Author: Wilfried Decoo

I am a native of Belgium - the Flemish side. Born in 1946, I grew up in Antwerp. I obtained my B.A. from the Antwerp Jesuit University, my M.A. from Ghent University - both degrees in Romance languages. As a teacher of French and history I worked a few years in Central Africa for the Belgian Cooperation. Next I went to BYU where I finished a PhD in comparative literature. From 1974 on I spent most of my academic career at the University of Antwerp, as professor of applied linguistics and language education. In 1999 the department of French and Italian at BYU asked me to join their ranks, but I also retained an affiliation with Antwerp. I retired from BYU in 2011 and remain an "active emeritus' in Antwerp. I am a convert to the Church and have a strong testimony of the Restoration. My wife, Carine Decoo-Vanwelkenhuysen passed away in 2018, at age 58. We have one daughter, Ellen, born in 1988, who became a sociologist.

Primitive church

Times & Seasons used to post, from time to time, something “From the archives”. I revisited a post I published eight years ago, updated a few items, and thought it would still be worthwhile to read. My question to you: what are your memories of the “Primitive church”, if you ever had the privilege of experiencing it?

Informing members timely – a PA function?

Last week a Belgian church member, with a long record of outstanding leadership service in the Church, put a link on his Facebook page. The link went to an article in a local newspaper, titled “Homosexuality kills more than smoking” (translated), reporting on the recent anti-gay outburst of Jim Wallace, head of the Australian Christian Lobby. With a short note next to the link, our Belgian brother indicated his approval of Wallace’s views. His Facebook has numerous church members and outsiders as friends.


Eugene came from the Congo and accepted the gospel while studying in Belgium. After having obtained a doctorate in economics of developing nations, he returned to Africa. During the years with us, Eugene fulfilled many callings, willingly responding to the recurrent changes in positions our branch and district demanded in the relentless cycle of convert baptisms and inactivation.

Do not convert exchange students

When I was counselor in the Belgium-Netherlands mission presidency, the mission president asked me one day to handle the following. He had received a letter from a Utah family informing him that they had hosted a Belgian student as part of a high school exchange program. The family was “super excited” to tell the mission president that they had succeeded in converting the girl to the church. She had been baptized!

Sacrifice and retention: An unsolvable dilemma?

In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lecture 6, verse 7). The Church’s dramatic history demonstrates that this call to sacrifice was not mere rhetoric. Extolling the endurance of the pioneers is part of Mormon tradition. In talks and lessons members are repeatedly reminded of commandments and duties.

Mormons without the Mormon Church

In his recent conference address, Elder Ballard emphasized that we must avoid the name “Mormon Church” and instead use as much as possible the official, full name of the Church. His message stems from two concerns: (1) the missing association with the name “Jesus Christ”, hence no immediate recognition of the Church as Christian. (2) the potential confusion with other groups, in particular polygamist groups, that are referred to as “Mormon.”

Catholic parish registers belong to humanity

According to various news outlets the Catholic Church has ordered its dioceses to not allow Mormons access to parish registers any more. For decades, our Church has copied and preserved millions of pages of parish registers around the world, as part of the injunction to seek out ancestors and perform ordinances in their behalf. There are probably still millions of pages out there, uncopied.

Mormon identity and culture

The following is part of a larger study on the concept of “gospel culture”, which I have been working on. In a previous post I presented the question “How American is the Church?”, which yielded very interesting comments. For the present post I excerpted some further parts on culture and Mormon identity, with various questions to the reader.

How American is the Church?

(The following is an excerpt from a larger study on the concept of “gospel culture”, which I have been working on. I hope that comments will help me correct and refine this aspect on Americanness). For the past few decades, in their efforts at internationalization, church leaders have stressed that this is “not an American Church”, but an international, universal Church.


The mission president called. Would I, as his counselor, conduct a baptismal interview? A case he wouldn’t have the zone leaders handle, a woman with a troubled past. Most likely involving a chastity issue.

Watching conference

Stake conference in the mission field. Still the mission field, for although we are a stake, there is no stake center, only a chapel in some of the main cities, and rented rowhouses elsewhere. The stake covers some 10,000 square miles. Therefore we gather in this huge, sparsely lit movie theatre—theatre number 14 in a massive cinema complex close to the highway.

Sunday – the latest book by Craig Harline

I’ll start this book review with two anecdotes of my own, from a Mormon ward in Belgium. Last Sunday, in church, the bishop’s sister told us that her little boys were so excited because they were looking forward to the swimming party in the afternoon. The bishop’s own family and the families of his siblings were going to enjoy a pleasurable family Sunday afternoon: togetherness, games, swimming, fun and food, and it would probably last until late in the evening.

Church whisperers

The buzz pervades the chapel. The whispers assemble to an insistent setting escorting the speaker’s voice over the sound system. The multiple murmurs from all corners of the audience spawn a hum that any outsider would consider disturbing. But we are used to it – our own relentless liturgical sound.