Reverent silence marks the largest gathering ever of Mormon faithful in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand — During his first trip to Thailand in 1966, President Russell M. Nelson traveled by boat through the canals and klongs of Bangkok.

He watched women gather water for their daily needs from the same river as their children bathed. He shopped at floating markets. And he visited the home of a medical colleague, spotting geckos on the walls controlling the insect population.

He did not meet another member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Greeted by highways and skyscrapers 52 years later, President Nelson returned to Thailand Friday as part of his world ministry tour, reflecting on the city’s past half-century of growth.

It’s hard, he said, to believe the transformation that has taken place “in the space of one man’s lifetime.”

A capacity crowd filled the Queen Sirikit Conference Center in anticipation of President Nelson’s visit. Some 30 minutes before the leader’s arrival, the crowd of more than 3,000 grew silent.

Global Missionary Tour
Follow the Deseret News as we chronicle President Russel M. Nelson’s travels through seven countries around the world.

Entering this scene of profound respect, President Nelson looked across the room and said he felt the “love and faith” of the church’s Thai members.

The meeting marked the largest gathering ever of Latter-day Saints in Thailand, said Elder Randy D. Funk, General Authority Seventy and president of the LDS Church’s Asia Area.

Primary greeting

President Nelson was welcomed to the meeting by a small group of Primary children from the three stakes in Bangkok, clad in traditional clothing. Each child held a golden platter with a floral arrangement. Made of hundreds of flowers woven together, the flower arrangements were a gift to members of President Nelson’s party and were meant to be held.

But President Nelson found his too beautiful not to share. “When I got up to the pulpit, I thought, ‘I am going to adorn that microphone with it,” he said.

President Nelson’s visit to Thailand marks the sixth stop on his world ministry tour. As part of the nearly-two-week trip, President Nelson also visited England, Jerusalem, Kenya, Zimbabwe and India. President Nelson, accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, will complete his tour in Hong Kong on Saturday, stopping in Hawaii on his way home to address the Latter-day Saints there.

Known as the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand today is home to more than …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News


Science Says: Amount of straws, plastic pollution is huge

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cities and nations are looking at banning plastic straws and stirrers in hopes of addressing the world’s plastic pollution problem. The problem is so large, though, that scientists say that’s not nearly enough.

Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox estimate, using trash collected on U.S. coastlines during cleanups over five years, that there are nearly 7.5 million plastic straws lying around America’s shorelines. They figure that means 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws are on the entire world’s coastlines.

But that huge number suddenly seems small when you look at all the plastic trash bobbing around oceans. University of Georgia environmental engineering professor Jenna Jambeck calculates that nearly 9 million tons (8 million metric tons) end up in the world’s oceans and coastlines each year, as of 2010, according to her 2015 study in the journal Science .

That’s just in and near oceans. Each year more than 35 million tons (31.9 million metric tons) of plastic pollution are produced around Earth and about a quarter of that ends up around the water.

“For every pound of tuna we’re taking out of the ocean, we’re putting two pounds of plastic in the ocean,” says ocean scientist Sherry Lippiatt, California regional coordinator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program.

Seabirds can ingest as much as 8 percent of their body weight in plastic, which for humans “is equivalent to the average woman having the weight of two babies in her stomach,” says Hardesty of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Organizers of Earth Day, which is Sunday, have proclaimed ending plastics pollution this year’s theme. And following in the footsteps of several U.S. cities such as Seattle and Miami Beach, British Prime Minister Theresa May in April called on the nations of the British commonwealth to consider banning plastic straws, coffee stirrers and plastic swabs with cotton on the end.

McDonald’s will test paper straws in some U.K. locations next month and keep all straws behind the counter, so customers have to ask for them. “Together with our customers we can do our bit for the environment and use fewer straws,” says Paul Pomroy, who runs the fast-food company’s U.K. business.

The issue of straws and marine animals got more heated after a 2015 viral video showing rescuers removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose in graphic and bloody detail.

But a ban may be a bit of a straw man …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News


Interfaith marriage in India puts many couples at risk

MUMBAI, India — When a Muslim man and his wife — born and raised a Hindu — fell in love after meeting online, they knew there would be trouble from their families. She left her home in south India last July and moved to Mumbai to get married, stating in an affidavit that she was converting to Islam.

Over the next few months, she continued to face pressure from her parents and filed a complaint with the local police against her father for threatening to kidnap her. At one point, unknown men even attacked the home of the couple, who, fearing for their safety, do not want their names used in this story.

In December, when the couple was out at a nearby mall, some men — suspected by the husband to be acting at the behest of his in-laws — picked up his wife and drove off with her in a car.

He registered a fresh case with the police and then filed a petition in the Bombay High Court through his advocate Hasnain Kazi, seeking that his wife be returned. They were reunited in early February, and her family has now started to come around.

“This is a family matter. Society shouldn’t interfere,” said the husband. “But political leaders have created an atmosphere that has affected our personal lives.”

Such incidents are part of a wider pattern in India, where interfaith and intercaste couples are increasingly facing bullying, harassment, familial opposition and even death threats.

In February, a Facebook page calling for violence against more than 100 Muslim men who had married or were dating Hindu women was taken down after an online outcry. The same month, Ankit Saxena, a Hindu man, was killed in Delhi, allegedly by relatives of his Muslim girlfriend. Some of the alleged assailants were arrested later. In December, Hindu right-wing groups barged into an interfaith wedding celebration just outside Delhi. Such incidents have consistently been reported across states including Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

Interfaith and intercaste couples have never had it easy in India, but since the Bharatiya Janata Party was elected in 2014, the atmosphere has become increasingly polarized. Government data recently made available in Parliament show that the number of incidents of interreligious violence in 2017 (822) was higher than in 2016 (703) and 2015 (751). These increases have been accompanied by growing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“Since the coming to power of the BJP there has been lots …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News