Members help defeat lottery initiative

Members of the Church in Oklahoma make up less than 1 percent of the state's population. But when tackling community issues, they make their presence felt.

Under the direction of the North America Southwest Area presidency and local public affairs councils, members here have positively influenced several community issues, including the recent defeat of a lottery initiative. More than 350 Latter-day Saints joined a statewide campaign against the lottery, resulting in its defeat May 10 by a 60 percent to 40 percent vote.The victory was especially sweet considering that before the campaign, public opinion polls showed 75 percent for the initiative, 25 percent against.

In speaking of the campaign, Elder W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy and area president said, "The success of this effort against what seemed to be overwhelming odds shows what can be accomplished as we work together with people of common values.

"Despite the unhealthy trends that are growing around us, Church members can have an influence for good and because we can, we should," he added.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, also of the Seventy and a member of the area presidency, remarked, "I'm impressed with the skill and diligence of our public affairs people in Oklahoma and the leadership of stake and mission officers who saw a need and worked together with others to spare their community the curse of legalized gambling."

This "skill and diligence" were essential as those involved in the campaign had little time to organize, explained Carolyn Downing, public affairs director for Oklahoma. Two weeks before the vote, Elder Christofferson was touring the Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission. While there, he met with a local LDS public affairs council. Included in that meeting were members of a non-member organization, "Oklahomans Against the Lottery."

A campaign was organized, during which telephone calls were made to voters and fliers were delivered to homes. Sister Downing explained that those involved in the campaign included LDS, Southern Baptist, Assembly of God and Methodist church members. The "spinal cord" of the work, she said, was the network of LDS public affairs.

Forrest Claunch, chairman of Oklahomans Against the Lottery and who is a Southern Baptist layman, expressed to the Church News his admiration for the efforts of Latter-day Saints in the campaign. Sister Downing said "joy, elation" were the results of the victory. Through involvement in this and other community issues, there is an "excitement that we can make a difference. We are beginning to realize that there are new issues coming up that we want to be a part of."

Members here have taken part in other community issues. In addition, local public affairs councils are also producing inspirational programs, such as readers theaters and musical presentations, that are performed for audiences throughout the area.

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