During much of the past decade, E. Kent and Joan Pulsipher have spent thousands of hours working with incarcerated Church members, watching Church programs and resources for these offenders grow and expand.
As Utah North Area Correctional Services director, Brother Pulsipher said he has come to know that Church leaders care about all members. "When the Brethren say that they want to retain and reclaim everyone, they mean everyone," he said.
On March 10, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy accompanied the Pulsiphers and visited six groups of men and women at the Utah State Prison, as well as youth from the Genesis Youth Facility. The visitors bore strong testimonies of Jesus Christ.
"How precious and important you are to the Lord," Elder Ballard told the offenders.
Elder Ballard also encouraged the offenders to use their time to gather spiritual knowledge and grow closer to their Father in Heaven.
He spoke about the importance and application of the Savior's gifts. The powers of heaven are available as one seeks to change and draws closer to Jesus Christ, he said.
Elder Ballard then paid tribute to the Pulsiphers; in April the couple will begin serving a mission at the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
"The Pulsiphers have given marvelous service during their years working with offenders through the state of Utah," he said. "Their labor truly personifies what the Lord's Church is all about."
Brother Pulsipher, former president of the Sandy Utah Central Stake, which has ecclesiastical responsibilities at the Utah State Prison, previously served with his wife directing LDS Family Services' Correctional and Substance Abuse Recovery Services.
Through LDS Family Services, the Church sends a Bible, Book of Mormon and other Church literature to offenders who request them. The Church also works with local priesthood leaders throughout the world to provide services for offenders while they are incarcerated.
"They can't come to us, so we go to them," Brother Pulsipher said.
In 1993, the Church had two branches for 12 facilities at the Utah State Prison. Today, Church services for those incarcerated are offered throughout Utah in 60 facilities in just the Utah North Area alone and in numerous other states.
Brother Pulsipher said the majority of offenders are interested in a different way of life than what brought them to prison. The Church provides opportunities for them to spiritually change their value system, learn Church doctrine, and resolve personal transgressions and offenses.
"We don't judge," he said. "We don't know why they are there, we just take them at face value and try to build them from where they are."
An unofficial survey showed that those involved in the Church's program who also have the support of family have only a 10 percent recidivism rate, a stark contrast to the 85 percent of the general prison population.
The Pulsiphers said their family has had numerous wonderful experiences working with offenders.
They think of the times, with their children, that they provided family home evening at the prison. Of the day Relief Society General President Mary Ellen W. Smoot visited the women's unit to thank the offenders for the 100 quilts they made to be sent to Kosovo. And of the woman who sobbed after watching her child placed for adoption on "Wednesday's Child," a local program promoting adoption of children in state custody.
They think of the father who talked in appreciation of the services the Church provides for his son, soon to be incarcerated. Of the many time they entered the prison, where they never once saw a dangerous situation. And of the many, many prayers offenders offered in their behalf.
Mostly they think of all the countenances they have seen change.
That comes, said Brother Pulsipher, when offenders start to understand the Atonement.
Working with Correctional Services "has changed our hearts," said Sister Pulsipher. "These people are real people sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and He wants them back."
For more information about Correctional Services, contact LDS Family Services at 1-800-453-3860 ext. 3646.
E-mail: [email protected]