Tuesday, April 12, 2011

42p The American Indians, along with all other Lamanites (Modern Day descendants of the Nephites Whose History is Contained in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ) are an important Focus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints.

 To Access This Blog's Index, Please Scroll Down To the Fifth Paragraph From the End of This Post!

PLEASE NOTE: A link to a video showing San Carlos Apache youth doing an Apache War Dance can be reached by scrolling down eight paragraphs from the group of Indian Tribal photos I have inserted into this post. 



I was employed by the Seminaries and Institutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, beginning in the Fall of 1962, and continued on in that employment until the Summer of 1967.

While serving as an Indian Seminary teacher (and then as a coordinator also, beginning in my second year) It was a great privilege for me to get to know very personally, not only my students but also a good number of their parents. They were from a number of different American Indian tribes. From this employment I learned to love American Indians deeply and sincerely.

(Here is a footnote as to why I left an occupation I enjoyed: (being a probation officer in the juvenile division of the Sacramento County [California] Probation Department):

Robert W. Blair, Phd.

Sometime during my senior year at BYU (1959-60), Robert Blair a former mission president's assistant to our mission president, Henry D. Matis, in the early 1950s in Finland,  was a graduate assistant at BYU and later on obtained his Phd. in Linguistics from the University of Indiana. He, at that time, was involved in a number of interesting activities at the Brigham Young University involving American Indians (Lamanites).
Previously, Elder Blair served as my key instructor in Finland as I learned the difficult Finnish language a number of years before language training centers had been set up for missionaries who were to speak Finnish-(Suomea). We had some interesting discussions early in my mission regarding Lamanites and their importance in the Lord's work in our day as is pointed out in the Book of Mormon. 
At BYU in the aforementioned school year, Robert invited me to attend a Navajo language class he had privately set up on campus. I attended several sessions of it and enjoyed the experience.
I give Bob the credit for suggesting not long before I graduated on June 3, 1960 that I consider working full-time, with Lamanites.) If I remember correctly, he told me about the new Indian Student Placement Program of the Church. I had heard of it, but hadn't ever thought about being personally involved in it.
I must mention one very significant thing Dr. Blair professionally accomplished in assisting Lamanites. Sometime, perhaps later in his career, he directed a project at the request of the LDS Church which was the challenging task of translating the Book of Mormon into one of the most difficult Central American native languages. It was a not very well known language (except by those whose native language it was and perhaps to a lesser extent, by a few scholars like Dr. Blair). He also served as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints's first mission president in the Baltic nations.
Just before becoming an Indian Seminary teacher for the LDS Church, I had served as a probation officer for about a year and a half for the Sacramento County Juvenile Probation Department in the California county of my birth after graduating from BYU-Provo, Utah in early June of 1960. My major at BYU was Human Development and Family Relationships, a relatively new major at BYU at that time. I give credit to that major for helping prepare me for my work at the Probation Department and for teaching Seminary and also when doing Indian Student Placement work.  Among other particular assignments at the Juvenile Probation Department, I served, for a time before leaving, as a court officer. I enjoyed that challenging "prosecutor role." 
I should note that one of the key reasons I was considered to be sufficiently qualified to serve as a seminary teacher for the LDS Church's Seminaries and Institutes was that I had served successfully as an early-morning seminary teacher both in Roseville and in Sacramento, California. In fact, my supervisor when I began teaching full-time in Brigham City, Utah was Wesley C. Christensen - (I hope I remembered his name correctly) who had actually supervised me in my early-morning seminary teaching in Sacramento, California just prior to my being hired as a full-time seminary teacher and his being transferred to Logan, Utah.

In my new full-time teaching position Brother Christensen gave me special assistance and guided me toward getting a masters degree in the field of education requiring  my choosing to attend summer school at BYU where summer training was required for full-time seminary teachers.

