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.

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.

Fridays in Congo

I was still single when I was sent to Central Africa as an international aid worker, to work as a teacher in a slum suburb of Kinshasa, capital of Congo. I got a room in a frail school building, part of a convent of Catholic nuns. The space had a bed, a table, a toilet, and a sink.


This time Nathalie wears a miniskirt. On Sunday, in Church. In spite of last week’s interview. In spite of the one the month before. And other months. For quite some time the matter had been about her bare midriff. Now the miniskirt.

Maria’s treasure

Maria, a seventy-five-year-old widow, member of our tiny Mormon branch, had asked me to meet her at a Notary’s office. She wanted me to be the executor of her will. I reluctantly agreed, remembering the council of a friend to avoid that kind of responsibility. But since I was the branch president…

The why and when of baptism

How prepared should a person be before being baptized? How long should this preparation take? Recently the permabloggers had a brief e-mail exchange on this topic. The participants found it interesting to submit it to our broader forum.

Earth Day and the Church

Today is Earth Day. A number of denominations have given their support to environmental issues, encouraging their members to be sensitive to the protection of the environment. This not only pertains to the major (and controversial) topic of climate change and global warming, but to all the small things people can do daily to save energy, sort waste, recycle, be attentive to what we purchase…

The organ

It was a historic day for our tiny Flemish branch when we replaced the old harmonium with a new electric organ. Nothing could better symbolize our progress, lift the morale of our handful of members, and prepare the way to convert the whole city.

How quick we are to condemn

In Notes from all over a link was added to a news item claiming that the latest Dutch spelling reform requested that the name “Christ” be written with a lower-case “c”. That information was spread on various American news channels and blogs. Flurries of comments ensued.

Martha’s Sacrament

Martha was one of the older sisters in our branch. We counted a scant dozen of them, singles and widows, making more than half of the congregation and being its very backbone. When I got to know her, Martha was in her sixties. Huge by nature and strong from her lifelong labors as a market woman, she lived in a modest but sunny apartment, four flights high. Rent and utilities took most of her tiny pension, but she managed. Every Sunday the happy woman rode to church on her big black bicycle, rain or shine. She entered our old rowhouse as if it were a palace, beaming faith and friendship. In the living room, meaning our chapel, she gave talks and testimonies with a stentorian voice, developed during her years on the market place, praising Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon like she had exalted her Jonagolds and luscious tomatoes grown in the summer sun. Each time, at the end of her tribute, emotion would fracture her fluency to a choking whisper and tears would flow. Ah, Martha, what a force you were in our Primitive church! Then came the stroke, one night. Only hours later a neighbor heard her moanings. Hospital. Next Martha had no choice. Paralyzed from the waist down, incontinent, with neither family nor savings, she was consigned to a social hospice for indigent elderly by the Commissie voor Openbare Onderstand – the city Commission for…

Free speech versus respect for religion

The Islamic world is reacting angrily to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper. Demonstrations, threats, flag burning, forcible closure of Western offices — we know the scary pictures. In defense of free speech and to show support for the Danish editors, newspapers in France, Italy, Spain and Germany have also published the cartoons, exacerbating the wrath of Muslims.

The right to believe

An Italian atheist, Luigi Cascioli, has started a lawsuit against a Catholic priest, claiming that the priest violates Italian law, which does not allow the abuse of popular belief. Such as when people are fraudulently deceived in believing falsehoods, namely, according to Cascioli, the historical existence of Jesus Christ. The lawsuit is drawing international attention.

I can’t, he said

I have on my desk a primitive pen holder in ceramic, about four inches high. The figurine, crudely shaped, shiny in its warm terra cotta coat, represents a little man holding a tiny bucket in which a few pens and pencils can be stacked. Many years ago, an eleven-year-old girl kneaded and baked the clay in the children’s activity room of a hospital, during her long convalescence. She made the figurine for me.

Tax control

The letter we received from the Tax Control Department was preprinted. Handwritten had been added a date, a number and the addressee: Kerk van Jezus Christus van de Heiligen der Laatste Dagen.