Saturday, July 25, 2015

Early History of Mormons in Utah

When the Mormons settled in the Great Basin in 1847, the territory they proposed as the "State of Deseret" was a substantial claim.

Following the Mexican-American War, the Treaty of Hidalgo was ratified by the United States Senate on March 10, 1848, annexing land originally claimed by Mexico.

The proposed State of Deseret included what now comprises Utah and most of Nevada, pieces of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico and California, and bits lapping over into Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Utah was eventually designated as a US Territory in 1850, with substantially reduced area.

 In 1857, President James Buchanan sent troops on the Utah expedition to bring order to the lawless Mormons and to replace Brigham Young as territorial governor with his political appointee, Alfred Cumming.

Cumming had prior political experience as the former Mayor of Augusta GA.

In response to the troop advancement, Brigham Young ordered all residents of Salt Lake City and neighboring communities to prepare their homes for burning and evacuate southward to Utah Valley and southern Utah.  Some of my ancestors wrote about filling their Salt Lake home with straw, and moving to Provo to escape from the encroachment of Johnston's Army.

Young also sent out a few units of the Utah militia to delay and harass the army. The majority he sent into the mountains to prepare defenses, or south to prepare for a scorched earth retreat.

Army wagon supply trains were captured and burned and herds or army horses and cattle run off, but no serious fighting ever occurred.

Starting late and short on supplies, the United States Army camped during the bitter winter of 1857 near Fort Bridger in Wyoming. Through the negotiations between emissary Thomas L. Kane, Young, Cumming and Johnston, control of Utah territory was peacefully transferred to Cumming, who entered an eerily vacant Salt Lake City in the spring of 1858.

By agreement with Young, Johnston's troops marched on through Salt Lake City and established a military encampment at Fort Floyd, a remote location in the hills to the southeast.

In 1862,The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (37th United States Congress) was a federal enactment of the United States Congress, banning bigamy and confiscating church and non-profit property in any territory of the United States over $50,000.

The act was exclusively targeted at Mormon plural marriage and the property dominance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Utah Territory.  Lincoln chose to ignore the Morrill Act in exchange for Utah not choosing sides in the Civil War.

The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act was amended in 1882 by the Edmunds Act, and then again in 1887 by the Edmunds–Tucker Act.

Congress passed the Edmunds act  into law on March 23, 1882, signed by president Chester A. Arthur, declaring polygamy a felony.  The Edmunds Act also prohibited "bigamous" or "unlawful cohabitation", so there was no need to prove that actual marriages had occurred before punishing these dangerous felons.

It was passed in a fit of Victorian-era reaction to the perceived immorality of polygamy, which was often compared to slavery.

Some of the provisions of the anti-Mormon legislation: 
  • Disincorporated the LDS Church and the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, with assets to be used for public schools in the Territory.
  • Required an anti-polygamy oath for prospective voters, jurors and public officials (in direct violation of Article VI of the US Constitution).
  • Annulled territorial laws allowing illegitimate children to inherit (thus disallowing inheritance by children of polygamous marriage).
  • Required civil marriage licenses to facilitate prosecution of polygamy.
  • Abrogated the common law spousal privilege for polygamists, thus requiring wives to testify against their husbands.
  • Disenfranchised Utah women voters, who had been enfranchised by the Territorial legislature in 1870.
  • Replaced local judges (including the previously powerful Probate Court judges) with federally appointed judges.
  • Abolished the office of Territorial superintendent of district schools, granting the Supreme Court of the Territory of Utah the right to appoint a commissioner of schools (along with other related Byzantine rules that amounted to book-burning).
Following the service of Cumming at Territorial Governor, John W. Dawson was appointed.  Dawson fled the territory and his post as governor after only three weeks, after he purportedly made "grossly improper proposals" to the Mormon widow Albina Merrill Williams, who promptly responded by thrashing him with a fire shovel.

Federal Marshals in the Utah Territory then took license to become roving polygamy hunters.

A number of these dangerous convicted felons were imprisoned in the newly constructed Utah State Penitentiary at Sugarhouse, including Mormon leader George Q. Cannon.