Instead, I eventually earned a Master's degree in Social Work at San Jose State University in Northern California while later working full-time as an Indian Placement Service worker. That degree was required of me because of that new assignment.

Back to my original employment as an Indian Seminary teacher for LDS Seminaries and Institutes: During my first year of employment in this new occupation, I was given the enjoyable assignment of teaching Indian Seminary classes in Brigham City, Utah which LDS Navajo students from the Intermountain Indian School attended.
You will learn more about that Indian Seminary in Post 38i, Part 1 which you will access later in this post.
During that first school year I also taught regular ninth grade seminary classes at the Junior High Seminary in Brigham City, Utah, just after the old high school seminary building had been converted into a Junior High School seminary building, along with the old high school campus having been converted into a junior high campus.

Beginning in my second year as an Indian Seminary teacher, I also began serving as a Seminary coordinator in Farmington, New Mexico and I got to know personally many Navajo members of the Church there. Most of the Indian seminary teachers I supervised were the full-time missionaries from the Southwest Indian Mission headquartered in Holbrook, Arizona. They were provided with Indian-oriented curriculum and also a series of  professionally developed and produced filmstrips, such as the "Benny Builder" series.

I also coordinated the regular early-morning seminary program of the Young Stake with the teachers being qualified members of the church who were paid a part-time salary as was the case when I taught in the early-morning program. The missionaries taught Indian seminary classes as a part of their mission calling without any pay except for the satisfaction of seeing Indian students grow and develop spiritually.

As a family, we were assigned by our stake presidency to meet every Sunday morning with the Navajo branch of the LDS Young Stake in Farmington, New Mexico, with my serving several times as a member of the branch presidency there.

We had the special privilege of transporting the branch, organist, Lucy Bloomfield, who with her husband, George, (who had died before we met Lucy) had worked many years among and for the benefit of many Navajos; along with her portable organ to and from the Totah Branch ( Totah is the Navajo word for Farmington, New Mexico.- literally it means: "a place where two waters, i.e. rivers, meet" ) Those meetings were held in the Relief Society room of the Young Stake Center Sunday mornings so as to not interfere with ward Sacrament meetings that were being held in the chapel of that building several times each Sunday.

I must mention that there were a number of us non-Navajo language speakers who listened to very many Sunday school lessons and sacrament meeting talks which we couldn't understand very well. Because I had learned a very difficult language on my mission, the Finnish language, I knew the commitment to learn to speak Navajo would be too great for the time I had. I came to understand some of it and at times Navajo members would interpret privately or in front of the class, that which was spoken in Navajo into English.

I learned, over the years, but particularly when we lived in Farmington, that Navajo Indians, in particular, who are commonly viewed as having stoic personalities; after you get to know them well, and they you, you will come to realize that a good number of them have great senses of humor!

My wife, at that time, Judith Ann (Judy) Whetstone Birch, served as a counselor to the Totah (Farmington, N.M.) Branch's Relief Society president during part of the time I was serving professionally in the Farmington, N.M. area. Interestingly, she is partly Lamanite (not Navajo) through one of her female ancestors. In that branch there were church members from a number of different Indian tribes.

Also, for about two years I served in the position of District Clerk to the Indian District President of the Holbrook, Arizona Mission in which the Farmington, New Mexico Mission District was remotely situated. On a number of occasions I flew with District President, Carl Brown in his personal light airplane to outlying Indian branches with at times, a somewhat rough dirt landing strip being the only available landing strip. However, President Brown was a very good pilot!

I should mention, my family and I were active members of the Farmington, New Mexico Third Ward and most often were able to attend a Sacrament meeting at our ward, even though we had attended a sacrament meeting in the morning at the Lamanite Branch where we were assigned by the Stake Presidency to serve. We were involved in various ward activities as they were held, as we had the time to attend them, with our being very busy in our Indian-related schedule.

