Military relations accelerating efforts due to recent crisis
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With many members of the Church being deployed to the Persian Gulf, the responsibilities of LDS Military Relations have accelerated.
Ronald Jones, manager of LDS Military Relations, said the department monitors the spiritual and temporal needs of LDS men and women in the U.S. armed forces and their families.The duties of the department remain the same, but the work load has increased, he said. "Our phones have just rung off the hook for the last three or four weeks."
Past experience would suggest that out of the more than 100,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf, 1.5 to 2 percent are members of the Church, he noted.
LDS Military Relations represents "the Church to the armed services of our country and, to the extent possible, to other countries," Jones explained. "We try to make sure that our chaplains who serve in the military services are well selected, trained and represent the Church well. We want the members of the Church serving in the armed forces to be properly cared for in terms of places to meet, to see that they are represented at Church headquarters and to ensure that they enjoy the full programs of the Church wherever they are."
Jones said the department is responsible for:
- Recruiting and training LDS chaplains serving in the armed forces.
"Our chaplains, although they are endorsed by the LDS Church, serve under the management heading of the Protestant chaplains. They serve our own people and reach out to all others," Jones noted. "They hold Protestant services and do counseling for members of all faiths."
LDS Military Relations endorses an LDS applicant to a chaplaincy in the military when he fulfills the educational and religious requirements of the Armed Forces Chaplain's Board of the Department of Defense and LDS Military Relations, Jones said.
An applicant's educational background includes courses in guidance and counseling and marriage and family relations. He is also required to have served a mission, to hold a current temple recommend and to have been married in the temple.
LDS chaplains currently serving include 56 in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, Jones said. He added that the U.S. Marines acquire their chaplains through the Navy.
"We have four chaplains [in the Persian Gulf] now," Jones noted. "There are two on board ship in the Gulf and two with the ground forces in Saudi Arabia."
Jones said other chaplains in the services include 64 in the National Guard and Reserves, 37 in the Civil Air Patrol, and one in the Veterans Administration.
- Monitoring the servicemen's stakes and groups organized throughout the world. He said the department stays in close touch with these organizations and represents them to Church headquarters.
Jones explained that four servicemen's stakes are located in Germany, one in Korea and one in Okinawa. Servicemen's groups are "small groups that meet on board ships or at military installations specifically outside of the United States or in areas where organized stakes and missions are not readily available." Jones explained. "The groups hold meetings and do most everything a branch does except collect tithes and offerings, which are directly submitted to home wards and branches by individual members and families or to Church headquarters."
The groups are directed by group leaders and assistants.
For example, before the 120th Quartermaster Detachment, based in American Fork, Utah, embarked for Fort Carson, Colo., in August, Pres. Roger Farley of the American Fork Utah Stake called a group leader and two assistants, said Capt. Bruce Frandsen, the Army National Guard's administrative officer for the 120th. The unit recently left for Saudi Arabia.
Frandsen, as a high councilor, set the three men apart. "It was pretty comforting for the families [of the three menT to know that even though their husbands were leaving they would still be able to hold services," he noted.
- Ensuring a "pre-service orientation" for men and women entering the military. This is given through the stake or mission in which the member resides.
During this orientation, Jones said bishops and branch presidents should "find out where his or her first duty or training station is and send on to the bishop, branch president or group leader in that area a member identification form."
An orientation kit is provided, which includes pocket-size scriptures, Church tapes, books, pamphlets on how to function in the service and an LDS dog tag.
Jones explained that these same types of supplies are also sent with the chaplains and units embarking for Saudi Arabia, but also include hymn booklets and sacrament supplies.
- Providing for the needs of families with loved ones in the service. Jones said there are support groups available through ward, branch or the chaplains' organizations. For example, at Fort Hueneme, near Los Angeles, Calif., "They [the chaplainsT have a support group set up there for all of the families, not just LDS," he said.
He added that it is the responsibility of the elders quorum or high priest quorum in a family's ward or branch to see that temporal needs are met, such as mowing lawns or repairing cars, etc.
- Acting as the Church's representative to the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces. The national conference represents the 234 denominations who have authorized chaplains. Jones is the Church's representative to the conference.
He is also a member of the LDS Military Relations Committee, which is presided over by Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy.