Saturday, June 1, 2013


A wide array of studies of respected institutions, unconnected with the LDS Church, confirm the “fruits of Mormonism” in many areas including the following topics: CHARITY, YOUTH DEVELOPMENT, HEALTH, LONGEVITY, MORMON WOMEN’S POLITICAL FIRSTS, EDUCATION, SCIENCE, and the OBSERVATIONS OF GURU, PETER DRUCKER.


The Chronicle of Philanthropy announced on August 20, 2012 the findings of a new study of giving patterns. This was based on itemized deductions of 2008 tax returns, the latest that were available for analysis. The most charitable state was Utah, which has a 60% Mormon population.

Arthur C. Brooks, President of American Enterprise Institute and a former endowed Professor of Government and Economics at Syracuse University whose research focused on philanthropy, has also concluded: “The most charitable state in the United States is Utah, of course, where people give approximately twice as much as the second leading state in charitable giving.” (“Why Giving Matters”, p.2, BYU, February 24, 2009.)

According to the latest data from the federal government’s Corporation for National & Community Service, Utah has led the nation in volunteerism for the past four years.

For the fifth straight year in a row Utah was ranked number one for “giving back” by Volunteering in America in 2010. (Allvoices, June 19, 2010)

Arthur Brooks identifies giving as a major source of happiness. So, it is not surprising that Gallup has ranked Utah the happiest state through its indices of health and well-being. (New York Times, “The Happiest States of America”, March 10 2009)

The goal of charitable activities by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members is to provide immediate relief for serious problems and, where possible, to help people to work their way out of their problems to a better life. Some of these programs are to help the disadvantaged of their religious community and others are for the very needy regardless of religion, race or ideology.


HURRICANE SANDY. As soon as winds and rain had receded from Hurricane Sandy, some 500 full-time Mormon missionaries in two New York, New York missions and one in New Jersey (October 30) did the hard and dirty work to help both members and non-members and continued to do so as long as they are needed. Mission President Kevin Calderwood said “We have been in basements, on roofs, in yards cutting down trees, hauling things out of people’s homes and doing whatever people need us to do to help. The devastation is overwhelming. Some of these people lost everything. We are doing everything we can to help.” (“500 missionaries helping neighbors in Sandy’s wake” Deseret News, October 31, 2012.)

The volunteers meet many challenges such as pulling a carpet out from under two feet of water in a basement. Some members whose homes were demolished are living in LDS chapels which have generators to provide electricity. The missionaries reach out particularly to the families of first responders who are in need. The missionaries also help anyone who asks. Non-members see these efforts and sometimes volunteer to work alongside the missionaries. They typically start off in groups of six or more. Then they may get a call from members with hacksaws who are cutting up trees and some will go over to help move the waterlogged wood chunks from the streets. Elder Calderwood reports that most LDS were prepared as far as they could be.

LDS Area Authority for U.S. Northeast, Jeffrey Olson, reported on January 27, 2013 that 29,336 volunteers had participated and had contributed 284,053 hours of labor to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. His letter also stated that additional work had been done, but had not yet been reported.

SYRIAN REFUGEES. In mid October, 2012, LDS Charities responded to the request of Jordan to help refugees from Syria, particularly women and children, with a contribution of $1 million in goods and cash. This is typical of the prompt, volunteer assistance for virtually every substantial flood, earthquake, arrival of refugees or plague that has occurred around the world in recent decades. This program creates and maintains massive amounts of food, medical supplies, equipment and emergency resources.

Examples of 202 disasters in 179 countries and territories where LDS assistance was supplied to nearly 30 million people since 1985 include Japan earthquake and tsunami (where 31,000 people donated over 600,000 hours); earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia and Peru; Samoa tsunami; Pakistan flooding; Philippines typhoon; and Ethiopia famine. Such humanitarian assistance amounted to $1.4 billion from donations beyond tithing. None of it is supplied by governments.

Examples in the U.S. include the multimillion-dollar Teton Dam disaster in 1976. A force of 45,000 Latter-day Saints was deployed almost overnight to provide emergency relief. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, loaded Mormon relief trucks arrived before the National Guard was even allowing trucks through.

Beyond the emergency relief programs, the Church conducts multiple humanitarian programs designed to give critically needed assistance to non-members of the Church. Every dollar contributed goes directly to a benefit of the recipients. None goes to administrative overhead, which is carried out by uncompensated volunteer service missionaries. To illustrate how this works, Dr. Royal Shipp worked for 31 years for the respected Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Having served a volunteer LDS mission in Uruguay, he and his wife Carolyn gave 17 years of uncompensated service to the Hispanic Ward, Bella Vista, in McLean, Virginia. For nearly six years, he served as their Bishop which typically took at least 20 hours a week. He helped many hundreds of Hispanics in diverse ways. After he retired from CRS, he and Carolyn spent two years as uncompensated full time Humanitarian Service Missionaries in Colombia and Venezuela and now they are back serving in Bella Vista again.

Elder (Apostle) D. Todd Christofferson, in the April, 2013 Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church summarized: “This past year 890,000 people in 36 countries have clean water, 70,000 people in 57 countries have wheelchairs, 75,000 people in 25 countries have improved vision, and people in 52 countries received aid following natural disasters.” Acting with others, the Church has helped immunize some 8 million children and has helped Syrians in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan with the necessities of life. (See 2012.)

In the same Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks summarized: “These humanitarian donations, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade, are made without any consideration of religion, race, or nationality.” (Ibid.) The Church currently provides extensive welfare, vocational, rehabilitative counseling and other services. These programs include millions of hours donated by Latter-day Saint doctors, nurses and other Church members each year. Thousands of professionals and volunteers give freely of their time and means to those in need, with no expectation of praise, publicity or reward.


Practicing Mormons follow the Biblical law of paying tithing to the Church and giving time and resources to charities and endeavors based on love for one’s “neighbors”. Just as one example, Mitt Romney’s tax returns for the past two years revealed that he contributed $7 million or 16% of his income to charity. Of that, $4.2 million went to the LDS Church. This practice is unlike some politicians who give away very little of their own money.

In America: The National Catholic Weekly, John J. Dilulio Jr. reported in “Mormons and Charity” (April 9, 2012) on the Pew Forum Studies: 73% of Mormons believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon.” Led by Israeli-born scholar Ram A. Cnaan, the study concludes that churchgoing Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society.” On average, Mormons dedicate nine times as many hours per month to volunteer activities as other Americans do. In addition to tithing, on average Mormons also give about $1,200 per year “to social causes outside the church.”

The onslaught of the Great Depression caused the Church to initiate a systematic Welfare Program designed to supply help where individuals and their families were unable to meet basic needs. President Heber J. Grant was determined that this assistance was intended to end the “curse of idleness” and “the evils of a dole” and that “independence, industry, thrift, self-respect be established among our people…Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.” So, it was to help families get back on their feet, not to set up lifelong dependency. And recipients give time and effort to the program.

Naomi Schaeffer Riley wrote “What the Mormons Know About Welfare” in the Wall Street Journal of which she is a former editor. (February 18, 2012) Some excerpts follow. “As I ride in a golf cart through a new 15-acre warehouse, I can’t help but wonder: How many Wal-Marts would fit in here? How many burgers can you make from 4,400 industrial pallets of frozen meat? And how do they keep this place cleaner than my kitchen floor?

“Dedicated last month, the Bishop’s Central Storehouse contains a two year supply of food to support the Mormon Church’s welfare system in the U.S. and Canada (primarily for Church members in need) and its humanitarian program which sends food, medical supplies, and other necessities to the needy (of all faiths) worldwide.

“In addition to goods from canned peaches to emergency generators, the facility also houses the Church’s own trucking company, complete with 43 tractors and 98 trailers, as well as a one year supply of fuel, parts and tires for the vehicles. Just in case.

“The storehouse is not only a kind of physical marvel—it has been built to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude as high as 7.5—but also a symbol of strength and self-sufficiency.

“Most of the inventory in the central storehouse, though, goes to supply more than 100 smaller storehouses around the country, plus hundreds of soup kitchens and homeless shelters of other religious communities around North America. Members of the Mormon Church who find themselves in difficult circumstances can go to their local bishop and ask for aid.”


The Perpetual Education Fund loans money to needy members of the Church in 58 developing countries for tuition for education and training that leads to jobs in fields where jobs are available. Loans have been extended to 56,000+ students for programs averaging 2½ years. The PEF is growing rapidly. Every dollar contributed goes directly to a student, who is aided by volunteer help advising students and helping them find low cost or free housing, etc. It has produced remarkable results helping unemployed or underemployed obtain jobs, in some instances even before completing the training program. The previously employed typically double their salaries.

As an example, in Kenya Tyson Kemege was orphaned after birth. He contracted polio which left him with zero strength in his legs. A friend brought him into the Church. At 20, weighing less than 100 pounds and five feet high, he was given leg braces and crutches that allowed him to progress by swinging his legs forward. He even learned to climb and descend stairs. He contacted the Perpetual Education Fund. They helped him achieve his goal of entering the respected Augustana University to study IT. He became top of his class and was elected Student Body President. He texts his benefactors weekly on his progress and calls himself “the luckiest man alive.”


From the age of three, LDS youth participate in a multitude of projects and programs that develop their learning, talents, writing, speaking, planning and responsible behavior, while resisting temptations to lie, cheat, deceive, steal or get into alcohol and drugs. They are trained in seeking opportunities and developing skills to help all of God’s children, particularly those in need.