A Navajo Hogan (dwelling place)


An Old-time Navajo Warrior, Barboncito

A Navajo Girl Being Taught To Weave In Navajo Fashion

Navajo Youth in a Traditional Dance wearing Traditional clothes.

After working and living among the Navajos for four years I was transferred to Hardin, Montana where I taught and coordinated LDS Indian Seminary classes among the Crow and the Northern Cheyenne American Indian tribes. My family and I attended the LDS Branch, located at Crow Agency, Montana that was made up, for the most part, of members of the Crow Tribe. My church calling was first as a member of the branch presidency and afterwards as a member of the District council (similar to a high council.) My family and I were only technically speaking, members of the Hardin Ward with the full agreement of the ward bishop.

However, I recognized I had a responsibility to discuss with the bishop of that ward something I thought I eventually would do which could have indirectly impacted the Church. During our training at BYU in Provo, Utah that summer, just before we moved to Montana, someone who was instructing teachers and coordinators of the Seminaries and Institutes of the Church, urged us to be civic minded wherever we were assigned. I remembered that after moving to Hardin.

After we had moved to Hardin, I discovered that there was an active Rotary International unit there. I met with our bishop and told him I would like to join the Rotary International unit there in town so as to be civic minded. He didn't know much about the Rotary unit in town, but agreed that it might be something I should pursue.
We agreed that I wouldn't be representing the Church, but I would let the Rotary leader and other Rotary members know that my employment was with the Seminaries and Institutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that I was an active member of that church, but that I would become a member of their Rotary International unit solely on my own.

I told the Rotary leader that I had grown up in Roseville, California where Rotary International was highly respected.  I attended weekly Rotary meetings in Hardin, Montana as often as possible. From time to time I was asked questions about the Church and its teachings. Because my schedule changed occasionally because of social activities scheduled with my LDS Crow and Northern Cheyenne LDS seminary students, I kept the Rotary unit leader apprised of when I was to be absent.

I enjoyed getting acquainted with the Rotary unit's members and freely shared with them that I was teaching Crow and Northern Cheyenne youth as an LDS Indian Seminary instructor. As in many other locations where there are Native American tribal centers located nearby, there appeared (at least to me) to be a significant emotional distance between members of Rotary International there in Hardin and Native Americans and I believe that to be true generally among non-Indian populations.

I specially enjoyed some of the celebrations that Rotary International sponsored during which I mingled in with them. At the end of that one school year, we moved to Los Angeles, California to work with the Indian Student Placement Service of the Church. I let them know about our moving and thanked them for fellow shipping me during our time in Hardin. Unfortunately, I didn't remain in contact with any of the members, but I feel that because of my involvement with them, a favorable impression was left with them of "that certain Mormon" who had become a member of Rotary." In a number of ways I had been treated like I was one of them. I still remember well and can still sing the song that was sung at every Rotary Meeting:
Montana, Montana, the Glory of the West, from all the states from Coast to Coast, You surely are the Best. Montana, Montana, your skies are always blue! (spelling it out in the song) M - O -  N - T - A - N - A, Montana we love you!
A Female Member of the Crow Indian Tribe in Montana, dressed in tribal finery
As mentioned above, while living in Hardin, Montana for one year along with my wife and our four young children, (with one of our daughters having been born there), I was privileged to serve an additional American Indian Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Lame Deer, Montana which was about a thirty-six mile northeast drive from Hardin. I was provided an used school bus purchased by my Indian Seminary friend whom I replaced, before I arrived, in which I transported either Crow or Northern Cheyenne Indian Seminary students to joint activities held in one location or the other.

A Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council Meeting in Lame Deer, Montana

After transferring in the summer of 1967 to the LDS Indian Student Placement Program about which you learned much in the previous series of three of my posts, I and my family began living in Canoga Park, located in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California (U.S.A.). A new LDS Family Services agency was being opened with its office located in the Los Angeles, California Welfare Storehouse.

