Category Archives: Politics

Mixing politics and religion, the wrong way

Even though my disaffection with the Democratic Party began 30 years ago (under Jimmy Carter), I remained a registered Democrat until last fall, when I switched my affiliation to Republican. However, articles such as this give me pause to reconsider:

Utah County Republicans defeated a resolution opposing well-heeled groups that a delegate claims are pushing a satanic plan to encourage illegitimate births and illegal immigration.

Don Larsen, a Springville delegate, offered the resolution, titled “Resolution opposing the Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal,” warning delegates that an “invisible government” comprised of left-wing foundations was pumping money into the Democratic Party to push for looser immigration laws and anti-family legislation.

Larsen said Democrats get most of the votes cast by illegal immigrants and people in dysfunctional families.

But it’s not the Democrats who are behind this strategy, Larsen said. It’s the devil.

“Satan’s ultimate goal is to destroy the family,” Larsen said, “and these people are playing a leading part in it.”

Larsen’s resolution contained quotes from the New Testament on the battle between good and evil. The copy of the resolution handed to delegates stated it “fulfills scriptural prophecies about our times.”

Larsen offered a similar resolution at the 2007 convention. That also was defeated by delegates.

And we’re all glad it was.   ..bruce..

A people set apart: Mormons and Prop 8

There has, of course, been much discourse on the bloggernacle about Proposition 8 in California and the Church’s involvement in it. Leaving aside the various arguments on the merits of gay marriage itself, the merits of the arguments on both sides of Prop 8, and the merits of the Church’s involvement in passing Prop 8, I was struck by a different thought today:

It may well be that God inspired Pres. Monson to take this approach to put all of us within the Church in a difficult position.

I am struck as I read through the ‘nacle at the number of posts that in one way or another express the thought, “Why can’t we be more like other churches and/or society at large?” This shows up in any number of ways, but I see it time and again. Often it’s a fervent wish that we would do away with one or more Church practices, doctrines, or historical events (missionary program, tithing, Word of Wisdom, garments, temple recommends/restrictions, the First Vision, priesthood restoration, the endowment, all-male priesthood, lay ministry, succession in the Church presidency, etc.). It certainly has shown up in the discussions on Prop 8, where the most recent post I read today used the word “fiasco” to describe the Church’s (successful) effort to support Prop 8.

My own reading of both Church and scriptural history suggests that the Lord often requires of His people practices and beliefs that prevent easy assimilation into the surrounding culture. And assimilation is what a lot of us would like. We’d like to fit in, to not have people look at us funny, to not have to explain about gold plates and special underwear. We’d like people to admire us unreservedly for being Latter-day Saints and to welcome us into their embrace, whether secular or ecumenical.

Ain’t gonna happen, at least not in my opinion. In fact, the way I read the scriptures, the gap is going to widen, not shrink. And we really are going to have to decide where our loyalties lie, regardless of our opinions about the merits of Prop 8 and/or gay marriage in general.

Of course, I find it funny and ironic that some of the same ‘naclites who complain about the Church doing this or that for “PR purposes” are now complaining about what a “PR disaster” the Church’s support for Prop 8 is.  Examine again the educational level and professional accomplishments of those who comprise the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Do you really think these people weren’t clearly aware of just what would happen with the Church throwing such active support behind Prop 8? What they did, they did with the full knowledge and expectation of what the backlash would likely be, both short term and long term. After all, the Church had already been through this thirty years ago with the Equal Rights Amendment; President Monson and Elders Packer and Perry were in the Twelve back then as well, while several other Apostles (Ballard, Wirthlin, Scott, Hales) were General Authorities as well. That opposition was a constant news item and source of controversy not for days or weeks, but for months and years.

For that matter, those exact same individuals were likewise present for and involved in the Church’s decision to change its policy regarding blacks and the priesthood; I’d strongly recommend reading Edward Kimball’s 80-page article on that decision in the latest issue of BYU Studies (vol 47, no. 2).

And yet the Church took its activist stand for Prop 8 anyway. I think that actually argues for this being an inspired decision, because a purely rational one — from the sense of acceptance by society at large — would be at most to issue a simple disapproval.

In short, while any of us can (and clearly many do) disagree with the Church’s actions in this matter, I think it’s foolish and contrary to the facts to claim that Church leadership went into this decision out of fear, bigotry, and/or short-sightedness. I suspect it required very careful deliberation, discussion, and prayer — not to mention serious legal and political advice — and that they made the decision with eyes wide open as to the almost-certain backlash.