The results of these efforts came to light in a study of American teens and religion By the University of North Carolina financed by a $4 million grant from the Lilly Foundation. Without any intention to focus on any specific religion, its conclusions underscored the fruits of Mormonism. This study produced a Charlotte Observer article by Yonat Shimron titled “Mormon teens cope best: Study finds they top peers at handling adolescence”, concluding that “Mormons fared best at avoiding risky behaviors, doing well in school and having a positive attitude about the future. Conservative Protestants came in second.” Steve Vaisey, one of the researchers in the study and the person who interviewed most of the Mormon youth said “Across almost every category we looked at, there was a clear pattern: Mormons were first.” [, March 13, 2005]. The study was published by the Oxford University Press as Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.


Throughout their history, Mormons have pursued a healthy lifestyle, which has demonstrated the fruits of Mormonism. They do not smoke or drink alcohol. They are encouraged to eat ample fresh vegetables and fruits, and are generally physically active. They have a wholesome balance of meeting the practical challenges of life with spiritual dimensions such as gratitude to God and happily helping other people. They take the biblical teaching that the body is the temple of the spirit to heart and treat the body carefully. As a result they have showed up well in countless health studies.

As early as 1925, eminent scientist Franklin S. Harris and Newbern Butts published Fruits of Mormonism revealing low Mormon rates in such diseases as cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia and kidney diseases -- as well as suicide and homicide.

In 1937, John A. Widtsoe, an Apostle, a noted chemist and former President of University of Utah, wrote a book on the Word of Wisdom: a Modern Interpretation. An expert on sugar, he implored people to curb eating refined sugar and to emphasize fresh vegetables. He also attributed to the doctrinal Word of Wisdom low Mormon death rates from many diseases including an extraordinary 50 percent reduced rate for diabetes.

In March 1975, Dr. James Enstrom of UCLA School of Public Health (not a Mormon) reported to an American Heart Association Conference that Mormon deaths from heart and cardio problems were from one third to one half less than average in the U.S..

Then came an independent study by established epidemiologist, Dr. Joseph Lyon that Mormons in Utah were contracting cancer 25 percent less frequently than non-Mormons.

Soon, Enstrom, Lyon and others examined and confirmed Elder Widtsoe’s 1938 statistics that Mormon diabetes was 50% less and bladder and kidney disease 51 percent less than average.

The nation was concerned about the loss of life and costs of dreaded diseases and the good news from reliable studies about Mormon lifestyle was welcome. Illustrative was the Washington Post with a front page headline “Study Shows Low Mormon Cancer Rate” on 11/18/74.

More Enstrom studies brought more front page headlines such as USA TODAY (with top circulation in U.S.) declaring “Mormon lifestyle is healthiest” on 12/6/89. The lead stated: “The lowest death rates ever reported from heart disease and cancer have been found in a group of 10,000 Mormons, a new study suggests.”

Also the same day the WALL STREET JOURNAL reported “Mormon Rules Aid Long Life, Study Discloses”.

In 1997 a new study produced a new cycle of stories such as the Los Angeles Times headline “Mormons Among Nation’s Healthiest, Researchers Say” on 4/26/97.

A path-breaking study of fasting by the Intermountain Medical Center produced an astonishing finding that Mormon-type fasting of 24 hours the first weekend of each month causes a 40 percent reduction of risk for dreaded Coronary Artery Disease.

The potential prevention of pain, death and cost are enormous. Heart attacks, 99+% of which are based on coronary artery disease, are the leading cause of death in the United States and other industrialized nations -- with a total estimated U.S. cost of $165.4 billion in 2009 according to the American Heart Association.

Through statistical regression analysis, fasting was separated from other health-influencing factors such as physical activity, smoking, socio-economic status and frequent church attendance which were controlled to obtain the amazing conclusion that what could be described as Mormon-type fasting, all by itself, cut coronary artery disease almost in half.

These surprising results were presented to the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Nov. 2007 by lead researcher Benjamin Horne, PhD, MPH, who directs Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City. This caused excitement and was one of a few presentations that produced a press release by AHA. In 2008, the American Journal of Cardiology published the full results in an article by 14 researchers (both non-Mormon and Mormon) who had worked on the study and wanted to be identified with this breakthrough.

This discovery was so astonishing that Dr. Horne did the study again, and the previous conclusion was completely reaffirmed. The results of this new study were recently published by the Journal of Cardiology “Relations of Routine Periodic Fasting to Risk of Diabetes Mellitus and Coronary Artery Disease” (June 1, 2012).

Dr. Horne believes a 24-hour fast “may allow the body to rest and reset metabolism, increasing the body’s sensitivity to glucose and insulin.” He cautions that the “compelling findings” on fasting do not apply to random skipping of meals. In our interview, Dr. Horne indicated that he was doing follow-up studies on fasting, including its relationship to genes that affect health.


The UCLA Press Release on their latest study of Mormon longevity summarized: “If you want to live a long healthy life, you may want to take a tip from the Mormons…. A group of actively practicing Mormons in California, followed for a 25-year period, had the lowest total death rates and the longest life expectancies ever documented in a well-defined U.S. cohort. The authors believe the findings suggest a model for substantial disease prevention in the general population.”

The males that were highly committed to the Mormon lifestyle had a life expectancy of 84.1 years which was 9.8 years greater than that of U.S. white males. Highly committed females had a life expectancy of 86.1 years which was 5.6 years longer than U.S. white females.

These are results from the latest study on Mormon longevity by non-Mormon UCLA Public Health professors James E. Enstrom and Lester Breslow. Breslow is a former Dean of the top tier School of Public Health at UCLA. The Mormon information was drawn from questionnaire responses of 9,815 High Priests and wives.

A staggeringly significant dimension emerged from this study. Seven Mormon lifestyle elements were studied, and each, independently, added to longevity. Thus, the more Mormons follow basic LDS doctrinal and lifestyle elements, the longer they live.

The results of their study were published in Preventive Medicine (February 2008). The authors explain: “Active California Mormons practice a healthy lifestyle advocated by their religion, which emphasizes a strong family life, education and abstention from tobacco and alcohol.” In other writings, Enstrom has referred to the Mormon belief that the body is the Temple of the spirit. In our interview, Professor Enstrom, stated that he had not seen anything since the study was completed that contradicted its conclusions.

The low LDS mortality findings are in harmony with earlier studies of low Mormon rates of cancer. In one instance the benefits of high Mormon adherence to Church doctrines by men was dramatically shown. John Gardner and Joseph Lyon found that the most devout group of Mormons (Seventies and High Priests) had lung cancer rates 80% lower than those in the least devout group. Cancer of the stomach and the leukemias and lymphomas also had lower rates in the most devout group. The most devout Mormon women also had a substantially lower lung cancer rate than the least devout. (American Journal of Epidemiology, Aug. 1982)


Many people are unaware that Mormon Relief Society, a philanthropic and educational women’s organization founded in 1842 is one of the oldest women’s organizations in existence. It operates in 170 countries.

Barely three years after the first Mormons arrived in Salt Lake Valley, the pioneers created Deseret University. Illustrating the early Mormon emphasis on education for women as well as men, this was the first coeducational university west of the Mississippi River.

Furthermore, Mormon women have historically been leaders in civic activity and achieved many political firsts in America. Some of these are summarized in the following paragraph from an article I wrote on Civic Duties in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Published by Macmillan, 1992, p. 285-6.)

“Latter-day Saint women were involved in public life long before women in other parts of the United States. They have always voted in Church congregations. The University of Deseret, founded in Salt Lake City in 1850, was the first coeducational university west of the Mississippi. H. H. Bancroft's History of Utah reported that women voted in the provisional government before territorial status in 1850 (p. 272, San Francisco, 1890). The first documented women voters in modern times were in Salt Lake City on February 14, 1870. Mary W. Chamberlain was elected mayor of Kanab, Utah, with an all-female town board, in 1912 (undoubtedly the first all-female municipal council in the United States.) The first woman state senator elected in the United States (Dr. Mattie Hughes Paul Cannon, 1896) and the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who was neither the wife nor the daughter of a politician (Paula Hawkins, Florida, 1980) were Latter-day Saints.” Had it not been for a very narrow defeat by about one percent in the 2012 election, Mia Love, a Mormon would have become the first Black female Republican Congressperson. Link:


To understand the dynamic and positive impact of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on people's lives, it is important to understand the LDS emphasis on learning in general and on science in particular. This is underscored by a few examples.

• LDS are repeatedly urged to "seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith," and to "study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues and people."

• The first Church President, Joseph Smith, made it clear that "One of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism' is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may." He emphasized: "We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true 'Mormons'." (For citations for these quotes See my article on

Intuitively, people might suspect that sacrificing so much time and resources for the Gospel would interfere with the ability to gain a good education and earn a decent income. However, the Bible, as well as the Book of Mormon, promise blessings to those who adhere to God’s commandments. This is demonstrated by the fact that a one fifth higher share, 60%, of Mormons obtained higher education than the national average. For Mormons born in the Church, where they have typically had education emphasized from their infancy, 64% had higher education. This is 28% higher than for the general population. Also, whereas 48% of American households have income from all sources of $50,000 or higher, the figure for Mormons is 54% -- which is 12 ½% higher than the general population. The Mormons are also somewhat higher than the averages of most of the other Christian traditions, both Protestant and Catholic. This data was developed by The Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2007) of the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life.

Utah, which has always been predominantly Mormon with its deep rooted commitment to education, has, over the years, been at or near the top in the average number of years of education attained by its citizens.