As an Indian Student Placement Service worker I was assigned to assist members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona along with the San Carlos Apache Tribe located about seventy five or so miles South of them, in arranging to place their children in LDS Indian Student Placement Program foster care in that Southern Californian valley where my family and I had just begun to live.

An Eagle's Eye View of Part of the White Mountain Apache Reservation

San Carlos Apache Woman in Tribal Dress

Fort Apache Woman in Tribal Dress

Winter View of the San Carlos Apache Reservation

It wasn't long before I became very aware that my Indian Placement colleagues were for the most part glad that I, instead of them, had been assigned to place children from those two Apache tribes because they generally had the reputation of being more "warlike", or using a perhaps more appropriate word -(somewhat) cantankerous! (in Spanish for those readers of this blog whose main language may be Spanish (Español): that word is: intrable, or in the case of any of my friends in Finland (Suomessa) who may be reading this, the word is: ilkeä tai (or) riidanhaluinen). That term didn't apply to all of those Apache Indian students and their parents. I learned to love the people from both Apache Reservations. Their reservations each have their own unique beauty!

You may recall having read something I wrote in one of my recent posts about a San Carlos Apache twelve year old, Ronnie Dude, who was living with a foster family in the City of Burbank located in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. He played little league baseball and developed quite the reputation of striking out batters of opposing teams or causing them to hit foul balls by letting out an Apache war whoop just before pitching the ball! and yelling the words, "Hi -yah yah!" (or something that sounded like that!) along with lots of  embellishing sounds and motions! Ronnie did well on the program as did his sister, Flora and their younger brother. I really enjoyed watching Ronnie pitch in little league baseball games and went out of my way to do so!

Now you will have the opportunity of viewing and listening to a video in which San Carlos Apaches are assisting some of their youth practice doing a tribal war dance! Having viewed this video already I wonder if Ronnie Dude learned his war whoop from training similar to what you will view in it.

(Please note: After clicking on the following link you will be asked, in a window that will come onto your screen, "Do You Want to Run This Application?" Please click on (Run). You will then be viewing an Apache Tribal advertisement of some kind. (You can click on the words, Close the Advertisement) Or on the screen you will notice a count-down in the number of seconds left. When that count-down reaches 1 second, please, click on the right pointing arrow you'll see in a video window. That will bring on a relatively short San Carlos Apache video in which adults are drumming and chanting while their children are doing their best at performing an Apache War Dance. (At times you may have to wait patiently after having clicked on the video link. The video will start!

Be sure to have your computer's sound system turned on and your ear-phones on (if you need them) so you can hear the Apache War Chanting and the drumming! Please notice the last four words of the link you see just below: TEACHING OUR CHILDREN DIGNITY (You will also see those same four words at the top of your screen while the video is running!)

It may be interesting to you, as it was to me as I contemplated the intriguing meaning of those four words as how they may relate to what those Apache parents are having their children practice doing! I have to ask, How does learning to dance an Apache War Dance help their children to learn dignity? I am sure there is a good answer to that question. I would like to know what that answer would be! I enjoyed watching this video!

Teaching Our Children Dignity
When the video has ended you have the choice of reviewing it. When you are through, please click out of the video so as to return to this post.


Book of Mormon, 2Nephi 10:18 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.
19 Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it (all of the Americas) is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God. (Clarification and emphasis added)
In my post before last, 42n, I provided you a number of examples of American Indian married couples who have blossomed as the rose as prophesied in Section 49 of the Doctrine and Covenants through the instrumentality of an inspired LDS Church program, The Indian Student Placement Program.

As prophesied just above in 2Nephi 10:18-19, many Gentiles were to soften their hearts and become like "fathers" to the Lamanites, or American Indians, descendants of the Nephite people of ancient America.

Overall, in the majority of cases where Lamanites of our day have been fellow shipped into the church and have become Gospel worthy, it wasn't just through special Church programs, (though they helped significantly in their time!) it was mostly through the medium of individual loving Latter-day Saints (whether through a special program or not) taking a special interest in assisting individual Lamanites whom they came to love, that brought those Lamanites into full Gospel fellowship.

