the LDS Publishing & Media Association. What is it exactly, and who is it for? Devan will introduce us to the group, and even give it 2 discount codes to attend meetings in October.
Devan: I’m Devan Jensen and I work in Church publishing. I’m an editor and a writer, and I have been doing this for almost 30 years. So, I have a fair bit of experience working with a lot of authors in various areas, including the Mormon History Association and others. I’ve really had fun with a range of Church publishing experiences.
GT: Good, and you’re the president of…
Devan: Oh, yeah, the Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association, LDSPMA.
GT: I just joined.
Devan: Oh, fantastic, glad you joined, it’s free. I hope others will join, because it’s a great way to sort of amplify your voice and network with people who are interested in sort of like-minded things. Basically, a way to connect. We have a monthly networking lunch, through zoom, and we basically just share tips to help people hone their craft and improve their skills and hopefully share light and truth with the world.
GT: Well, yeah. So, tell us a little bit more about that. I actually have some other podcasters that listen, that might want to join.
Devan: I love it.
GT: I know you have a Facebook page, tell us more about that.
Devan: Sure, you visit LDSPMA.org. You can just sign up for free. We send out maybe one or two newsletters a month, just short, basic things. This networking lunch has been a fun way to connect with people. Then, we have our annual conference. That’s kind of our big event that we do. That will be October 7th through 9th this year, at the BYU Conference Center. What we’re going to do with this is we’re going to have both a gathering in-person and a virtual portion. Some people are away from the Wasatch Front, and so it may be difficult for them to gather or for health reasons they may not want to gather. But, we’re going to do it safely. We’re going to have a great event, I believe. We’re going to have, I think, if I’m not mistaken, we’re about 300 people signed up right now, it might get up to 400.
GT: Yeah, after they listen to this.
Devan: Exactly, you’re helping boost our signal, my brother. We love gathering. We’ve got tracks, several tracks. We’ve got podcasting, we’ve got multimedia stuff, we’ve got TV stuff, much of it is true traditional print, like editing and publishing and design. But here’s some of our folks. We’ve got Alex Boye, who’s going to speak to us about his craft, all the things he’s learned as a performer.
GT: Steve’s a good guy, that’s for sure. Are you going to record it or can people watch it after the fact?
Devan: Yes, we will record it and it will be available for about a month and a half, till November 21st, I believe is the date that people can watch it.
Devan: So, there is a little bit of a window. I’ll also give you two codes. If you’re a student, student2021 will work and if you’re a friend of LDSPMA, it’s friend2021. Those are to give you some money off of the normal registration fee. Again, we’re free to join the organization and hopefully we’ll find some value.
GT: The conference costs a little money.
Devan: The conference does cost a little money. So, I want to make that clear. But, it’s a way to sign up and learn some stuff and hone your craft.
Devan tells more about his background in editing, and other things about LDSPMA.
It’s incredibly easy to get into arguments on social media on topics like masks, vaccines, immigration, guns, politics. How do we talk to those with whom we disagree? Devan Jensen had some ideas, on how we can use more charity in difficult conversations.
GT: Of course, we have almost 100 years of fighting with them. Now, we seem to get along with them pretty well. How do we [talk about divisive topics?] Even in our political discourse, I mean, even in church, should you wear a mask? Should you not wear a mask, vaccine, anti-vaccine? How do we develop that spirit of brotherhood where we’re listening to each other and not fighting with each other?
Devan: What a tremendous question. If I could answer that very decisively, you can make a million bucks off it, so, I’m going to only just touch on the surface of it. But I have had some engagements like this recently, where I’ve said, “Okay, tell me a little bit where you are, where you’re coming from,” and I’ve listened on social media, that’s my main platform.
GT: That’s the worst place to be.
Devan: It is the worst place to be having dialogue. It’s much better to get in person. So, first of all, if you can get in person and talk with a person. Second of all, if you can express your love and concern, and third, if you can say, “Tell me your story. Tell me why you’ve arrived at this.” For example, let’s just talk about the mask situation for a minute. What happens is people often go to a place of, “Well, it’s my right, it’s my constitutional right,” and they say…
Devan: Right, exactly. So, I would probably start with something like this, “Okay, I understand, generally, that you’re concerned about our constitution, and you’re focused on our freedoms, and you don’t want our freedoms to be taken away.” So, that would be–that’s common ground, we both share. I feel very much the same way. So, can you tell me how wearing a mask takes away your freedom in some way?” So, maybe we’d start with that.
So, they could kind of kind of articulate, “Well, this is what I’m feeling, this is why I feel this way.” It almost always goes to the core thing, which is, well, “I’m concerned about my rights in some other area other than masks, and so I’m transferring my concern about the freedoms into the mask thing.”