In February, 1889, my ancestor Peter Barton was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment for "unlawful cohabitation," but before having served his full term, he was pardoned, being the first "Mormon" ever pardoned by Pres. Benjamin Harrison.  My suspicion is that Barton may have been released because he was leading the organization of a Church unit among the inmates.  Barton served as Bishop of the Kaysville Ward for more than 30 years.  He also held a number of civil positions, such as justice of the peace, city recorder of Kaysville, etc. He served two terms in the Utah legislature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Utah Places: Tushar Mountains

One of the destinations I have neglected to mention is the Tushar Mountains of central Utah.  Perhaps the most attractive feature this area offers is that it seems to be far less popular than Wasatch or Uinta, though the Tushars have many beautiful places.

The highest point is Delano Peak.  Mount Belknap is the other notable destination high point. 

Many of the canyons in the Tushars have been the site for gold mining, and evidence of the mining activity remains.

Bullion Canyon above Marysvale is one such site.

I don't know how much gold was ever extracted, but the miners were certainly ambitious enough in their pursuit.

Delano Peak is home to a substantial Mountain Goat population, and they can often be seen above the tree line.

When I was young, my Dad and his brothers often visited the canyon north of Marysvale for their annual deer hunt.  Some of their adventures in the canyon are nothing less than legendary.  We sometimes stopped at Hoover's Cafe at the mouth of the canyon by the river.

Also just north of the canyon is an area of some geological interest called Big Rock Candy Mountain.  Yes, the Burl Ives song inspired the name, and the silly lyrics adapted by locals to tell all about the curious features.  It really is a geological oddity.  Today the area is a small developed resort, and I tend to avoid such places.  If you have an interest in such amenities they are readily available, also nearby in Beaver, Marysvale, and other local towns.

The Sevier River that flows through the canyon also has some nice trails for biking or hiking.  Some touristy place or other hosts float trips, but the river is pretty placid.  An old innertube would work fine.

I have also visited the area that has previously been the old Elk Meadows and Mt. Holly resort.  The drive up from the Circleville side is a spectacular mountain road climb from the valley into lush green mountain meadows teeming with wildlife.  The roads above the abandoned resort provide good access to Mount Delano.  Apparently the resort has been reopened as a new development called Eagle Point, so I'm not certain of the status of roads that go through private land. 

A beautiful mountain destination, whether you approach from Beaver, Marysvale, or Circleville.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Long may it wave

o'er the Land of the Free

and the Home of the Brave!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Flags and Political Tradition

Flag-waving is a time-honored political tradition.  In our culture, we create flags as a symbol, to represent what we stand for, and what we believe.

With certain political campaigns, some symbols are intended to enlist the support of certain groups.  They were intended to say, we're part of your group.  Vote for us.

Some of the symbols represent rather a special focus.

To which flag do you pledge your allegiance? I know which flag commands my respect today.  It has little to do with political interests.

Reiterating LDS Church Leaders: Legislating Morality

Church Authorities speak on “Legislating Morality”

I take it as an institutional failure that the representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not prevail over the sophistry of opposing arguments in defending against the recent Supreme Court ruling.  It is a sign of the times.

Church leaders have consistently advocated for laws based on morality.  Seems fairly obvious...

“Don’t legislate morality.” I suppose persons who mouth that familiar slogan think they are saying something profound. In fact, if that is an argument at all, it is so superficial that an educated person should be ashamed to use it. As should be evident to every thinking person, a high proportion of all legislation has a moral base. That is true of all of the criminal law, most of the laws regulating family relations, businesses, and commercial transactions, many of the laws governing property, and a host of others.
So what does it mean when a person says, “Don’t try to legislate morality?” There is ample room for debate on the wisdom of most legislation, whether it has a moral base or not. Some legislation is unwise or undesirable because it is an excessive interference with liberty or because it will be impossible or expensive to enforce. But the mere statement that we should not legislate morality contributes nothing to reasoned public discourse.  (Dallin H. Oaks, Gambling—Morally Wrong and Politically Unwise)

Until recently, ethics and moral philosophy were the foundation of higher education. They were a legacy passed from generation to generation. Those values are as relevant today as when they were taught by Aristotle. Said he, “Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law, and without justice” (Politics, 1.1253a, 31–34). Therefore, public and private morality need much greater emphasis everywhere.  (James E. Faust, Will I Be Happy?)