• For example, it was reported in 1984 that Utah was highest of the 50 states in the "median number of school years completed by adult population", with 12.8 years. Utah was also first in "percentage of adult population with high school diploma". (Deseret News: Church News, June 10, 1984, p. 3.)

• Despite an influx of immigrants into Utah, it continued to be high. In October, 1995, with 90.2 percent of adults age 25 and over having high school diplomas, Utah was fourth highest of the fifty states. (Interview with Pattie Bowles, Utah Board of Education, May 6, 1998.)

• In 1994, Utah was the top state in both Advance Placement Exams taken, and those passed for college credit, in relation to the number of high school students—and Utah is consistently at or near the top. ("Utah and National Advanced Placement Performance, 1994", prepared by Utah State Office of Education.)

• A study showed that in 1996 Utah tied North Carolina for the highest percentage of high school students who took upper level mathematics classes. (Education Week: Quality Counts ’98, January 8 1998, p. 79.)

• In a 2006 study, Utah ranked 3rd in the nation for passing AP tests, and they continued to rank among the top in percentage of high school graduates. (Deseret News, February 8, 2006)

Over the decades, the deep rooted Mormon commitment to education has produced some remarkable accomplishments. A few illustrations follow:

Science magazine in 1974 published a study of those who had obtained Ph.D.s from 1920 to 1961 and the institutions from which they had obtained their baccalaureate degrees. The productivity of each state in preparing future scholars was calculated. Utah ranked first of all states in overall production of scholars. Significantly, it ranked 30 percent higher than the second highest state, Iowa. In sub-categories, Utah ranked first in producing future Ph.D.s in social sciences, first in biological sciences, second in education, third in physical sciences, and sixth in the arts and professions. (Kenneth R. Hardy, "Social Origins of American Scientists and Scholars," Science 185; Aug. 9, 1974: 497-506.) [Sorry the words on the graph are hard to read. However, it clearly shows that Utah’s rate of production of future Ph.D.’s was about double the average of the other States.] This leading production of scholars is one of the most remarkable examples of the fruits of Mormonism.

In the industrialized world, the growing influence of higher education, and particularly of science have generally caused a decline in religious faith and activity. Just as one example in England only about five percent of the adult members of the Church of England attend even annual Easter services. (Stan L. Albrecht, “The Consequential Dimension of Mormon Religiosity”, Distinguished Faculty Lecture, BYU, February 15, 1989, p. 28). Albrecht’s findings are that higher education appears to have minimal deteriorating effects on Mormons’ religiosity or attendance at Church.

Mormons with college education exceed those without it in each of the following categories: high value placed on religious beliefs; prays daily; studies gospel; pays full tithe and attends church weekly. (Albrecht, Slide 36.)

A remarkably high percentage of well-educated Mormons attend Church weekly as shown by the following list. (Albrecht, Slide 35)

Because Mormons are generally serious students and rarely cause problems, they are welcome at prominent universities, some of which also have LDS faculty. Thus there are LDS chapels with both singles’ and family wards functioning actively near virtually every major university in America. Universities that have appointed Mormon Presidents include Ohio State, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Brown, Colorado, Arizona State, Utah State, Utah, Washington, UCLA and California (the overall University with ten campuses); and Harvard has appointed Mormons to be Dean of the Harvard Business School (Kim Clark) and as Vice President of the University (Chase Peterson) -- as well as their 300th Anniversary University Professor (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.)

Occasionally college students may disengage from the Church, but others become reactivated; and occasionally students, including at elite universities such as Yale and Harvard, join the Church. As an example of the types of lives that can emerge from blending high quality education with conversion to the LDS Church, Elder Jeffrey Holland, one of the LDS 12 Apostles, while obtaining his Ph.D. at Yale, discussed the restored Gospel with fellow Yale student, Katrina Lantos. She writes: “His brilliant exposition of the gospel played a pivotal role in my decision to join the Church.” (Email 11-14-12.) She is a daughter of the now deceased Congressman Tom Lantos. She graduated from Yale at 18. She helped bring into the Church a Yale architecture student, Dick Swett. They were subsequently married. He became a Democratic Congressman from New Hampshire and came close to defeating Senator Bob Smith in 1996. President Clinton later appointed Dick Swett to be Ambassador to Denmark. Katrina obtained a law degree and a Ph.D. and teaches Human Rights and American Foreign Policy at Tufts University. She has co-hosted a talk show “Beyond Politics”, supported her husband’s political campaigns and has run for Congress. She and Dick were national co-chairs of Senator Joseph Lieberman’s campaign for President. Dick co-authored Lieberman's Energy Policy, and they supported his re-election to the Senate in 1996 as an Independent. They have seven children, and all three of their boys served LDS missions. Katrina is now the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and is CEO of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. Dick is co-founder and CEO of Climate PROSPERITY Enterprise Solutions, LLC, a company that models large projects in an integrated 3D animated computer environment to help save costs in construction, energy consumption and operations. CPES is currently building projects in Turkey and Africa, and modeling projects using their Enterprise Solution platform in the US.


The Mormons are an unusual religion in having, from their beginning, sought to learn everything possible from science.

Brigham Young, admonished: "Let [the members] be educated in every useful branch of learning..." He wrote: "How gladly would we understand every principle pertaining to science and art, and become thoroughly acquainted with every intricate operation of nature and with all the chemical changes that are constantly going on around us!" He emphasized that: "Mormonism embraces all truth" including "scientific".

Brigham Young asserted: "Our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular."

Multiple studies have shown that, in relation to population, Utah was number one in spawning scientists; that proportionately many more of the scientists produced from Utah are LDS than the LDS proportion of the Utah population; and that two recent studies indicate that over 90 percent of the LDS scientists believe that "Joseph Smith, Jr. was inspired by God in the formation of the Mormon Church."

People only become scientists by proving their intellect, their rational pursuit of truth based upon demonstrable evidence, and their skepticism of that which is not readily credible. So, the remarkable record of an overabundance of objective scientists who believe in and are faithful to, and active in, the Church must be astounding to people with frozen preconceptions. It appears that no other Church can demonstrate its overwhelming believability to a great many scientists.

More specifically, in the production of scientists, LDS have been extraordinarily fruitful.

• Since science promotes objective rational thinking and progress, E.L. Thorndike, of Columbia University researched the states of birth of scientists listed in the 1938 edition of American Men of Science for the Carnegie Foundation. He unexpectedly found that Utah (which was majority LDS) was the highest of all states in producing scientists as a percentage of the population. See graph. Utah was 45 percent higher than the second highest state, Colorado, which also had LDS citizens. (E.L. Thorndike, "The Production, Retention and Attraction of American Men of Science", Science, 92 (August 16, 1940): 137-41. See also E.L. Thorndike, Science News Letter, August 31, 1940. In order to compare populations among the states that were comparable, these studies were of the white populations of each state.)

Dr. Thorndike later studied the origins of outstanding men using Who's Who, Leaders in Education and American Men of Science. Utah again was the most productive state, far ahead of Massachusetts, the second ranking state. (E.L. Thorndike, "The Origin of Superior Men", The Scientific Monthly, 56 (May, 1943): 424-33.) Many of these high achievers were born in the 1800s when Utah was struggling to make the arid desert blossom as a rose. Despite privation, the teachings of the Church and the quality of the members caused many to sacrifice and strive to obtain excellent educations and to contribute to the larger society. (One of Utah’s statues in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol is of Philo Farnesworth, a key pioneer of television who was one of many major contributors among Mormon scientists.)

• A study by H. E. Zabel of American Men of Science - 1944 found that Utah was again first as the birthplace of 1065 scientists per million. The second state was Colorado with 657 per million. (H.E. Zabel, "Iowa's contribution to American Men of Science, Seventh Edition", cited in Richard T. Wootton, Saints and Scientists, (Mesa, Arizona: EduTech, 1992, opposite p. 25.)

• The number of scientists in the 1949 edition of American Men of Science had nearly doubled since Thorndike's original study of the 1938 edition. A University of Utah doctoral dissertation by Richard T. Wootton showed Utah as the most productive of scientists, followed by Idaho, the state with the second highest LDS population. (Richard T. Wootton, Op. Cit., pp. 24-5.)

• The number of scientists in the 1962 edition of American Men of Science almost doubled again. Despite almost quadruple the scientists in the original Thorndike study, Utah still had a commanding lead for first in the number of scientists born in the state per million population, followed by Idaho which had a large LDS population. (21. H.E. Zabel, "Statistical Abstract of American Men of Science, Tenth Edition", cited in Wootton, Op. Cit., p. 25.)

• Using a different approach, the University of Chicago Press published a study of the institutions from which scientists in the 1921 and 1944 editions of American Men of Science had obtained their undergraduate degrees. In relation to their number of graduates, Mormon-owned Brigham Young University (BYU) and Utah State and University of Utah produced future scientists at an average rate of 150 percent of the rates of MIT and Harvard, 200 percent of Stanford, 300 percent of Duke, 1,280 percent of University of Southern California, and 4,700% of Georgetown University. (22. R.J. Knapp and J.B. Goodrich, Origins of American Scientists (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), pp. 12, 325-27.

• Richard Wootton, former President of the BYU Hawaii campus and professor emeritus of Arizona State University did a more recent study of the locations of the undergraduate degrees of American Men and Women of Science: 17th edition, 1990. Utah was again the top state in production of scientists and was substantially higher—21 percent—than the second highest state, Delaware. (Wootton, Op. Cit., table opposite p. 58)

• The results of the studies up to and including 1992 were so remarkable that I asked Dr. Wootton if he would be willing to redo his 1992 study in the year 2000 to see if his findings held up in the fast changing contemporary world. He proceeded to study the states that awarded undergraduate degrees to scientists listed in the 1998-99 Edition of American Men and Women of Science. Utah again was number one. However, its lead over second state, Delaware, undoubtedly influenced by the increasing number of children of Du Pont scientists who also became scientists, was narrowed.