The real question is, how do we deal with our own feelings, particularly those who disagree with the Church’s actions? Even if we believe the decision to be a mistake, if our decision is to publicly criticize and excoriate the Church and its leadership, then what mercy and treatment do we expect from Christ (or, for that matter, from Church leaders and members) for our own follies, mistakes, and weaknesses? As I wrote back in 1994:

What is critical in this process [i.e., dealing with what we see as errors by Church leaders] is that it should be done with the same confidentiality, sensitivity, understanding, patience and forgiveness — in short, the same Christ-like behavior — with which we would desire our own imperfections and errors to be handled. The Savior taught that “if they brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother.” (Matt 18:15) The Savior goes on to say that if that brings no results, we should inform the Church — which I would interpret as meaning the appropriate divinely-appointed stewards, not our circle of friends, the members of our ward, or the readership of Sunstone and Dialogue [not to mention the entire Internet]. We would probably be outraged, and rightly so, if we found that a church member — much less a church leader — was publicly criticizing our performance in our church duties; we’d even be upset over private criticism, if it was shared with those not involved in the situation. Yet all too often, we feel little compunction — and, worse yet, a great deal of self-righteous satisfaction — about doing the same, whether privately, over the net, in print, or even over the pulpit or lectern.

Given the above, the idea of a “community response” [by Latter-day Saints] to the statements, decisions and actions of church leaders is as appalling and inappropriate as would be a “community response” — complete with private discussion and correspondence, newspaper ads, public lectures and published articles [and again, blog postings] — as to how well any one of us is carrying out his or her stewardships within the Church and within his or her family. It ignores the dignity of the individual, and commandments toward charity, tolerance and forgiveness, and the channels which the Lord set up to deal with these issues. I suspect the Lord will not justify us in such a course, and that — whatever the errors of those we criticize — upon us will remain the greater condemnation.

As always, your mileage may vary.  ..bruce..

Oh noes — they burned a Book of Mormon!

The local (Denver, CO) TV news reported that someone burned a copy of the Book of Mormon on the doorstep of an LDS chapel on Easter Avenue in Centennial, Colorado (south Denver):

Church members told authorities that a group of Cub Scouts discovered a copy of the Book of Mormon burning on the steps of the building around 4pm on Tuesday. The Scouts also noticed two men in a silver sedan nearby, who reportedly left quickly after being spotted.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the incident may be tied to the church’s support of Proposition 8. The controversial measure overturned a previous Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in the state of California.

Be sure to watch the video feed; the graphic of a copy of the Book of Mormon surrounded by flames is a nice touch. 🙂

Actually, the only thing that bothers me about this is that the Channel 2 news anchor — or whoever wrote his teleprompter copy — called the Church “the Church of the Latter-day Saints”. Given how much the Church has been in the news for the last 18 months, you’d think that the could at least get that right.

As for the burnt Book of Mormon, my basic thought is: Gov. Boggs would think they were all wusses. ..bruce..

Let’s hear it for atheists!

No, really. Over in England, where the government has been drifting slowly towards a de facto Sharia law, a group of atheists has started a cheeky public ad campaign, stating that there probably is no God:

The sides of some of London’s red buses will soon carry ads asserting there is “probably no God,” as nonbelievers fight what they say is the preferential treatment given to religion in British society.

Organizers of a campaign to raise funds for the ads said Wednesday they received more than $113,000 in donations, almost seven times their target, in the hours since they launched the project on a charity Web site. Supporters include Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins, who donated $9,000.

The money will be used to place posters on 30 buses carrying the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The plan was to run the ads for four weeks starting in January, but so much money has been raised that the project may be expanded.

In a global climate where Mozart concerts are cancelled, novels are pulled from shelves, and video games are recalled over fear of offending Muslims, it’s nice to see a group exercising free speech — what of it remains in England.

The REPO Atlas: the Jaredites (part 1)

[Here is an introduction to the REPO postings. Also I’ve made a few updates below.]

It’s hard to mine any detailed information about the Jaredites out of the book of Ether itself. What we have is Joseph Smith’s translation of Moroni’s highly selective and condensed abridgment of his (or Mosiah[2]’s) translation of Ether’s very condensed (“twenty-four gold plates“) and late summary of somewhere from 2000 to over 3000 years of Jaredite history. Outside of the brother of Jared’s theophany of the premortal Messiah, and the occasional speculation on just how those barges were built, most of our quotes from the book of Ether tend to come from Moroni’s commentary rather than anything the Jaredites did or said.