When believers enter the public square to try to influence the making or the administration of laws motivated by their beliefs, they should apply some different principles.
First, they must seek the inspiration of the Lord to be selective and wise in choosing which true principles they seek to promote by law or executive action. Generally, they should refrain from seeking laws or administrative action to facilitate beliefs that are distinctive to believers, such as the enforcement of acts of worship, even by implication. Believers can be less cautious in seeking government action that would serve principles broader than merely facilitating the practice of their beliefs, such as laws concerning public health, safety, and morals.
Believers can and must seek laws that will preserve religious freedom. Along with the ascendancy of moral relativism, the United States and other nations are experiencing a disturbing reduction in overall public esteem for religion. Once an accepted part of American life, religion is now suspect in the minds of many. Some influential voices even question the extent to which our constitutions should protect the free exercise of religion, including the right to practice and preach religious principles.
This is a vital matter on which we who believe in a Supreme Being who has established absolute right and wrong in human behavior must unite to insist on our time-honored rights to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues, and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with other believers to preserve and strengthen the freedom to advocate and practice our religious beliefs, whatever they are. For this purpose we must walk together on the same path in order to secure our freedom to pursue our separate ways when that is necessary according to our separate beliefs.
Second, when believers promote their positions in the public square, they should always be tolerant of the opinions and positions of those who do not share their beliefs. Believers must always speak with love and show patience, understanding, and compassion toward their adversaries. Christian believers are under command to love their neighbors (see Luke 10:27) and to forgive (see Matthew 18:21–35). They should also remember the Savior’s teaching to “bless them that curse [them], do good to them that hate [them], and pray for them which despitefully use [them], and persecute [them]” (Matthew 5:44).
Third, believers should not be deterred by the familiar charge that they are trying to legislate morality. Many areas of the law are based on Judeo-Christian morality and have been for centuries. Western civilization is based on morality and cannot exist without it. As the second U.S. president, John Adams, declared: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”9
Fourth, believers should not shrink from seeking laws to maintain public conditions or policies that assist them in practicing the requirements of their faith where those conditions or policies are also favorable to the public health, safety, or morals. For example, even though religious beliefs are behind many criminal laws and some family laws, such laws have a long-standing history of appropriateness in democratic societies. But where believers are in the majority, they should always be sensitive to the views of the minority.
Finally, the spirit of our balance of truth and tolerance is applied in these words of President Hinckley: “Let us reach out to those in our community who are not of our faith. Let us be good neighbors, kind and generous and gracious. Let us be involved in good community causes. There may be situations where, with serious moral issues involved, we cannot bend on matters of principle. But in such instances we can politely disagree without being disagreeable. We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept. We can speak of principles rather than personalities.”10  (Dallin H. Oaks, Balancing Truth and Tolerance)
The Founding Fathers very likely were aware of the experiences of Roger Williams and others when they wrote in the First Amendment that the government cannot impede the free exercise of religion. They wrote that the church and the state were to be separate, independent entities, not to eliminate morality and God’s law but to make sure that the power of government could never be used to silence religious expression or to persecute religious practice. Once again quoting George Washington: “If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution, framed in the convention where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it.” (Maxims of Washington, New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1894, pp. 370–71.)
What would Washington have thought if he could have foreseen our day? Would he have signed the document?
I believe he would have been troubled to see a time when citizens are forbidden to pray in public meetings; when people claim that “you can’t legislate morality,” as if any law ever passed did not have at its heart some notion of right and wrong; when churches are called intruders when they speak out against public policy that is contrary to the commandments of God; when many people reject the correcting influence of churches if it infringes on daily living; when religion is accepted as a social organization but not as an integral part of national culture; when people bristle if representatives of churches speak in any forum except from the pulpit.
Indeed, some people now claim that the Founding Fathers’ worst fear in connection with religion has been realized; that we have, in fact, a state-sponsored religion in America today. This new religion, adopted by many, does not have an identifiable name, but it operates just like a church. It exists in the form of doctrines and beliefs, where morality is whatever a person wants it to be, and where freedom is derived from the ideas of man and not the laws of God. Many people adhere to this concept of morality with religious zeal and fervor, and courts and legislatures tend to support it.