HIGHLIGHTS ON MORMON PRODUCTIVITY OF SCHOLARS AND SCIENTISTS: Although other states' rankings changed, Utah has consistently been the highest state, and generally much higher than the second highest state, in producing scholars and scientists listed from 1920 to 1999. Also, Idaho, with the second highest percentage of Mormons, consistently ranked high in ratio of scientists who were born in Idaho to population. To test the impact of the LDS Church, Wootton studied the proportion of LDS and non-LDS scientists from Utah in his studies of scientists. He found that LDS scientists were a substantially higher share of Utah produced scientists than the LDS percentage of the general population in Utah. (Wootton, Op. Cit., p. 27 ff. For example, Wootton reported that the LDS proportion of Utah's population in 1906 was 55 percent. Whereas the proportion of Utah-born scientists who were LDS in Wootton's study of American Men of Science in 1949 was 76 percent - almost 40 percent higher than the LDS share of the population near the median birth year of the scientists. That so many of these scholars and scientists work heavily with secularists yet retain their faith and spiritual vitality is remarkable evidence of the attractions to and fruits of Mormonism. (See my Articles on Latter-day Saints and Science in Meridian Magazine. Also see 3 articles on Mormons and Science in


At a Harvard seminar on volunteerism in 1989, world-class organization and management guru Peter Drucker told me that “the Mormons are the only Utopia that ever worked”. The word Utopia was invented by Sir Thomas More to describe a mythical ideal island where everyone was educated, wise, mutually helpful and prosperous. Various descriptions of utopian societies have been proposed, and some have been attempted but have failed. (Peter Drucker’s authorization for me to publish his quote is in the blog.)

Peter Drucker has been widely recognized as the father of modern management and as one of the most astute observers of organizational and managerial effectiveness. He saw management as “the organ that converts a mob into an organization and human effort into performance.” A century after his birth and four years after his death at 96, his life of contributions was richly commemorated by The November 19th, 2009 issue of The Economist, the November 2009 Harvard Business Review, and The Financial Times on 11-23-09.

Of course, people actually living the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ that were exemplified by his life, which even skeptic Thomas Jefferson saw as marvelous, would represent an ideal society. Peter Drucker taught at Claremont, whose graduate school of management bears his name, and he lived in southern California a heavy Mormon area. Over the years he saw a multitude of effective service, educational and cultural activities that were successfully carried out by the Mormon Church by volunteer efforts since there were no paid clergy. He concluded that this was the closest thing to a utopian society, an extraordinary example of what can be accomplished when there is a widespread will to sustain unpaid effort to serve other people.

There are approximately 25,000 wards and branches (congregations) in more than 150 countries that are organized into about 3,000 stakes. Wards typically have 400 to 700 members most of whom have at least one assignment in a teaching, youth development, service or administrative position. Even janitorial tasks are performed by rotating volunteers (often people who rank high in their professions.) Each ward is presided over by a Bishop who is typically both a spiritual and practical leader, who devotes about 20 hours a week without any financial compensation, for about five years. They work in diverse occupations, ranging from farmers to doctors to lawyers to professors to corporate CEO’s. The Bishops lead the congregation, give prayerful callings to the members and counsel and help members to work their way through problems.

Literally billions of dollars that would have gone to personnel costs are saved and available to expand the growth and mission of the Church more rapidly, such as in assisting the poor, education, the building of chapels (that include recreational and athletic facilities and have been completed in the low hundreds per year) and beautifully landscaped inspiring Temples (Houses of the Lord) that teach the importance of developing all of one’s talents and abilities to serve others of God’s children and striving to live the life exemplified by Christ. More than 136 Temples exist in such diverse locations as Hong Kong, Nigeria and Ukraine with 30 more under construction or planning. Now 85% of all Mormons worldwide are within 200 miles of a Temple with its spiritually enriching ordinances.

At the top of the LDS Church are a small number of full time positions to which spiritual and talented people are called. Since these positions are filled for the rest of their professional lives, and they do not serve on corporate boards that might distract them from their spiritual callings, they receive a very modest subsistence allowance that does not come from tithing but from business profits. An example of the service attitude of Church members was that Donald L. Staheli was CEO of Continental Grain, which has been the largest private corporation in the nation with a salary of multiple millions of dollars per year. He was asked to become a member of the Council of Seventy (full time) and resigned his job to do so.

Another example of the willingness to give up many benefits to fill a position affecting thousands of people occurred when Kim Clark, who as the highly successful Dean of the Harvard Business School had made many innovations such as creating foreign campuses, was asked to become President of BYU Idaho, which had earlier been a junior college. (Dr. Clark’s Church service had included being a Bishop and a Scoutmaster. To explain to his eastern friends why he accepted this position, he said it was like receiving a phone call from Moses.) With open admissions, he was to make it a rapidly growing (currently 17,000+ students) quality undergraduate university operating with a remarkably low cost per student. Now he is invited to lecture at such places as the Aspen Institute to tell how he accomplished these goals, and what other universities might learn from his approaches and methods. (See Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring The Innovative University, 2011.)

In 2007, the Associate Dean of Harvard Business School, Steven C. Wheelwright was asked to become President of BYU Hawaii, which provides university education to students from throughout the Pacific Islands and basin. Some of these students could only earn about $50 per year in their native islands. They receive work scholarships from the Polynesian Cultural Center at BYU-H, which teaches them their native dances and other aspects of culture and history permitting them to perform at the PCC, which is the highest attended paid tourist attraction in Hawaii. At BYU-H, they also learn skills to gain employment in modern economies. Some of them take those skills back to their islands to develop new businesses there.

It is not surprising that the astute Peter Drucker came to his remarkable conclusion about Mormonism.

*Mark W. Cannon has a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University. He has lectured in 18 countries and has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Staff Director for Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution; Administrative Assistant to Chief Justice Warren Burger (13 ½ years); Director, Institute of Public Administration, New York; Chairman, BYU Political Science Department; Staff, Senator Wallace Bennett; Administrative Assistant Congressman Henry Aldous Dixon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fruits of Mormonism are Demonstrated by Dramatic Growth of LDS Church

Mark W. Cannon

A religion with high demands for members to live the teachings of Christ, has clear attractions to people who aspire to live good high-quality lives. Such people join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part because of the fruits of Mormonism that are exhibited in the lives of members. As shown by many studies throughout this website, these fruits of Mormonism include pursuit of education, planning for the future, industriousness, service and accomplishments beneficial to others, loving and productive family relations, remarkably good health and longevity, optimism, energy, happiness and the peace that comes from harmony between the divine and good ways to deal with the practical challenges of life. As Jesus taught “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20).

The continuing comparatively high growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the U.S. during the decade 2000 to 2010 was 18%, 4,224,026 to 5,208,827 (See Deseret News May 13, 2012, p. 4.) This is despite the decline of membership in many churches due to secularity driving people away from joining churches. The worldwide growth of the LDS Church, particularly in Latin America and Africa, is even higher than in the U.S.

Some people wonder how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can grow so solidly when the demands it calls on members to make appear to be so challenging. The reason is that the commitments asked of members produce the fruits of Mormonism that attract so many new members. This will be shown in the following examples:

(1.) Practicing Mormons follow the Biblical law of paying tithing to the Church and giving time and resources to charities and endeavors based on love for one’s “neighbors”. Just as one example, Mitt Romney’s tax returns for the past two years revealed that he contributed $7 million or 16% of his income to charity. Of that, $4.2 million went to the LDS Church. This practice is unlike some politicians who give away very little of their own money.

In America: The National Catholic Weekly, John J. Dilulio Jr. reports in “Mormons and Charity” (April 9, 2012) on the Pew Forum Studies: 73% of Mormons believe that “working to help the poor” is “essential to being a good Mormon.” Led by Israeli-born scholar Ram A. Cnaan, the study concludes that churchgoing Mormons “are the most pro-social members of American society.” On average, Mormons dedicate nine times as many hours per month to volunteer activities as other Americans do. In addition to tithing, on average Mormons also give about $1,200 per year “to social causes outside the church.”

Arthur Brooks, former Syracuse Economics Professor, now President of American Enterprise Institute, calculated that Utah, with its majority Mormon population, is the most charitable state; and people give twice as much as in the second highest state. (Speech on “Why Giving Matters” at BYU, February 24, 2009.)

An example of a poverty-busting Mormon program operated by voluntary contributions, beyond tithing, is the Perpetual Education Fund for developing countries. The Church started this low interest loan program in 2001 to pay tuition for job producing training programs for typically underemployed members from 18 to 30 years old, generally returned missionaries, with a slight majority female.

In one unusual case in Kenya, Tyson was an orphan who had survived polio. He learned about the Church from a member, took the missionary lessons and was baptized. He was unable to walk but with donated crutches he learned to use them to move ahead by swinging his body forward. Through the Perpetual Education Fund he was enabled to enter Augustana College to study information technology. He became the top student in his class and was so admired that he was also elected student body president.

The PEF program has already helped over 53,000 participants in 53 developing countries, plus five more approved. The average training program is about 2½ years with a reasonably high graduation rate around two thirds. Some participants leave early because they obtain decent jobs. Graduates typically gain jobs with at least twice their previous income. African countries typically have the highest loan repayment rate. Several non-Mormons have been so impressed with the program’s operational success and that every dollar contributed goes to students and none to administration or promotion that they contributed. In one case, the donation was $5 million.