Ether becomes a bit more interesting, however, when we ask ourselves just how the Jaredite civilization(s) splintered, interacted (usually by fighting), and re-merged, and what kind of religious behavior and institutions existed. It’s particularly interesting to note how different the Jaredite narrative reads from the Lehite narrative in both political and religious aspects.

Continue reading The REPO Atlas: the Jaredites (part 1)

The Book of Mormon REPO postings: an introduction

“The first rule of historical criticism in dealing with the Book of Mormon or any other ancient text is, never oversimplify. For all its simple and straightforward narrative style, this history is packed as few others are with a staggering wealth of detail that completely escapes the casual reader. The whole Book of Mormon is a condensation, and a masterly one; it will take years simply to unravel the thousands of cunning inferences and implications that are wound around its most matter-of-fact statements. Only laziness and vanity lead the student to the early conviction that he has the final answers on what the Book of Mormon contains.”

– Hugh Nibley, 1952 (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 5: Lehi in the Desert / The World of the Jaredites / There Were Jaredites [Deseret Book/FARMS, 1988] p. 237.)

Some months back, I had a lengthy back-and-forth discussion in the comments to a posting I made over at Mormon Mentality. The starting point was Dan (of The Good Democrat) taking issue with a comment I made about the Book of Mormon’s applicability to current world situations. Dan’s contention (see comment #8) was that the Book of Mormon dealt strictly with a bipolar situation (Nephites v. Lamanite), which had little bearing on today’s multi-polar world. I strongly disagreed with Dan’s bipolar characterization of the religious-political situation described in the Book of Mormon and expressed my opinion that a careful reading showed a very complex, multipolar situation instead.  The argument went back and forth for several postings, with neither of us convincing the other.

However, it did trigger my desire to do a series of postings discussing the religious-political (REPO) “atlas” (if you will) of the Book of Mormon. I’m not breaking any new ground with this; real Book of Mormon scholars (starting, as always, with Nibley) have been doing this for years.

But I think it’s worth taking the time to see what the Book of Mormon has to say about the very complex religious and political elements of the peoples it discusses. As Nibley and others have noted, the Book of Mormon record is far from simple or simplistic. We tend to read it that way because Nephi and Mormon — who account for the vast majority of the Book of Mormon text — both followed the theme of the ultimately doomed Nephites vs. the ultimately redeemed Lamanites.  (See this article by Steven L. Olsen for an interesting discussion on whether Mormon consciously patterned his abridgment of Nephite records after Nephi’s small-plates writing.) But in spite of that, the Book of Mormon text itself reveals and suggests a far more complex religious, political, and social milieu. The goal of these postings will be to point out some of that.

Some of my observations may be original, but I tend to doubt it. 🙂 I own and have read over three dozen volumes dealing with the Book of Mormon; I also have read just about every issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Most of my insights are likely ones that I have gained elsewhere. Where I can and am willing to dig back in, I will offer specific cites (such as the Olsen article above), but my intent at this point is not a scholarly work; it is merely to suggest complexities that may be easily overlooked in a normal reading of the Book of Mormon.

I’m going to start with the Jaredites for three reasons. First, they predate the Lehite arrival and set up a context for it. It’s pretty clear that there were Jaredite/Lehite interactions well before Coriantumr staggered into Zarahemla, given some 400 years of geographical coexistence and the occasional Jaradite name showing up in Lehite circumstances. Second, the Jaredites represent something unique in the scriptural canon: God’s dealings over a few thousand years with a post-deluvian, pre-Abrahamic (and pre-Melchizedek) people.  Third, we (as members and even as LDS scholars) really tend to ignore the Jaredites, so it’s good for them to get a little more attention.

Now to go write that Jaredite posting.  ..bruce..

Another perspective on the continuing crisis

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

— Sara Teasdale

[cross posted from And Still I Persist]

[full size (3008×2000) original photograph]

Some words of wisdom for Sarah Palin

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose:

“I am often made aware of the utter uselessness and folly of seeking to vindicate my character…from the simple fact that although foul aspersions can be bruited far and wide, held to the fluttering breeze by every press and rolled as sweet under every tongue, yet while the vile slander is fairly refuted and truth appears in the most incontestable manner it is permitted to lie quietly upon the shelf in slumber the sleep of death or if by chance it should get published in some obscure nook or corner of this great republic be most religiously suppressed as tho in fear that the truth should be known and believed.”

— Brigham Young writing to (then) U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, 1855 (quoted in 40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young, Orton & Slaughter, Deseret Book, 2008, pp. xiv-xv)

Doesn’t look as though the interwebs have changed things all that much.  ..bruce w..

[cross posted from And Still I Persist]