While you may think I am stretching the point a bit to say that amorality could be a new state-sponsored religion, I believe you would agree that we do not have to look far to find horrifying evidence of rampant immorality that is permitted if not encouraged by our laws. From the plague of pornography to the devastation caused by addiction to drugs, illicit sex, and gambling, wickedness rears its ugly head everywhere, often gaining its foothold in society by invoking the powers of constitutional privilege.
We see a sad reality of contemporary life when many of the same people who defend the right of a pornographer to distribute exploitive films and photos would deny freedom of expression to people of faith because of an alleged fear of what might happen from religious influence on government or public meetings. While much of society has allowed gambling to wash over its communities, leaving broken families and individuals in its soul-destroying wake, it reserves its harshest ridicule for those who advocate obedience to God’s commandments and uniform, inspired standards of right and wrong.
As M. J. Sobran recently wrote: “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it.” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58–59.)
There are probably many reasons for the change in public attitudes toward religion. Certainly we’ve had too many wolves posing as shepherds, prompting a national skepticism toward any who profess to represent God. The news media, which rarely report on the good things churches are doing in the world, almost never miss an opportunity to tell people when active church members do wrong. We read about crimes that are committed by former Sunday School teachers, ministers, or missionaries. But when was the last time you read that a crime was committed by someone who hasn’t stepped inside a church in forty years?
For that matter, when was the last time you saw religion or people of faith portrayed positively in any film or television program? For the most part, Hollywood’s attitude toward religion is typified by the expression of cartoon character Bart Simpson, whose mealtime grace consisted of these words: “Dear God, we pay for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” Can you imagine how embarrassed and disappointed our Founding Fathers would be to know of the blasphemous disregard many of those of the media have for God our Eternal Father. In fact, noted film critic Michael Medved accuses Hollywood of a deliberate attempt to undermine organized religion: “A war against standards leads logically and inevitably to hostility to religion, because it is religious faith that provides the ultimate basis for all standards.” (“Popular Culture and the War against Standards,” speech delivered at Hillsdale College, 18 Nov. 1990.)
Organized religion finds itself increasingly on the defensive. Not only are people questioning the right of the church—any church—to be involved in matters of public policy, but some are even beginning to wonder whether the church is entitled to exert any kind of meaningful influence on people’s lives. As one churchgoer recently said on a radio talk show, “I think the world of my minister—as long as he doesn’t try to tell me how to live my life.”
Is it any wonder, then, that religion now finds itself under attack in legislative assemblies and in the courts? In fact, the United States Supreme Court recently discontinued the time-honored judicial standard that gave considerable legal latitude to the free exercise of religion. Allowing people of faith to practice their religion free from the burdening effects of public policy is, according to the court, “a luxury that can no longer be afforded.” While the justices acknowledged that the ruling would “place at a relative disadvantage those religious practices that are not widely engaged in,” they said it was “an unavoidable consequence of a democratic government.” (Oregon Employment Division v. Smith, 1990.)
I do not promote the religious practice that was in question in that case but I am concerned with the long-term implications of the decision. Wherever religious groups are in the minority and are not considered part of the mainline religious community, the potential for state intrusion upon their religious practices is real. With legislative bodies responding most often to the will of the majority, the free exercise of religion by minority faith groups is in peril.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HR 2797) is presently before Congress. This important piece of legislation is designed to restore the protections for religious freedom that existed before this recent Supreme Court decision placed those protections in jeopardy. Because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is necessary for the preservation of the free exercise of religion, it demands our support.
The constitutional provisions relating to government and religion were not intended to control the religious rights of people. Rather, they were intended to expand them and eliminate the fear of government intrusion. These provisions were meant to separate religion and government so that religion would be independent. The experiences of Roger Williams and other reformers provided the Founding Fathers of the U.S. with important facts to help them deal with the potential risks of a state religion corrupted by politics. Consequently, they drafted an article in the Bill of Rights to guarantee religious freedom from government as opposed to government freedom from religion.
In fact, the framers of the Constitution probably assumed that religious freedom would establish religion as a watchdog over government, and believed that free churches would inevitably stand and speak against immoral and corrupt legislation. All churches not only have the right to speak out on public moral issues, but they have the solemn obligation to do so. Religion represents society’s conscience, and churches must speak out when government chooses a course that is contrary to the laws of God. To remove the influence of religion from public policy simply because some are uncomfortable with any degree of moral restraint is like the passenger on a sinking ship who removes his life jacket because it is restrictive and uncomfortable.  (M. Russell Ballard, Religion in a Free Society)

