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Samoan Mormons' Legal Battle Over Language


JAHS

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A group of Samoans living in the Australian city of Brisbane have entered a legal battle for the right to speak their native language in church.

The lawyer representing them says Brisbane's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, also known as the Mormon church, is forcing its parishioners to use English during worship.

Olinda Woodroffe is taking the group's fight to Brisbane's Court of Appeal.

She says she is "disgusted' by the church's ruling, calling it a violation of human rights.

"You would expect a church to be a place where they welcome people as they are, who they are, what colour they are and the language they speak...So to hear something like this in the church is quite disappointing," she said.

The disaffected Samoans have maintained their links with the church but are now worshipping elsewhere.

The Mormon church in Samoa says there is no policy to ban any languages, and only its head office in Salt Lake City has the authority to make policy decisions.

Ms Woodroffe says the issue could set a dangerous precedent, and she has flown to Samoa to raise her concerns with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele.

"I said this has to stop because if the court finds in favour of the Mormon church then it will open a floodgate and, in my view, the Samoan language will be trampled on and no-one has the right to do that to us," she said.

http://www.abc.net.a...010?section=qld

I certainly hope there is more to this on the other side than what these people are claiming.

Sounds like they might start their own church; The Samoan Mormon church?

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Gosh, I am glad this has become such an important issue. It is only fair that all churches and groups be forced into offering meetings in any language desired by any subgroup. Yup, a major priority for everyone. I am also glad that pride is not a problem for these folks.

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I take a strange kind of comfort in the fact that journalism is dead in places other then the good old US of A.

Yes, and this comfort you're taking is about as strange as it gets. :D

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We have had members of our ward pray in Spanish and Portugese because they felt more comfortable, and I'm in about as anglo of a ward as they come. I'm going to speculate that some member said something unkind to a Samoan member, who told a cousin, who told their brother, who called a friend who knew a lawyer, and the rest is history.

I have been taught that it is rude to converse in a foriegn language when people who don't speak that language are present because they might assume you are talking about them. Could it be that the whole dustup comes from a couple of Samoan sisters gossiping in the back row during Relief Society?

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We have had members of our ward pray in Spanish and Portugese because they felt more comfortable, and I'm in about as anglo of a ward as they come. I'm going to speculate that some member said something unkind to a Samoan member, who told a cousin, who told their brother, who called a friend who knew a lawyer, and the rest is history.

I have been taught that it is rude to converse in a foriegn language when people who don't speak that language are present because they might assume you are talking about them. Could it be that the whole dustup comes from a couple of Samoan sisters gossiping in the back row during Relief Society?

Or a couple of the brothers in priesthood meeting.

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The Polynesian culture integration in LDS Australia culture has some interesting history and issues. Polynesian culture is quite insular and to those outside of the culture appear quite racist. The culture of property is also of interest - many church properties and assets have been misused or "lent" to others in greater need. From a Polynesian cultural perspective it is a simple pragmatic decision, from a church and Australian perspective it is called vandalism and stealing.

These cultural difference do cause some tension between the Polynesians and the church administration. In our stake we have a Samoan ward - better people you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere - they sing and worship in their native language without restriction. However it is a dedicated Samoan speaking ward. We also have a Mandarin speaking branch in our stake.

There has been talk of disbanding the language speaking wards for sometime, I suspect to facilitate greater integration and development of leadership etc. The Samoan ward, as the rumourmill goes, has threatened to join the local Assemblies of God church if that occurs. The AoG church is Samoan speaking.

Culture plays a big part in these minority groups in the church and I must say that one thing the LDS church does poorly is integrate and work with different cultures.

I suspect that the problem in Brisbane is that these person/s are a minority in a English speaking ward and are speaking their native tongue despite being ask to speak English for the benefit of the whole ward. This is not the first time this has happened in Australia.

Again it is a hard cultural balance that I don't have good answers for. I hope it is resolved well.

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Could it be that the whole dustup comes from a couple of Samoan sisters gossiping in the back row during Relief Society?

Perhaps the word "talking" would be more appropriate than "gossiping", the latter having negative connotations these days.
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The Polynesian culture integration in LDS Australia culture has some interesting history and issues. Polynesian culture is quite insular and to those outside of the culture appear quite racist. The culture of property is also of interest - many church properties and assets have been misused or "lent" to others in greater need. From a Polynesian cultural perspective it is a simple pragmatic decision, from a church and Australian perspective it is called vandalism and stealing.

These cultural difference do cause some tension between the Polynesians and the church administration. In our stake we have a Samoan ward - better people you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere - they sing and worship in their native language without restriction. However it is a dedicated Samoan speaking ward. We also have a Mandarin speaking branch in our stake.

There has been talk of disbanding the language speaking wards for sometime, I suspect to facilitate greater integration and development of leadership etc. The Samoan ward, as the rumourmill goes, has threatened to join the local Assemblies of God church if that occurs. The AoG church is Samoan speaking.

Culture plays a big part in these minority groups in the church and I must say that one thing the LDS church does poorly is integrate and work with different cultures.

I suspect that the problem in Brisbane is that these person/s are a minority in a English speaking ward and are speaking their native tongue despite being ask to speak English for the benefit of the whole ward. This is not the first time this has happened in Australia.

Again it is a hard cultural balance that I don't have good answers for. I hope it is resolved well.

Thanks for the background information. It certainly puts this in a different perspective.

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  • 1 month later...

 

"Unfortunately, there was some isolated miscommunication and misunderstanding on the part of some at that time.  We continue to reach out to clarify misunderstandings and resolve concerns."

 

I suspected as much.  There is no "ban" from Salt Lake City. However, it appears LOCALLY in Brisbane what might be viewed as a "ban" was instituted.

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This is one reason why Latin is a good thing for Catholics. (One language for any international religion would be beneficial. If I were LDS I would argue for English for "pride of place" as the language of Joseph Smith and the first translations of the Book of Mormon.) While it was once the language of Rome, Latin is not now a language peculiar to any region of the world. It belongs to no one, and yet everybody can learn enough of it to worship together. Its simple. One language unites, multiple languages divide. Its a beautiful thing for a Catholic to go anywhere in the world and hear the same words spoken by the priest and people from Africa, Asia, or Europe, as they would hear were they back home in America. Of course, this unity is destroyed in the New Mass. One of the reasons perhaps why many are returning to the Traditional Mass.

 

3DOP

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This is as ridiculous as forcing African congregations to use a piano or organ instead of their native instruments during worship services.

 

Are they?  Forced to use piano/organ vs traditional instruments?

 

Also, you seem to believe that church policy was forcing English over Samoan.  Did you read the post about the Church's response, in which they made clear there was no ban on Samoan?

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My post was based originally on the false assumption that there was a language restriction. I know a former mission president who served in Africa and native instruments were off limits in worship. He disagreed with that policy as well. Worship services, imo, should to some extent be culturally identifiable rather than westernized by the American religion.

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