In the Bible, Malachi (3:10) wrote the divine commandment: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” The Pew Forum survey of self identified Mormons found that 80% say they pay tithing. Yet, though it is counter-intuitive, you would have to search to find Mormons who tithe, but who complain about it. They are blessed as promised by the Lord, and they tithe willingly and privately since no collection plates are passed around in Church. It appears that God knew all along that giving generates more happiness, well-being and self-esteem than receiving.

(2.) LDS are committed to the Biblical law restricting sexual relations to marriage. This prevents the travesties of multitudes of children without fathers, many virtually consigned to minimal education, impoverishment, uninspiring lives, emerging children destroyed before they have a chance, and widespread illnesses some of which are incurable. Limiting sex to marriage enables many husbands and wives to trust each other when they are apart. It eliminates a major cause of family breakup and strengthens marriages and families.

Illustrative of how seriously this commitment is taken, because of a violation of the honor code requirement of chastity for unmarried students, Brigham Young University suspended for the rest of the season their third highest basketball scorer a year ago. This weakened a team that had ranked number 3 nationally just before entering the playoffs with national player of the year Jimmer Fredette. Fellow team members showed their love and encouraged the suspended player to repent and work his way back to the team this past season - which he did.

(3.) Because the Church follows the biblical practice of an unpaid clergy, all members are expected to volunteer time and effort to achieve the highly organized spiritual vitality of the Church. All worthy young men are ordained to the Priesthood at age 12 where they learn to conduct meetings, speak to adult groups, organize service projects, and do home teaching with an adult partner. They typically take four years of in-depth daily seminary classes in the scriptures in high school, often early in the morning. The young men typically go on two year missions after they turn 19 -- often to Latin America, Asia or Africa where they teach the Gospel and engage in service projects. Young women have the same type of leadership training in their organizations. There are currently over 55,000 fulltime missionaries and over 22,000 specialized fulltime service missionaries, often retirees who volunteer their talents, training and experience, for varying periods of time, without compensation to help those who are frequently in serious need.

The positions of women, including in the Mormon Relief Society (the oldest women’s organization in America), are apparently fulfilling, and the Pew Forum found that Mormon women are more satisfied with their role in their Church than are the women in any other religious group.

Three fruits of Mormonism come from functioning as a volunteer Church -- as the original Christians did.

• An objective Pew Forum factual questionnaire concluded that Mormons know the Bible and Christianity better than members of any other religious group (with white evangelicals being second.)

• Another derivative fruit of Mormonism is the conclusion from a $4 million study of American youth and religion at the University of North Carolina that “Mormon Teens Cope Best: A study finds they top peers at handling adolescence.” ( March 13, 2005) This article summarizes the conclusion that “Mormons fared best at avoiding risky behaviors, doing well in school and having a positive attitude about the future. Conservative Protestants came in second.”

“’Across almost every category we looked at, there was a clear pattern: Mormons were first,’ said Steve Vaisey, one of the researchers involved in the study and the person who interviewed most of the Mormon youths.”

Given the enormous pressures on today’s youth to succumb to drugs, alcoholism, licentiousness, cheating, deceiving, stealing and avoidance of planning, study, work and responsibility, Mormon youth demonstrate the goals and strength of character to eschew these dangerous temptations. Many parents would give a lot to raise children with these characteristics. There is a Church with programs that can help them accomplish that.

• Another fruit of Mormonism, through emphasis on self-reliance and training in leadership responsibilities, is the disproportionate share of Mormons who became upper level executives in business and other institutions.

The link between challenging missionary experience and future executive leadership was highlighted in the May 7, 2012 Christian Science Monitor article: “How Mormons Cultivate Business Savvy”, and has been featured in articles in Financial Times, Businessweek, Forbes, Business Insider, The Economist (most recently May 12, 2012) and the Christian Post. These articles have many such facts as that 2011 summer hires at Goldman Sachs included 31 from BYU, the same number as from the prestigious Wharton School. Mormons have been CEO’s at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (world’s largest personal services corporation), Dell Computer, Madison Square Garden, Boston Celtics, JetBlue Airlines, Marriott, etc. Such people are featured in Jeff Benedict’s book: The Mormon Way of Doing Business, which now has a new chapter on Mitt Romney.

Similar attainments exist in other areas such as academic management. Universities that have appointed a Mormon President include Ohio State, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Colorado, Arizona State and California; and Harvard has appointed Mormons to be Dean of the Harvard Business School and as Vice President of the University -- as well as their 300th Anniversary University Professor (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.) A Fall 2011 Pew Forum survey of self identified Mormons found that 80% of Mormon returned missionaries say their missionary experiences have been very valuable in preparing them for a career. This is a fortunate asset when so few jobs are available for youth.

To take a different type of example, in decades past some people urged top young Mormon athletes not to go on missions or they would lose skills and not be able to perform well in universities nor play professionally. Yet BYU has become a regular top 25 football team with swarms of returned missionaries. They have an ESPN contract to televize most games nationally. Sports Illustrated (June 2012) cover photo and story features Jabal Parker “the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.” Major basketballuniversities are vieing to attract him. However, his Mormon faith is more important than basketball, and he is thinking about going on a mission. In conjunction with the SI story, the Deseret News (5/16/2012) identified 65 returned Mormon missionaries who had gone on to play with professional teams.

(4.) Mormons are committed to giving children the opportunities of wholesome life, typically having larger families than average, and devoting the time and attention to overcome the obstacles to and challenges of raising them to be exemplary children of God and citizens of their country. This commitment is regardless of whether one or both parents are earning incomes.

These fruits of Mormonism, or the enriching blessings that come to those who obey Christ’s commandments as urged by the LDS Church are typically identified in objective studies by non-Mormons many of which are delineated in this website. These positive outcomes are possible because of many parents’ realization of the enormous, eternal importance to children of a strong educational base at home both in matters of the spirit such as faith, gratitude to God, and personal character and in major fields of human knowledge and endeavor.

In contrast to Mormonism’s U.S. growth of 18% in the past decade, Catholic churches reported a 5% decline of membership and mainline Christian denominations reported a 12.8% decline. Evangelical Christian churches grew by 1.7%.

Another way of looking at the growth of Mormonism is looking at the past Century. In 1900 there were 283,765 Mormons mostly in Utah and Idaho. By 1950, there were 1,111,314. By 2011, the global population was 14,441,346 most of whom live outside of Utah and Idaho.

Historic development of effective new Mormon social programs is described in my Innovative Heritage of Mormonism in this website. Long observation of such successful programs caused organization and management guru, Peter Drucker, to conclude that “The Mormons are the only Utopia that ever worked.” This is elaborated elsewhere in this website.

Nevertheless, with the powerful growth of secularism’s drive to eliminate the role of religion in our educational system, government and politics, society, and in people’s minds and behavior, all churches are challenged by the reduction of activity of some members. The LDS Church and others are looking for the best programs and techniques to minimize members becoming inactive and to increase reactivation. We are in a new era where churches are joining their efforts in matters of common concern, such as to protect religious freedom both in the United States and abroad. A major example of this is the Ethics and Public Policy Center that has created the American Religious Liberty Program that works with multiple religious groups.

While there are numerous documented remarkable fruits of Mormonism, faithful people in other churches who obey divine commandments also receive blessings. A recent book is probably the most empirical book in print about contemporary religion in America -- including extensive national survey research that was repeated to the same people five years later to detect trends and their dynamics. The book is American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us (2010) by Harvard Professor David Putnam and Notre Dame Professor David Campbell (a Mormon). Their empirical studies find religious belief and practice are beneficial to people and society. This is shown by the emphatic statement in the review by the Wall Street Journal:

Perhaps the best and most interesting chapter in this respect is "Religion and Good Neighborliness," which convincingly argues that, contrary to the stock depiction in popular culture, religious Americans make better neighbors by almost every index. They are more generous, with both their time and money; more civically active, in community organizations and political reform; more trusting; more trustworthy; and even measurably happier."

A particularly cogent study of the positive impact of religion found that Blacks who attend Church weekly live 14 years longer, on average, than Blacks who rarely attend Church. Similarly, whites who attend church weekly live longer than those who rarely attend. However, the difference is not as great.

See the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Mormons in America, January 12, 2012.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ramona Wilcox Cannon: An Abundant Fruit of Mormonism

Danielle Stockton

The third woman to earn a Master’s Degree from the University of Utah, recipient of an educational certificate as a translator from the University of Berlin, fluent and taught in 5 different languages, toured much of Europe, Egypt, and later visited Palestine, a teacher and journalist, a loving and devoted wife who raised seven children – including the family living in South America, recipient of Mother of the Year Award, published some 4,000 articles after the age of 60, and, as a great believer in lifetime education, was pursuing a PhD at University of Utah, when she was called to return to her Heavenly Father at age 91.

The run on paragraph above is meant to list simply a sampling of Ramona’s vigorous pursuit of serving others and following the Lord’s callings. Yes, she lived 91 years; but Ramona, in a sense, produced fruits of Mormonism for over a dozen lives. Even with all of these accomplishments and honors, Ramona valued her faith, her marriage to her always beloved husband, Joseph Jenne Cannon, and the rearing of her 7 children, namely stepchildren Wayne, Jane, and Grant; and those born of her union with Joseph, namely Elizabeth, Adrian, Bryant, and Mark.

