From a former chief administrator of the city of Houston to a recently re-elected judge, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Texas are making significant contributions in their communities. They come from varied backgrounds and work in different fields but there is one thing they all have in common: they love Texas.
Al Haines, former chief administrator for the city of Houston, says the most compelling argument he knows for living in Texas is the people. “Wherever we have lived in Texas, our neighbors met and welcomed us, even invited us to their respective church,” Haines said. “This is a people who are hospitable, reach out in service to others, are friendly, and of a moral character that is rooted in strong values.”
Haines and his wife, Norma, are the parents to three children, and he attributes much of his success in his life, family and career to his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Church is central to our lives. It has helped us to know who we are and what our eternal relationships really can be,” he said.
“It has been a great blessing in tethering my own soul as well as my family to values and attributes taught by our Lord and Savior — the blueprint for living.”
Emmy-winning reporter Art Rascon is a well-known face in Texas. He and his family have lived in many cities across the nation, and as much as they have loved every place they lived in, it is in Texas where they feel most at home. “Everything is big in Texas, including the hearts of Texans,” he says.
“We love the people here and their Judeo-Christian conservative values. We love the generosity of Texans and are amazed at the level of compassion Houstonians have for their fellow beings.”
Rascon is a reporter and anchor at KTRK-TV’s 13 Eyewitness News. He has received 17 Emmy Awards, three National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ awards and 15 Associated Press reporting awards, among other recognitions. He says the Church has helped him in his career, increased his ethical standards and caused him to be more productive and optimistic.
“The world in large part has become desensitized to the troubles of our surroundings, but the Church has helped me be more understanding, more sympathetic and more sensitive to those who suffer,” says Rascon. “It has and continues to make me a better employee and a better person.”
Another Texas Mormon, Derry Dunn, worked as an educator for 33 years, including 19 years as a middle school and high school principal. He retired in 2002 and was then elected as a judge in Pinehurst, Texas. “As a native Texan I am very proud of my heritage and would live in no other state,” Dunn says.
Dunn is a convert to the Church and is grateful for the stability and guidance the Church has provided to his life. “One of the main features that attracted me to the Church was the structure of its youth program,” he said. “I could immediately see that the Church would help my wife and I raise our children in a positive, supportive environment.”
To Dunn, being a school principal and now a judge means that one’s reputation for integrity in the community is always subject to examination by others. “Having been elected to serve my community as a judge is an honor and responsibility. The teachings of the gospel help me to maintain a proper focus on this responsibility,” Dunn says.
Barton Smith is another Mormon who enjoys living in Texas. He is currently a professor of economics and director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston. Barton says that as an urban economist, life in Houston has been particularly rewarding, as he has watched the city’s transformation and studied its growth as a major part of his academic research.
Smith and his wife, Wendy, moved to Houston in July 1973. They are the parents of five children and have 16 grandchildren. “The Church’s teaching on provident living has kept us from ever suffering the tough economic circumstances many Americans are facing today,” says Smith. “Church teachings regarding the eternal nature of the family have really been the glue to keep us on track.”