If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins. I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law due to this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? of cruelty to animals? of pollution? of fraud? of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?
Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so that our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.   (Dallin H. Oaks, Weightier Matters)

Let me say again that the family is the main target of evil’s attack and must therefore be the main point of our protection and defense. As I said once before, when you stop and think about it from a diabolically tactical point of view, fighting the family makes sense to Satan. When he wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he doesn’t poison the world’s peanut butter supply, thus bringing the Church’s missionary system to its collective knees. He doesn’t send a plague of laryngitis to afflict the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He doesn’t legislate against green Jell-O and casseroles. When evil wants to strike out and disrupt the essence of God’s work, it attacks the family. It does so by attempting to disregard the law of chastity, to confuse gender, to desensitize violence, to make crude and blasphemous language the norm, and to make immoral and deviant behavior seem like the rule rather than the exception.
We need to remember Edmund Burke’s statement: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 6 We need to raise our voices with other concerned citizens throughout the world in opposition to current trends. We need to tell the sponsors of offensive media that we have had enough. We need to support programs and products that are positive and uplifting. Joining together with neighbors and friends who share our concerns, we can send a clear message to those responsible. The Internet Web sites and their local affiliates will have their addresses. Letters and e-mails have more effect than most people realize, especially those like one sent by a Relief Society sister that stated, “I represent a group of over a hundred women that meets every week and often talks about the harm your program is doing to our children.”  (M. Russell Ballard, Let Our Voices Be Heard)

We must be aware that one of the most powerful forces Satan uses to destroy our purity of life is the deceit of conspiring men.
While deceitful men produce and sell alcoholic drinks the whole world over, to the amount of millions of gallons and for millions in gains and profits, the truth of the Lord’s words is coming home today in the terms of poverty; broken health; broken homes; broken hearts; industrial distress through loss of efficiency, lower production, and absenteeism; and carnage on the world’s highways, caused partly through the determination to exceed the speed limits on the highways.
In this day of the “new morality” as sex permissiveness is sometimes called, we should be made aware of the Lord’s concern about immorality and the seriousness of sex sins of all kinds.
We have come far in material progress in this century, but the sins of the ancients increasingly afflict the hearts of men today. Can we not learn by the experiences of others? Must we also defile our bodies, corrupt our souls, and reap destruction as have peoples and nations before us?
God will not be mocked. His laws are immutable. True repentance is rewarded by forgiveness, but sin brings the sting of death.
We hear more and more each day about the sins of adultery, homosexuality, and lesbianism. Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be brought into the open.
It is the sin of the ages. It was present in Israel’s wandering as well as after and before. It was tolerated by the Greeks. It was prevalent in decaying Rome. The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are symbols of wretched wickedness more especially related to this perversion, as the incident of Lot’s visitors indicates.
There is today a strong clamor to make such practices legal by passing legislation. Some would also legislate to legalize prostitution. They have legalized abortion, seeking to remove from this heinous crime the stigma of sin.
We do not hesitate to tell the world that the cure for these evils is not in surrender.
“But let us emphasize that right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man’s interpretations, conventions and attitudes. Social acceptance does not change the status of an act, making wrong into right. If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, … the practice would still be a deep, dark sin.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Bookcraft, p. 79.)
As we think back upon the experiences of Nineveh, Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, we wonder—will history repeat itself? What of our world today? Are we forgetting in our great nations the high and lofty principles which can preserve the nations?
I recall to mind the words of General Douglas MacArthur on the occasion of the Japanese surrender:
“Military alliance, balances of power, League of Nations all in turn failed. … We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves … improvement of human character. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.” (Douglas MacArthur, “Last Chance,” Time, September 10, 1945.)
Are we not inviting eventual destruction as we desecrate all things holy and sacred, even to the common and irreverent use in our daily talk of the names of Deity, and make his holy day, the Sabbath, a day of work, of commercialism, and of pleasure-seeking?
How then can we hope to escape the wrath of God and have peace and righteousness in the land? The answer came thundering down from Mt. Sinai and remains the answer. We go to Sinai:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. …
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. …
“Honour thy father and thy mother. …
“Thou shalt not kill.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.
“Thou shalt not steal.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness. …
“Thou shalt not covet.” (Ex. 20:3, 7–8, 12–17.)
And now in the year of our Lord 1977 there are among us those same vices which we have seen wreck empires, and we see them becoming flagrant in all nations. Shall we, like Belshazzar, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind? Shall we permit the home to deteriorate and marriage to become a mockery? Shall we continue to curse God, hate our enemies, and defile our bodies in adulterous and sensuous practices? And when the patience of the Lord with us is exhausted, shall we stand trembling while destruction comes upon us? Or shall we wisely see the handwriting on the wall and profit by the sad experience of the past and return unto the Lord and serve him?  (Spencer W. Kimball, The Foundations of Righteousness)