Ramona Wilcox was born in 1887 to Charles Frederick and Elizabeth Stevenson Wilcox. Ramona’s life was steeped in the roots of early Mormonism. Her great grandfather was a first cousin of Brigham Young and her mother was the daughter of Elder Edward Stevenson, a member of the Presidents of the Seventy, who re-baptized Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris. Her superior intellect was apparent from an early age. Ariel Silver mentions in her work, that follows this article, entitled “Ask Mary Marker: A Guide to the Seasons of Life”, based on the life story of columnist Ramona Wilcox Cannon, that her father supported Ramona’s use of her intellect in obtaining a college degree. He said, “Life can be cruel to women, and it is my firm conviction that a woman is doing herself a favor when she prepares to be self supporting and independent of men if the need arises”. This was when only about 6% of Americans were graduating from high school. Sadly enough, while Ramona’s education became part of the essence of her persona, she did, indeed, later have that need tragically arise, living the last 33 years of her life as a widow.

Ramona’s discipline in pursuing a goal was another trait clearly visible in her youth. At the tender age of nine, she first heard of the Passion Play on Jesus’ crucifixion held every ten years in Oberammergau, Germany. Ariel Silver elaborates in “Ask Mary Marker: A Guide to the Seasons of Life” that this event piqued her interest so deeply that she immediately began saving her dimes which were matched by her father. In 1910, Ramona did indeed see the performance while visiting her brother, Fred, a missionary, in Germany. This focus and ability to stay the course served her well during her long and fruitful life. Ramona stayed for the duration of her brother’s mission at the end of which he was her escort as they traveled in Europe and even went to Egypt to visit the Sphinx and antiquities there. Upon returning to Germany, along with several friends, Ramona attended the Royal University of Berlin for a year, earning a certificate of study. She became adept in five different languages: English, German, Latin, French, and Spanish. (Her husband, Joseph, was adept in 7 languages.) Given her profound faith, these years can be viewed as the sowing of the seeds that later became Ramona’s personal, life-long fruits of Mormonism.

Following her time in Europe, Ramona returned to Utah and taught while she pursued a master’s degree in English at the University of Utah. By this time, Ramona was considered practically a spinster for the day, and as Ariel Silver recounts in page five of her manuscript entitled “Ask Mary Marker: A Guide to the Seasons of Life”, Ramona’s cousin, Stephen L. Richards, teased her by saying, “Ramona, you know MA doesn’t spell ma”. But Dr. Mark Cannon points out on page 5 of his work entitled “To the Descendants of Ramona W. and Joseph J. Cannon” that the marital stage of her life was, unbeknownst to her, extremely rapidly approaching. In particular, three months later she was married with three children and another on the way. Now, Ramona was definitely a go-getter, but this warrants both elaboration and explanation!

Some months prior, after being one of the first women to receive her master’s degree, Ramona had met Joseph Jenne Cannon, son of George Q. Cannon, counselor to four Church presidents. Sadly, shortly thereafter he lost his wife, Florence Groesbeck Cannon. He became an extremely eligible widower with three children. When asked to organize the annual 24th of July parade commemorating “the arrival of pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847”, Joseph recalled an intelligent and interesting woman, of course Ramona Wilcox, and contacted her to support his efforts. In his manuscript entitled “Joseph Jenne Cannon, 1877-1945”, Dr. Mark W. Cannon highlights a time in which Ramona and Joseph spoke to discuss preliminary ideas for the festivities. As Ramona put it, they conversed with “ideas popping like firecrackers."

This interchange became almost symbolic of their entire marriage as they openly discussed all things both intellectual and domestic, but never fought. As recorded in “Selections of Letters from Ramona W. and Joseph J. Cannon”, at a quiet spot, after a brief courtship, Joseph proposed. When Ramona, who loved him, had not yet acquiesced, he said “Our thoughts, our hearts, our bodies are parts of the same whole, each crying in the wilderness to be completed. We have known each other and have longed for each other.” Ramona felt the same, and they were united for eternity in 1914.

Their love and marriage was in and of itself one of the inspirational fruits of Mormonism. For both of them, their faith was paramount and brought them great peace through both good and challenging times. They were also evenly matched in their sense of integrity and humility, which was a backdrop for their lives. In addition, both placed a high value on understanding other cultures whether from reading, lectures, recitals, or observation of customs.

Time and distance did not fray these precious ties as they were so deeply faith based. In fact, Dr. Mark W. Cannon elaborates upon such events in “Joseph Jenne Cannon, 1877-1945”. For instance, shortly after their marriage, Joseph needed to go to Columbia in South America as he was appointed Vice President and General Manager for the American Columbian Corporation, financed by Jesse Knight, a prominent and successful mining entrepreneur. Joseph went to Columbia intermittently, normally for long periods.

During the three years Ramona and Joseph generally lived in different continents, their relationship was conducted predominately through letters…letters that took weeks or longer to arrive and often crossed each other. Oh, but what wonderful letters! Yes, they carried the daily happenings, but they also contained such a sweetness and passion. They often open with such phrases as lover, Eternal love, and Dear Heart. Certain letters included in “Selections of Letters from Ramona W. and Joseph J. Cannon” are especially remarkable. One from Ramona addresses Joseph as the “Beloved King of all that I have and am”, and one of Joseph’s closes with “Kisses and hugs to the Mother Dove and Kisses and hugs to the 5 little pigeons”. These epistles of faith and love carried them through, not only these extended absences from one another but also through Joseph’s bout with malaria and Ramona’s with diphtheria!

After several years, they decided that the family should all live in Columbia despite the health risks. Ramona, with five children, ranging from Wayne at 17 years to Adrian at 18 months, lived in Columbia from January 1919 for almost two years. They settled in the historic ocean town of Mompos, from which the Spaniards once governed the region. Ramona made the most of their lives there savoring the different culture and seeing that the five children did also. They thrived on the friendly, open indigenous people. An earthquake was survived; and Christmas and schooling were improvised, as were pets, which included two beloved monkeys from whom the children could not bear to be separated! So,. they were brought to Utah to be household pets.

Rosita and Flor de Te pulled off daily pranks to make sure they were never ignored. However, one day when the family was away, they managed to enter the basement where all of Ramona’s bottled fruit from her summer labors was stored. They loved the breaking sound as they threw the bottles to the cement floor. This resulted in their banishment to a zoo in Liberty Park where the children continued to visit them and call their names which brought the monkeys running. Sometime after returning to Utah from Columbia, Ramona was asked to write a series of articles, published in 1926 and 1927, about the family’s life there for The Children’s Friend. One of the most moving was the baptism of their son Grant. Ramona captures this sentiment in her work entitled “To My Dear Children and Grandchildren” when she felt the Spirit with the thought that this was probably “the first baptism into the Church of Christ that has happened on the South American Continent within probably fifteen hundred years”.

Political factors surrounding World War I caused the family to return to Utah. Economic times were hard. However, Ramona, while maintaining a household and rearing the seven children, performed substitute teaching in English literature or one of the other languages she knew. While serving as the editor of the Deseret News for three and one half years since 1931 where he wrote all the editorials and managed the newspaper, Joseph was called to a mission in Great Britain. Ramona was elated for Joseph to be called to do God’s work but did not look forward to another long separation and had no idea how the family would manage without his income during the Great Depression when jobs were virtually nonexistent. As Ariel Silver illustrates in “Ask Mary Marker: A Guide to the Seasons of Life”, Ramona’s faith once again carried her. She remembered that the New Testament referred to Peter’s mother-in-law. So, Peter had a wife, who with the help of the Lord presumably survived while he was away as an Apostle/missionary. So, Ramona laid this burden down praying one morning, “Well, dear Lord, I’ll leave it up to you. Whatever it is to be, I’ll do the best I can.” The call to Joseph from Church President Heber J. Grant had been interrupted by an emergency. So that very next day Joseph came home with the happy news that he was to be British Mission President and there was a modest living stipend so the family was to go with him.

Thus, Ramona was off to another adventure, namely being the wife of a mission president and caring for their three youngest children as well. She and Joseph worked closely with the missionaries under their care. At that time, the church had not developed the infrastructure and training our missionaries benefit from today. Those serving with the Cannons benefitted from the grooming, motivation and organization they, as a couple, provided. In the 1997 Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pages 280-288, when he was Secretary of the European Mission, he observed that the mission in Great Britain under the Cannons’ tenure was an astonishingly marvelous accomplishment with the young missionaries. Many of them went on to successful and service filled careers. One interesting episode was that her son, Adrian, and Jack Bowd started preaching in Hyde Park despite hecklers and threats of being thrown into the Serpentine. Also, Mark wanted to be the first person baptized in the gorgeous, historic new chapel at Ravenslea. With his parents approval, he waited for months for completion of the conversion of the mansion into a chapel. Naturally, his father performed this especially poignant baptism. Apostle Richard R. Lyman confirmed Mark with what Ramona wrote was a remarkably positive prophetic blessing for Mark’s health and future. She observed that afterward President Lyman said “he had never had the spirit of anything of that kind to a greater degree.” During these years in Great Britain, Ramona wrote for The Millennial Star, using her talents to uplift and inspire British LDS women.

