Friday, September 21, 2012

Our great day in Mongolia and other observations.

Feed My Sheep
David Andre Koch - 1963

I illustrated this blog with photographs of art work displayed at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

During the mission conference, Stake President Odgerel gave a presentation on the impact of a carpenter coming to the shores of Galilea and and telling the professional fisherman how to cast their nets. They reacted with faith and humility instead of scoffing - and the results convinced them this was no ordinary man.   

Also during the mission conference, Elder Wilson asked how many missionaries from Mongolia were raised in the church. 3 hands went up out of the 50 or so Mongolian missionaries currently serving in this mission. I was surprised because I didn't expect to see any hands. 3 is only the beginning. Within another 12 years, there will be a new set of second generation LDS missionaries coming from all the young families in the church here.

Flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon
Yu Wen Chich -1976

The work has slowed down some because of the reduced numbers of missionaries. There are only 13 young (foreign) missionaries serving here when there used to be 150 -200. There are only so many young Mongolian youth in the pipeline so something has to change politically. Soon we will have 10 Senior couples in the country. They do great things here but can't proselyte. We hope we will have a break though in the next 6 months with the new democratic government in place.

Parable of the ten virgins
Paul Stephen Glass - 1978

Our meeting this week with the director of the National Archives was significant. Also there was a Committee on Religious Freedom that met this week with government officials at the very same time we met with the director of the National Archives.
Results of meeting with Ulziibaatar, Director of the National Archives. We had a successful meeting with D. Ulziibaatar, Director of the National Archives Sept. 19. We learned that the National Archives have had to compete with other budget priorities in the 5 years – with most of the money going into facilities and equipment.

In the past two years there has been an upsurge in interest by Mongolian people in tracing their family genealogies. They realized they needed to upgrade their services. They can finally devote their attention to the need to make records more accessible to the public.
He had plans to meet with another genealogical society in October to help them upgrade their services and record preservation. Once he has that meeting he will invite us to a joint planning meeting. It appears that our meeting with him was quite timely as he welcomed us to the table and no commitments had been made to the other party. He also understands that FamilySearch is a major player in archive work and liked having us involved.

He notices the sparrow
Marta Ines Johnson - 1945

The miracle of forgiveness
Al Young -1953
He discussed at length problems with Mongolian records and family genealogy. Before the Russian  intervention, Mongolians could trace their histories through nine generations. Now they can barely trace three generations. The Russians took away their patronymic and tribal names and this has reeked havoc on family history work.
He spontaneously and reverentially took down a large book, The White Book, containing 21,000 names who were victims of persecution and death at the hands of the communist leaders in 1937. He explained that the communists obtained the family records of the Chinggis Khan family – the only Mongolian family line to survive the many years of Chinese suppression.

Chinggis Kahn’s living descendants were singled out for murder by the communists to prevent any challenge to their authority in Mongolia. The descendants of Chinggis Khan are understandably reluctant to have their family records become public because of how the communists used them.

I will bring you up again out of the depths
Jonathan Arthur Clark - 1981
He asked if we were volunteers and was pleased we were. He developed a rapport with Darlene because of their ability to converse directly in Russian. Once the meeting was over, they began chattering in Russian like Magpies. He was gracious, hospitable and took careful notes during our visit. He understood English but chose to listen to both the English and our translator October’s Mongolian translation of what we were saying. He asked for the English copy of our letter to keep along with the Mongolian language translation.

 Charity Never Faileth
Julie Rogers - 1953

We couldn’t feel any better about the meeting and the prospects for moving forward. Elder Wilson will take this message to Salt Lake when he returns for General Conference to make sure there is a budget line for an Acquisition project in Mongolia if our negotiations are successful. What a divine confluence of events that brought all this together at this time.
Having this breakthrough meeting with the National Archives Director could be the beginning of having online records eventually for Church members. We need to be concerned now because when the members and stakes in Mongolia are ready, family name submission to the temple also needs to be ready.

The Salt Lake temple
Mark Evans - 1954

Afterward we celebrated our meeting by taking October to Millie’s, the most American hangout in Ulaanbaatar where they serve, hamburgers, milk shakes, pizzas, French fries and all things American.
October with Phillie Cheesesteak Sandwiches and Fries at Millies

Later that afternoon we reported our meeting in a staff meeting with other Senior couples, the Mission Presidency and Service Center leaders. We heard a positive report from Soyolmaa, the head of the Service Center on her meeting on religious freedom. Her meeting wasn’t as definitive as ours but it was also a positive step in the right direction.  

Mongolian personalities. I had an interesting conversation with a church member about Mongolian personalities and how they are different from other Asians - more outgoing, more assertive, more outward humor, more equality between men and women, and more educated and versatile in their life skills. Mongolian missionaries in foreign countries deal with the stereotype of Mongolia being a country of illiterate nomads. The people they meet are amazed about their literacy and street smarts. There is nothing dumb or shy about these people.

As I sat pondering
Vicki Lynn Walker - 1965

Some of it has to do with their rural nomadic lifestyle (kind of like farm children who learn a lot of practical knowledge along with their book smarts) (cowboy independence and self sufficiency) and some has to do with the influence of Russia for 70 years. Not that Russia was the vanguard of western culture and ideas but enough of the Russian educational system and outspokenness shaped Mongolians to be different than the Koreans, Japanese and Chinese.

They seem to have some innate spirituality and humility that wasn't drummed out of them by communism or ritualistic Buddhism or Shamanism. Atheism or Buddhism were fairly weak traditions despite or because of Russian influence. If anything, Mongolia seems like a secular culture embracing capitalism - devoid of a lot of religious traditions but having rich family and cultural traditions that give them a strong national identity.  Despite their few numbers, they are a unique people – unique even among Asians.

The preservation of Mongolia as a country seems miraculous in a way because of it being situated between Russia and China. Either one of them would have taken over Mongolia if it weren't for the other country counterbalancing their power. The uniting of the Mongolian tribes with one common language (hard to learn) under Chinggis Khan perserved Mongolian culture despite its weak position politically and militarily. It's remoteness, vastness, cold climate and lack of resources (until recently) made it an uninviting target for conquest.   

Another discussion point that came up was that Mongolian men were lost and adrift when capitalism came into Mongolia in 1992. Women quickly adapted (for survival of their families and became the leaders in society and in the family while suddenly displaced men found solace in alcohol rather than compete in a capitalist society). Men are just now - 20 years later becoming equal with women and taking back their leadership roles in the family and society.

Through the window
Curtis Edward Bay - 1968
We see too many drunk Mongolian men drunk in broad daylight but it is a small minority compared to everyone else who seems to be going on about their business. There are a lot worse things happening in western societies but it is still sad to see the obvious destructive influence of alcohol being so public.

Some of the best conversion stories are about men who were in the throes of addiction becoming the outstanding church leaders and family men. What a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church addiction recovery programs here are a wonderful tool in helping members or part member families get healing and sobriety.

Other assignments. Darlene and I enjoy our teaching English classes. She is a dedicated teacher and this consumes a lot of her thought and energy. I am glad she is my partner when it comes to English teaching. Our night class at the church on Wednesdays is full of bright-eyed, eager students who can’t get enough English. There were 36 in the Bro. and Sis. Woods’ 6:00 pm class and 27 stayed on for our class at 7:00 pm.
This Sunday we both speak in the Chingeltei and Sukhbaatar Branches on Family History. On the 29 and 30th we will be going to Darkhan to do training and to speak in both Branches there.

The apostle John

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