“Okay, I understand,” or shots or vaccines.
I had a good friend who’s strongly conservative, who said it this way, and I’m quoting him anonymously, because I didn’t ask his permission. But he said, “I am concerned about my freedoms being eroded in a lot of–in some area, but I don’t think masks are an area where my freedoms are being eroded.”
GT: I don’t think masks were in the constitution.
Devan: I thought, “That’s pretty, that’s pretty good reasoning.” He thought that through. He thought, “My community well-being is more important than the temporary discomfort I am feeling by putting this mask on or getting a shot in the arm.” So, I think that he arrived at some good reasoning to help him to sort out those two things and separate them in a way that that didn’t feel threatening to him. So, that’s the kind of dialogue I think we can have with our friends who may be a little bit right or left from where we are. We all are on some spectrum, and maybe on a spectrum on specific issues, even., there might be. So, I think it’s helpful to recognize that that we do exist somewhere on a spectrum of political and religious beliefs. If we start there and start having people engage with us and tell their story, it will help us.
GT: I feel like we’re in a little bit of a minefield here. But, I think these are the kinds of conversations we need to have. Some other political minefields: immigration, LGBTQ. Even within the Church, I think racism is a big problem, still. How do we–can you talk about how can we be more charitable for those with whom we disagree?
Devan: I do like this quote, if I could share this. I kind of prepared some notes ahead of time. Above all, Be Kind. This is from Seven Keys to Successful Conversations, published some years ago by the Church. “Above all, be kind, show Christ-like love.”
Find out what else Devan said. Do you have any ideas on improving conversation on divisive topics?
Micronesia, Guam, Truk. You may have heard of these islands, but what do you really know about them? Devan Jensen is writing an LDS History about these islands and will give us a sneak peek into his upcoming book. We’re getting an early preview.
Devan: It turned out there was a topic. They were coming up with a book on the Pacific, and I said, “Well, I was a missionary, in one of the most remote areas of the world. It’s an area called Pohnpei.” It literally means, “on the altar.” It’s a very Christian nation now, about 30,000 people. I was there in Guam, where the temple is going to be built in Yigo, and I was there in Palm Bay. Those were my two areas that I was a missionary. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to collect some of those conversion stories and some of the early pioneering members?” So, I wrote that into a chapter and that was published in the book. A few years later, I realized, “That is a really important story,” that for some–well, I understand why people aren’t writing about it, because it’s so remote.
Devan: I’ll give you a give you a visual. So, imagine flying out to Hawaii, now flying out to the Philippines, halfway between there, approximately, is Guam and the Micronesia-Guam mission. So, it’s really out in the Pacific. I was a missionary there in Guam and Pohnpei. I decided I would be very interested in interviewing some of the other folks out there. So, I went out to the island of Chuuk. Chuuk is one of the–it used to be called Truk. Some of your listeners will know that. They’ll know that from World War II, because a lot of battles were there. Essentially, what happened, where we know about this story is, is after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had their fleet in the Chuuk Lagoon because it was a beautiful, big lagoon. It was a place where it was naturally protected. I can’t remember. It seems like it’s about 1000 square miles. So, it’s a huge lagoon, surrounded by volcanic islands. Basically, they were waiting there, and the U.S. forces made their way west and then they just bombed the Japanese in that lagoon. There are so many ships at the bottom of that lagoon, to this day. There are actual skeletons, there are artifacts, like gas masks.
GT: This was kind of a reverse Pearl Harbor.
Devan: Yes, it was a reverse Pearl Harbor. Being sensitive to the Japanese, this was sort of the payback for the Pearl Harbor, and it was very devastating attack on them. So, basically, I thought, “I’d like to go out there and interview some people.” So, I applied for funding and got some funding to fly out there. I recorded about—I’m trying to think how many [interviews] I did. I think I did about six or 10 oral history interviews. I submitted those to the Church Archives, and so those interviews now exists there, and they will be donated to BYU as well, when I’m done with them. I’m not quite done, but really close. So, as a result of this, I decided to gather all these into a book. Now we have, we’re getting ready to submit this book for publication. It’s going to be called something along the lines of, From Battlefields to Temple Grounds. It’s going to be the Latter-day Saints in Guam and Micronesia, something along those lines.
What do you know about Church history on these islands? Have you ever visited?
Pohnpei is just beautiful. I did some consulting contracts there a few years ago. Sashimi for five bucks a plate. Nice restaurants, compared to Chuuk, Kosrae, or Yap (the other three states of the Federated States of Micronesia).
My grandson started his LDS Mission in Chuuk. He was evacuated after a year because of Covid. He very much wants to return and visit, but the island is currently closed to visitors. He loved serving in Chuuk. And continues to study Chuukese.