Another chapter of Ramona’s life began in 1945 with the death of her beloved Joseph. Her faith upheld her, and she gracefully carried on her life. In fact, she later urged, in her writings, that all widows must move on and continue to serve. Dr. Mark W. Cannon highlights in “To the Descendants of Ramona W. and Joseph J. Cannon” how Ramona’s path now turned even more toward her writings, which provided income but also influenced many people for the good. In particular, for 28 years she wrote the “Women’s Sphere” column for the Relief Society Magazine, providing a worldwide viewpoint for LDS women while continuing her education and even teaching at the University of Utah. Then, at the age of 60, Ramona was approached by Wendell Ashton, the then Editor-in-Chief of the Deseret News, to begin an advice column. Ramona took this challenge and anonymously, as Mary Marker, wrote the “Confidentially Yours” column. Realizing that performing this function entailed a great responsibility on her part, Ramona humbly prayed constantly for discernment. Moreover, in “To the Descendants of Ramona W. and Joseph J. Cannon”, Dr. Mark W. Cannon also states that Ramona also continuously took classes at the University of Utah to obtain the best research and analysis on solutions to various human problems. For example, she took a courtship and marriage course and chuckled from time to time wondering if other students wondered why a woman of her age was taking this class! As a result, Ramona’s Mary Marker role positively affected countless women and men for over 25 years.

Also during these years, Ramona received numerous awards among which was the Utah’s Press Woman of Achievement Award. She was also part of the delegation sent to the 1975 Woman Writers of the World Conference in Palestine. However, Ramona said that the greatest acknowledgement she ever received was the Honor Mother of the Year in 1978. Ariel Silver in her work “Ramona Wilcox Cannon as Woman and Writer” emphasizes the importance this type of recognition was to Ramona. Ramona, for all her other talents, believed that the love and care of her children was her greatest accomplishment and felt that “her greatest and most rewarding intellectual challenge was raising seven children”. Ramona was one of those rare people whom virtually everyone who knew her liked her.

Ramona Wilcox Cannon would likely have described the fruits of Mormonism as a deep and personal relationship with our savior Jesus Christ and bringing of this blessing into every part of her life. This Ramona did through her marriage to her soul mate Joseph Jenne Cannon, the joyful devotion to her step-children and the children of her union with the beloved Joseph, even though they were “as active as mice in a basket”; through her educational pursuits, her writing, and in fact virtually everyone she came into contact with during her long and eventful life. As Ariel Silver saliently points out in “Ask Mary Marker: A Guide to the Seasons of Life”, Ramona’s 91 years of life spanned enormous growth in the LDS church as well as a myriad of events and trends worldwide. Ramona’s unshakeable faith and superior intellect paved her way to consistently surmount obstacles, savor widening horizons and serve others. Her life remarkably still reflects the opportunities and challenges LDS women encounter today. Ultimately, Ramona’s example still holds pertinence and inspiration today, which may be the greatest of her fruits of Mormonism.

This article is designed to introduce you not only to Ramona Cannon, but also to Ariel Clark Silver, whose rich life combining family and intellectual achievement is itself an example of the Fruits of Mormonism. Her booklet “Ask Mary Marker: A Guide to the Seasons of Life” is presented below.

What readers have said about ASK MARY MARKER: A Guide to the Seasons of Life

(Backgrounds of commentators include past and/or current positions.)

“What an exceedingly interesting woman she was (and no doubt still is.) We truly admire the fact that she had extensive dreams and found astonishing ways to pursue and achieve those aspirations. What fun it would have been to be her friend. She created interest and enthusiasm for all around her."
Elaine and Senator Orrin G. Hatch. Was Chairman of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, slated to be ranking Republican on Senate Finance Committee. Sponsors of annual Utah conference on Women, parents of six.

“In name only was “Mary Marker” fictitious - her life was full of spirit, study, adventure, lifelong romance, travel, hardships, triumphs, teaching, and devoted motherhood. Ancause Ramona Wilcox Cannon put in writing the wisdom gleaned from her expansive life, it now contributes significantly to Mormon and women’s literature and is applicable today.”
Barbara B. Smith, former General President of Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, former National President of American Mothers, Inc.

“What a wonderful story - and what a wonderful life.... Those quotes from her writings are vivid markers of her intelligence and personality. She is a vibrant and inspiring subject.”
Jerilyn S. McIntyre, former Vice President for Academic Affairs and Acting President, University of Utah.

“In the summer of 1947, a hobo arrived on Ramona’s doorstep. He was me. After dropping out of Deep Springs College where Mark had been my roommate, I had been seeing America from freight trains. Although Ramona’s house was already filled with three sons and money was scarce, she took me into her family and nurtured me. As I watched Ramona overcome her writer’s fears to begin the Mary Marker column, I was inspired to overcome mine. You will love the woman you meet in this book. I am eternally grateful for her motherly mentoring and in constant awe of her angelic soul. The world needs a movie about her life.”
Bruce Shelly, head writer of five network TV series including “Eight is Enough”. Wrote hundreds of scripts for “The Waltons”, “Matlock”, “Happy Days”, “Here’s Lucy”, “Love Boat”, “Hotel”, “M*A*S*H”, “Dallas”. Created five children’s series and wrote three movies.

"This is a page turner. I did not realize that Ramona wrote so much about her life. She is a gifted writer. I am deeply into the compelling life of this unique woman. Each anecdote tells something about her, her life and her society.”
Carol Cornwall Madsen, Professor of History and Research Professor, Smith Institute of LDS History at Brigham Young University

“A testament that truth, intellect and courage are timeless. When I put down this book, I wanted more.”
Richard G. Wilkins, Managing Director, Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development, Qatar Foundation; Managing Director, The World Family Policy Center and Professor, J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. Was Assistant U.S. Solicitor General.

“And to think those of us who grew up with Mary Marker never knew “the rest of the story”. Ariel Silver’s book vibrantly presents the life of Ramona Cannon, its peaks and valleys, its foreign adventures and domestic challenges. Her commitment to faith, family and education (which saved her more than once!) present a timeless role model to women of every generation.”
Paula Hawkins, former U.S. Senator from Florida – first woman ever elected to U.S. Senate who was neither the wife nor the daughter of a politician.

“I have fallen in love with Ramona. Her spectacular lifelong search for answers to the great questions of life’s purposes and how to be ‘good’ was itself the answer.”
Geraldine Edwards, mother of 12 and author of 10 books.

“Ramona deserved to have been featured in the Readers Digest “My Most Unforgettable Character” series."
Dale Van Atta, Contributing Editor, Readers Digest

“Ramona was a remarkable woman. Her myriad accomplishments as wife, mother, teacher and writer are truly inspirational. This uplifting account of the seasons of her life has something to teach all women.”
Shelly Kaufhold, 1999 recipient of the Ramona W. Cannon Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities, University of Utah.

"In this captivating book, Ramona Cannon reports the discovery that 'deep inside me was something precious, something beyond the prosaic and pragmatic, something of the inner self that said one can trust one's dreams.' As we read of her life, Ramona's discovery becomes our own. To read of Ramona's life is to enter it and to be improved by it."
Duane Boyce, Managing Director, The Arbinger Institute

“A fascinating and thoroughly engaging “read” and well worth the attention.”
Lynn D. Wardle, President, International Society of Family Law

“This is a powerful story of a woman who lived life on her own terms. Holding fast to the iron rod, Ramona emerged from dark shadows of the Victorian Age with the light of a modern woman and the strength of a pioneer. Any woman who wonders how to “have it all” should read this book and learn from the lessons of Mary Marker.”
Jane Wilson, author of Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History and Genealogy, companion to PBS TV series Ancestors, with record-breaking station carriage. Wrote Dead Sea Scrolls: Voices in the Desert for Discovery Channel.

“We can’t do everything all at once, but Ramona Cannon shows us that given a “seasons of life” perspective it is possible to do an incredible number of things over the course of a lifetime. This engaging book will make you smile, cry, laugh, and think, but will never make you sleep. I heartily recommend it to anyone who thinks that life is just too short to do all they want.”
E. Jeffrey Hill, Associate Professor, Marriage, Family and Human Development, BYU

“Engaging and unique blending of the first and third persons. A memoir woven of generous portions of the subject’s delightful musings, stitched together beautifully by the author.”
Lee and Yvonne Maddox Roderick. Lee was President of the National Press Club, news director for KSL Television and became Assistant to the President of Utah State University. Yvonne was a Hollywood casting director and White House appointee, now a full-time mother of six.

“Every mother should give this book to her daughter to help her understand how family, career, and adventure can be combined – like Ramona did – for a wonderful glorious life.”
Betty Southard Murphy, only woman to serve as Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, and now partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP.

“In this distillation, the words of Mary Marker, which filled the minds and warmed the hearts of prior generations of Wasatch front readers, are destined to inspire efforts and buoy spirits afresh.”
Thomas W. Draper, Professor of Marriage, Family and Human Development, Brigham Young University

“It becomes exciting and gripping. Ramona is a fascinating lady who is quite remarkable for anyone's time, but is especially remarkable for her day."
Kay Atkinson King, Ph.D. in Linguistics UCLA. On research staff at MIT and Harvard. After children substantially grown, became Chief of Staff to Congressman Richard Swett (D-NH), then Senior Policy Advisor to the Democratic Staff of House International Relations Committee. Gospel Doctrine teacher.

“Every daughter should give this book to her Mother so she can see how dreams can be realized regardless of age. Frankly, every sister should also give this book to her brother.”
Ann Southard Murphy, former staff lawyer, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, daughter of Betty Southard Murphy.

“In any age, Ramona Wilcox Cannon’s life would be considered remarkable, but this woman managed to ‘have it all’ during a time when women general didn’t – and when most of society thought they shouldn’t. She serves as a role model for women and men alike.”
James P. Bell, author In the Strength of the Lord; The Life and Teachings of James E. Faust.

“Ramona’s vision of personal destiny allowed her to transform the silent movie set of her day into a brilliant and classic Technicolor adventure, featuring a heroine who trades her tears for toil in the face of relentless obstacles.”
Margie Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Mothers at Home.

