Thursday, October 7, 2010

LDS Prison Ministry: LDS Outreach At The Utah State Prison Proclaims Liberty To The Captives And Offers Salvation To The Fallen

Did you know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a prison ministry? The details are put forth in a paper entitled "Providing Support for Those in Correctional Facilities". Also referenced is the most current version of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1, which is not distributed to the general public or available online (the 1998 version is available HERE).

Based on the resources available, the stake president determines the support that is to be provided to those who are incarcerated at correctional facilities within the boundaries of the stake. He also supervises the support, assisted by other local priesthood leaders. If the stake needs help providing service to correctional facilities within its boundaries, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy or Area Presidency may assign one or more nearby stakes to assist and to serve as the agent stake to the facility. Members called to serve may come from outside the agent stake boundaries with the approval of the member’s stake president.

On October 7th, 2010, the Mormon Times published an interesting article about LDS outreach at the Utah State Prison in Draper. In summary, Elder Bill and Sister Louise Wilhite have been working as church service missionaries in the Correctional Services segment of Welfare Services for 10 years. Every Friday they read and respond to letters from prisoners around the country. Most letters are addressed to President Thomas S. Monson. The Wilhites and other missionary couples spend hours in a cozy office room lined with shelves of scriptures, church manuals and other gospel literature in an effort to meet the inmates' requests. "Our primary purpose is to provide church materials to these individuals," Bill Wilhite said. "The second thing we do is try to get a priesthood interview to them. If possible, we look to begin services through the local church unit." In addition to sending church materials, the couples do their best to offer encouragement and bear testimony of the power of the Atonement.

The prison works with the Church on these issues. Steve Gehrke, public information officer at the Utah Department of Corrections, said there are more than 1,100 volunteers who offer a wide array of services in the prison system at any given time at the Draper and Gunnison prison sites. Not all of them are LDS or religious volunteers. Some deal in education and other aspects, but the bulk deal with religious services. The corrections department allows the LDS Church to hold worship services, firesides, institute, family history and genealogy research classes, addiction recovery programs, activity nights and family home evenings.

In this particular case, approximately 90 or so inmates who have been properly cleared walk a quarter mile and line up at the door to the prison chapel. They are greeted by reverent organ music. When the meeting and testimonies begin, the seats on the stand are filled. There are no travelogues. The participants are men are lawbreakers and most are sincerely seeking a closer relationship to the Savior. A large number are either excommunicated members or long-time inactives, but have found a second chance to learn and live Church teachings. But some participants are of different faiths.

Many of the excommunicants can eventually qualify for re-baptism, even some murderers, if they sincerely repent. However, those who commit first-degree murder, or what the LDS Church calls the "shedding of innocent blood", can only be re-baptized with the approval of the First Presidency of the Church (see page 114 of the 1998 Handbook if Instructions). The shedding of innocent blood is considered so serious that the Church teaches that they will generally have to wait until the Second Resurrection (the Resurrection of the Unjust) to come forth, and then the best outcome to which they can aspire will be telestial glory (the least of the three degrees of glory). Also see D&C 132:26. However, the Lord will make the final decision at that time, and only He can best evaluate the quality of one's life initialized against how much they knew and understood.


Anonymous said...

Please consider reviewing Heather Heaton's new ebook "Her Letters from Prison" in your book club and/or reading group meetings.

I (Heather Heaton) am recommending my new ebook ("Her Letters from Prison") as a motivational resource for reading pleasure, review, contemplation, and comment. God changed my life in prison! My ebook will validate your inquisitive doubts about what goes on in women’s prisons (It is what it is!); it can justify the efforts spent toward Christian ministries to women’s prisons; and it can be an inspirational (tell-it-like-it-is) resource for drug rehab/prevention programs. The book is non-fiction, inspirational, prison romance; and the original letters (with prison art) are included as images for authenticity. You can go to, click on a direct link to my Smashwords "book pages", and purchase “Her Letters from Prison”, Parts 1 and 2.

I am a 34 year old college student trying to better my life, in spite of the baggage I carry from my previous life.

A brief description of the ebook follows:
1. Breanna tells the true story of her experiences in prison through her letters to her friend Heath. This is a story of survival and a quest to make a better life. The letters describe the daily shocking events of prison life involving drugs, sex, utter devastation and humiliation, anger, hopelessness, despair, and finally happiness and hope.

2. Breanna was condemned to prison by her narcissistic lover; and a new, positive prison romance began to blossom.

3. Breanna's "truth" stands still even as the world around her trembles and burns! Bad things do happen to good people; and Breanna is the perfect example of this truth.

4. Breanna's inner strengths and principles eventually win out over the corruption and evil that surrounds her. With God's help, Breanna survives the horrible experiences of prison life and regains her self-confidence and hope for a better life.

5. "Breanna" was an inmate at Tutwiler Women's Prison from 2007 to 2009.

6. "Breanna" benefitted from women's prison ministries and the LIFE Tech-Wetumpka state-funded self-help program. Breanna was blessed with a life-changing experience.
Heather Heaton

Customer/Reader Review of “Her Letters from Prison”
Heather, ever since you first contacted me about your ebooks (and when I received them) I have been giving them traction. At least two women on my case load checked them out, (like a library card so I would get them back) and were very moved by the content. I haven’t had another problem with their behavior since they read them. So…I know they are working. They should be required reading, ordered by a Judge before women are sentenced to probation, so that they would fully understand the consequences of their behavior.
Gary Parsons
Parole Officer
State of Alabama – Board of Pardons & Parole

Anonymous said...

I found this website because I wondered if the LDS had prison outreach programs. I've never been in prison (I was, for a while, involved in sending some people there), nor do I have any friends or relatives (that I know of) serving time, but I've interacted with a number of "ex-cons" over the years, and the ones who managed to straighten out their lives either genuinely "found religion" or else found a good woman and resolved to deserve her love.

It is no secret that one of the religions that has had the greatest impact in the prisons, and in reducing recidivism thereafter, is Islam...either genuine Islam or the "Islam" promulgated by Elijah Muhammad and, thereafter, Louis Farrakhan. I found myself wondering whether what attracts so many African-American and, increasingly, other men of color to certain forms of Islam is the promise of a theology that will rationalize the anger they feel, or whether, in many cases, it is the strict religious laws that provide a structure for men who know themselves well enough to realize that gray areas have never been their friends.

Mormonism would in no way legitimize the anger or rage many men feel, but it certainly could help them redirect their energies in more positive ways, while at the same time offering the structure that many of these men desire and need. Plus, and please tell me if I am wrong about this, I can picture Mormon communities lending a helping hand and offering encouragement to new Mormons, once they are released from their physical prisons.

-Friendly "Gentile"