Just below I'll provide you an outstanding example of that process which has taken place on very many occasions during the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will continue to do so for the Lord has told us that Today's Lamanites will be blessed through their conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I give  you an example of a Navajo man (and later on, a Navajo woman who became his wife) where the loving attention of a dedicated LDS  Indian Seminary teacher in Brigham City, Utah had a profound and an eventual eternal effect on these two individual Navajo tribal members and upon their children and their posterity!

I have provided you links, not very far below, to two of my previous posts in order to provide you with this experience.

The key Latter-day Saint who began this process of assisting a particular young Navajo Indian seminary student of his and then followed through over the years in helping helping this Navajo man and his wife, also a Navajo, develop spiritually over their life-times, is the present President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Boyd K. Packer.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

The John C. and Ilene Begay Family with another Apostle of the Lord Who also knows and cares for them much is, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church.
 You can now focus on the life of John C. Begay.

Sister Ilene T. Begay.
Note: I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the Navajo people have a great sense of humor even though they are often looked upon as being very stoic! Well, some of that sense of humor just had to rub off on those of us who worked with them who had learned to enjoy their special sense of humor! I give you the following Example:

An Indian? No that is me, J. Neil Birch, in my middle years of professionally serving Lamanites.

Below is a letter my Agency director received a number of years after that photo was taken. I actually had been dressed up "as an Indian" by my wife for our LDS ward Halloween party that was taking place that evening.

I had shown that sort of funny photo to some of my co-workers back when I was reassigned from Kansas City, Missouri where I had served as the first agency director there along with providing all of the other regular services offered by LDS Family Services other than the Indian Placement Service; to Indian Placement work in Salt Lake City (in which assignment I was to place mostly Navajo children from the Navajo Reservation in Southern Utah).

Navajo Reservation, Mexican Hat, Utah

Navajo Reservation, Monument Valley, Utah
I thought that photo of me with "Indian makeup on" would seem quite funny to Indian Placement workers. Evidence shown above (in there being a copy of my picture) and also what is shown below leads me to know that at least one of them managed, without my knowing it, to make a copy of it!

Now, here is perhaps an example of the Navajo humor coming out in those LDS Family Services workers with whom I had served in my earlier years (and during some of my later years too) as an Indian Placement worker:

That photo of me above was sent to Dorthea Murdock, my agency manager, at that time, along with that letter. There were other humorous letters circulated throughout our Utah agencies subsequently. It was all done with a good "Navajo" sense of humor with a Billagonna (White man, in Navajo) slant to it!

PS If you have any comments to make about that "sense of humor," please express yourself briefly in the Comments section found at the end of this post! However, comments about the very important main subject of what is said in the two attached older posts of mine, would much be preferred!

Neil Birch


This website is not owned by or affiliated with the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon or LDS Church). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of the Church.


TO ACCESS NEIL BIRCH'S BLOG INDEX: To Either Read the Full Index Item Which Refers To This Blog Post, (Or To Search The Index For Any Other Blog Post You Desire To Access), After You Have Read All of This Paragraph, Please Scroll Back Up And Click on the Following: The American Indians Along With All Other Lamanites (Modern Day Descendants of the Nephites Whose History is Contained in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ,) Are an Important Focus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.-Post 42p When The Picture of Our Savior, Jesus Christ Sitting Next To a Little Boy Comes Onto Your Screen, Please Scroll Down In The Index To Your Target Item Or Use the Alphabetical Scrolling Device (When It Has Been Installed).


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If you have any questions about what you have read or viewed in this post or in any previous posts of mine, or if you even have a curiosity about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and or its teachings, please e-mail me. I'm Neil and my e-mail address is: jneilmelva@gmail.com. If you contact me I'll get back to you just as soon as possible.

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