“I knew she was a remarkable lady. I just did not realize how remarkable she was. What an amazing life! Having read several hundred personal histories over the years, this is one of the most captivating stories that I have read.”
Mary B. Pearson, Cannon Family Genealogist for 30 years.

“Reading the life of Ramon Wilcox Cannon is a stimulating experience for one who knew her three younger children well enough to be dazzled by their unique talents and personalities. I’m in awe of Ramona’s resilience in the face of overwhelming difficulty, and grateful for her advice, “Nothing learned in life’s battle is lost. All is preparation.”
Nonie N. Sorensen, Writer/composer/producer of Nauvoo Adventure and other historical musicals.

“Within a few short pages, I felt hooked. I related to ‘the character’ almost immediately - a kind of tugging at the heart occurred - and I heard within myself a quiet yet strong rooting begin (Go Ramona!) as if for myself!”
Erin Hoelscher, lay minister in a nondenominational Church, former math teacher, Illinois.

"Ramona Wilcox Cannon's extraordinary life demonstrates it is possible for a woman to "have it all," but in different seasons of her life. She achieved greatness as a wife, mother, scholar and journalist through spiritual strength, intelligence, compassion and perseverance. Her inspirational footsteps will guide the way for any woman seeking to balance personal, professional and eternal goals."
Melinda Barth, broadcast journalist who learned about the LDS Church while a student at Wellesley College and subsequently was baptized while in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Ramona Cannon’s blend of an active life of the mind with devotion to her family has universal appeal and will inspire millions of women around the world.”
Jenny Zhan, Manager, PricewaterhouseCoopers; M.B.A. Carnegie Mellon; B.S. University of International Business and Economics, Beijing.

“With rare wit, high adventure, and hard-won wisdom Ramona Cannon, heroine to the last century, ably provides women of the 21st Century a timeless exemplar of how to succeed as they personify lives of keen intellect, dauntless faith and impressive vision.”
Blythe Darlyn Thatcher, Ed.S., editor/author of Heroines of the Restoration, A Singular Life, Mother Love.

“It is endearing and it gripped me. It describes Ramona's life and mind as a child and helps me understand my five children better. Knowing how much she did in her latter years gives me hope for what I can do after my children have grown up."
Lynne Ensign Johnston, Former White House staff member. Full time mother of 5.

“Very poetic, very romantic. It touches me.”
Julia Leigh, Medical graduate of Seoul National University, Korea.

“I loved reading it, especially since it was largely in Ramona Cannon's words. She describes things so beautifully, you feel that you can see them. Some themes are dramatic and could be in a movie. Emma Thompson, who acted in Sense and Sensibility could play Ramona. This is timely. We have had the women's movement, but there are real problems of a tricky balance. Many women are looking for role models. She is a great role model applicable to the new millennium.”
Susan Antolin, graduate of University of California at Santa Barbara in English Literature and in Law from University of San Francisco. Methodist.

Foreward to ASK MARY MARKER: A Guide to the Seasons of Life by Ariel C. Silver

Foreward written by Richard and Linda Eyre

This manuscript arrived amidst a major household remodeling project. Our lives were filled with paint and tile, doorknobs and hinges and wondering how we were going to survive another day without the conveniences we had learned to take for granted. Picking up this book was like a delightfully jarring journey from the harried world of thinking about "things" to the stimulating and exciting world of an inspiring life and exhilarating ideas. We were transposed from the domain of people who couldn't seem to get anything done to the realm of a remarkable woman who couldn’t see why anything couldn't be done.

Ramona Wilcox Cannon was truly a woman for all seasons. Over a seven year period, Ariel C. Silver, has combed through 100,000 pages of Ramona's writing and has cleverly woven Ramona's exact words with her own findings to make a beautiful tapestry portraying the spring, summer, autumn and winter of this remarkable woman's life. The result is a beautiful and fascinating picture.

In her youth Ramona discovered that she could be both good and interesting. In an era when only six to seven percent of Americans graduated from high school, she not only graduated with honors but also decided against the advice of the neighborhood girls who warned her that she would never get married if she went to college. In the end she was the third woman to receive a Master's Degree from the University of Utah and also taught there and in secondary schools in five languages.

Her most important career ... that of raising her seven children was enhanced and enlightened rather than weighed down or encumbered by the richness of her ever-hungry intellect. Her intellectually and emotionally intelligent mind helped her to see the joy in life that comes with the struggle of raising children and training their minds. She was superb at teaching her children responsibility and the value of a life filled with integrity and a devoted love of God. As we can now chart the lives of her children and grandchildren we see the remarkable imprint of a refined, well-educated and faithful mother on the generations that follow.

In our work with families over the past twenty five years, we have often said to young mothers, "You can have it all, but you can't have it all at once!" For years we have pleaded with mothers in the thick of raising children to make those children their first priority. We have promised that life is long and has its seasons. Ramona Wilcox• Cannon is a perfect example of this principle. After her children were raised and "on their way", she gave advice and help to literally thousands of people who read her daily column in The Deseret News. With wit and wisdom, she published some 4,000 articles after she was sixty years old.

At age 88, after recording some of her memories, her son Bryant asked what she would still like to accomplish. Without hesitation, she began, "Well, I’d like to finish a biography of my family. I'd like to finish a novel that Dad and I started some years ago. I'd like to finish writing a television script on the life of Socrates that I’m rather in love with. I’d like to finish the South American novel that I’ve got about half written." And on and on about the things that she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Her son Mark wrote that she accomplished what she did "largely by emphasizing different roles during different periods of her life."

Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, you will love the time you spend reading this engaging story of a woman whose life is likely to captivate you, whose intellect is sure to stimulate you and whose faith in God is guaranteed to inspire you.

Richard and Linda Eyre

ASK MARY MARKER: A Guide to the Seasons of Life, by Ariel C. Silver

A superb example of the fruits of Mormonism, the entire text of Ariel C. Silver's wonderful story of Ramona Wilcox Cannon can be found at the link below:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gladys Knight: Singing Her Praise to the Lord

By Danielle Stockton

Being a talented and widely appreciated singer, Gladys Knight could have easily remained in the mainstream music market. Instead, after her 1997 conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Knight chose to largely dedicate her incredible singing gifts to spreading the Gospel. One might wonder how and why the R&B icon decided to focus mostly upon Gospel music. The answer is both as simple as God and as complicated as the remarkable religious journey Knight underwent to find God’s true church.

Knight’s conversion story is both tender and fascinating as it in many ways began at the tender age of four. In fact, Knight’s religious conversion is so unique that Ana Gabriel of Church News decided to pay a fitting tribute to it by describing it in great detail in her October 31, 1998 article entitled “Gladys Knight sings new song since her conversion a year ago.” Apparently, in Knight’s early childhood in Georgia, Knight and her mother belonged to a branch of the Protestant faith. In retrospect with her conversion in mind, it seems appropriate to me that Knight began her music career by becoming a soloist in her local church choir in Georgia when she was four years old. However, as Gabriel sagely states, “Despite her stellar career, Sister Knight found herself seeking a different kind of fulfillment. She investigated one church after another for some 20 years in attempts to find ‘the one true church’” ( A crucial catalyst for Knight’s conversion was when her daughter, Kendra, and her son, Jimmy, became members of the LDS faith. As Gabriel points out, although Knight did not convert until eight years later, the LDS religion was no longer foreign to her. Consequently when Kendra suggested that Knight meet some missionaries eight years later when Knight was feeling discouraged in her religious search, Knight was receptive. With the missionaries’ guidance and her personal revelation, Knight was baptized on August 11, 1997, and on August 11, 1998, she “commemorated her baptismal anniversary by receiving her endowments in the Las Vegas Nevada Temple” (

Moreover, Knight’s religious journey does not culminate with her unique conversion. Rather, Knight has integrated her musical profession with her religious passion and truly given the world fruits of Mormonism. Cheryl Stewart Osborn’s article “Gladys Knight: Sharing the Gospel through Music” portrays the intricate relationship between Knight’s religion and her music. Knight’s new direction of her music career began “in 2002, when her stake asked her to present a gospel-sharing fireside for the Las Vegas community” ( What started out as a large group of singers from Knight’s stake, evolved into the singing sensation known as Saints Unified Voices, the name reflecting the concept of LDS members singing together. As Osborn points out, the rise of Saints Unified Voices occurred with not only Knight’s leadership but also the help professional musicians who were actually non-members, but nonetheless supported Knight’s praise of the Lord in music. Knight’s genius comes through in the unorthodox way she instructs Saints Unified Voices. In her article, Osborn quotes Knight stating, “‘All they get is lyrics because I don’t want anybody reading notes on paper. They have to feel this music’” ( Knight’s efforts to spread the Gospel have yielded fruits of Mormonism in the way that Saints Unified Voices have received widespread acclaim. In particular, an LDS music site proclaims, “One Voice, the debut album from Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices, won the Grammy for Best Gospel Choir Album at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards” (

Although Knight has certainly galvanized many to the LDS faith through her music, perhaps how Knight has benefited from serving the Lord through her music is just as notable. A website dedicated to Black LDS members shares a part of Knight’s testimony with her quote: “Since I joined the Church, I desire to be more and more obedient to God. As I do so, many people say to me, ‘I see a light in you more than ever before. What is it?’” ( Knight is both representative of and contributor to the rapid growth of Black members of the Church since the 1978 revelation giving the Priesthood to all men. Of far greater import, however, Knight has enhanced both her own spiritual life and those of others through her inspiring religious music.