I’m currently reading “The Book of Joy“, which details a week’s worth of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Christian Archbishop, Desmond Tutu. It’s not a religious book, just the coming together of ideas by two of the world’s great spiritual leaders. In it, they discuss universal concepts that are vital for a happy life, like loving and forgiving others and ourselves, and not reacting in anger when we are frustrated. As I’ve spent time reading their words, I’ve been moved by both men’s love for humanity, even those who seek to harm them, and how much they’ve done, individually and together, to make the world a better place.
Desmond Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. He has also received an award by Action Against Hunger, is an Honorary Chair for the Amandla AIDS Fund, and a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders working together for peace and human rights. He was instrumental in ending Apartheid in South Africa, and is on the Board of Advisors for the Batonga Foundation, which supports education for girls in South Africa. He has devoted his life to peace and making the world a better place, and there’s no dogma or intolerance of those different from him in his teachings — only love.
The Dalai Lama was also awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, thanks to his nonviolent efforts for the liberation of Tibet. He has also received the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest civilian award in the United States. He has been recognized by hundreds of institutions for his efforts toward world peace, and has met with numerous world and religious leaders throughout his life — including Mormonism’s own Gordon B. Hinckley. He has also met with many of the world’s best scientists, and doesn’t shy away from scientific knowledge like many other religious leaders.
Thomas S. Monson remains mostly unknown throughout the world. Though Mormons worship him (cool it with the happy birthday wishes, guys), his name is likely to elicit a “Who?” from most non-Mormon people who didn’t grow up in a Mormon area. The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu are known by a large number of the world’s 8 billion people, thanks to their enormous contributions to humanity, while Thomas S. Monson’s little stories about charity don’t seem to have earned him much recognition outside of Mormonism’s paltry “15-million” members. (Perhaps because they are nothing groundbreaking. Sorry, Tom.)
Though the LDS Church is heavily involved in Utah politics, it stays totally out of them in the rest of the world, unless gay marriage is about to be legalized in Mexico or something. It has shown itself to be far more concerned with ensuring medical marijuana doesn’t become legal in Utah than stopping human rights violations around the world, and most of its political involvement has, in my opinion, been centered around infringing on people’s human rights. Those not of the Mormon faith do not turn to LDS leaders or literature to help with life’s problems (as many do with the Dalai Lama’s writings), because they’d find very few useful teachings that aren’t laden with dogma. (I did see a rapper with a Dieter F. Uchtdorf quote tattoo once, though. That was pretty neat.)
Though the world is getting better (contrary to LDS teachings), there’s no denying that it’s in turmoil right now. We’re struggling globally with the ever-worsening consequences of climate change, the United States has lost respect in the eyes of many important progressive world leaders, the very fabric of western democracy is being threatened by our enemies, the nuclear weapons race becomes more dire all the time, and famine, diseases, natural disasters, and poverty continue to plague a huge chunk of the Earth’s population. People are depressed, anxious, and struggling to find peace — and they’re certainly not turning to “God’s mouthpiece on the Earth today” to try and find it — because to be honest, he’s not offering them much.
Mormon prophets have been on the wrong side of history since the Church was founded. They opposed both the Civil Rights Movement and the Equal Rights Amendment, taught that black people were inferior for over a century, told young girls it was their duty to marry God’s prophets, and worked hard to try and prevent gay marriage from becoming legal in the United States, as well as Mexico and presumably other countries, too. They’ve fought against medical marijuana, feminism, intellectualism, and more — all while claiming that they hold more power to make the world better than any organization on Earth.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When it comes to Thomas S. Monson, or any past president of the LDS Church, being the most important and helpful man on Earth, I don’t see it. Time to step up and do something more than dream of your mansion above, Mormon leaders.