The New Testament invites the repentant disciple of Christ to live as a new person according to this law of love (see Rom. 6:4; Heb. 10:19–24). This renewal should influence our whole view of our duty toward others and our capacity to serve them and the Lord. Thus Paul urged that he who stole should “steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
Moreover, our forsaking of past sins and our desire to follow the Master’s example should make us aware of the need for the highest moral standards in our everyday obligations. President Spencer W. Kimball pointed out that honesty can be taught but not legislated. “‘There ought to be a law,’ many say when corruption raises its ugly head, and our answer is that there are laws—numerous laws which are not enforced; but our further answer is that you cannot legislate goodness and honor and honesty. There must be a return to consciousness of those values.” 6 When people practice those values, the power of the Spirit and the force of love can do what the law cannot—overcome the inordinate greed and covetousness that lead to stealing.  (Richard D. Draper, Thou Shalt Not Steal)
The virtue of tolerance has been distorted and elevated to a position of such prominence as to be thought equal to and even valued more than morality. It is one thing to be tolerant, even forgiving of individual conduct. It is quite another to collectively legislate and legalize to protect immoral conduct that can weaken, even destroy the family.  
“There is a dangerous trap when tolerance is exaggerated to protect the rights of those whose conduct endangers the family and injures the rights of the more part of the people. We are getting dangerously close to the condition described by the prophet Mosiah [in Mosiah 29:26–27]”.  (Boyd K. Packer, Children of God)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Supremely Silly

Apparently this question is currently under judicial review.  And being hotly debated by the learned justices.


Excerpts from the dissenting opinion

[T]his Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.
Nowhere is the majority’s extravagant conception of judicial supremacy more evident than in its description—and dismissal—of the public debate regarding same-sex marriage. Yes, the majority concedes, on one side are thousands of years of human history in every society known to have populated the planet. But on the other side, there has been “extensive litigation,” “many thoughtful District Court decisions,” “countless studies, papers, books, and other popular and scholarly writings,” and “more than 100” amicus briefs in these cases alone. What would be the point of allowing the democratic process to go on? It is high time for the Court to decide the meaning of marriage, based on five lawyers’ “better informed understanding” of “a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.” The answer is surely there in one of those amicus briefs or studies.
The truth is that today’s decision rests on nothing more than the majority’s own conviction that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry because they want to, and that “it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.” Whatever force that belief may have as a matter of moral philosophy, it has no more basis in the Constitution than did the naked policy preferences adopted in Lochner.

On the constitutional basis for a right to same-sex marriage

Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not. The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage. And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational.
The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.
The Constitution itself says nothing about marriage, and the Framers thereby entrusted the States with “[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife.”
Stripped of its shiny rhetorical gloss, the majority’s argument is that the Due Process Clause gives same-sex couples a fundamental right to marry because it will be good for them and for society. If I were a legislator, I would certainly consider that view as a matter of social policy. But as a judge, I find the majority’s position indefensible as a matter of constitutional law.

On the natural and historic basis of the institution of marriage

The premises supporting th[e] concept of [natural] marriage are so fundamental that they rarely require articulation. The human race must procreate to survive. Procreation occurs through sexual relations between a man and a woman. When sexual relations result in the conception of a child, that child’s prospects are generally better if the mother and father stay together rather than going their separate ways. Therefore, for the good of children and society, sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur only between a man and a woman committed to a lasting bond.

On how the majority opinion basically requires legalization of polygamy/plural marriage

Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one. It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.
When asked about a plural marital union at oral argument, petitioners asserted that a State “doesn’t have such an institution.” But that is exactly the point: the States at issue here do not have an institution of same-sex marriage, either.

On what our Founders would think about five unaccountable oligarchs in robes deciding what does and doesn’t constitute marriage

Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority’s conception of the judicial role. They after all risked their lives and fortunes for the precious right to govern themselves. They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges. And they certainly would not have been satisfied by a system empowering judges to override policy judgments so long as they do so after “a quite extensive discussion.”

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Water Reports, 2015

I have used the SNOTEL facility extensively to keep track of available water in Utah.

As you can see from the Mammoth-Cottonwood measurement site in Sanpete County, the precipitation accumulation at that location is slightly less than last year.

At another monitoring station in the Uinta, the Lakefork Site, we can see that accumulated precipitation has been near normal.

The meltdown date for accumulated snow came just a few days earlier than average, though snow accumulation was quite a bit less than average.  This is upsetting to water management people, because they are accustomed to gauging the potential water year by the annual winter snow accumulation.  But in fact, sometimes it doesn't really work that way.  There are exceptional water years.

Examining the history of accumulated precipitation at the Mammoth-Cottonwood Site is also revealing.  It shows the natural fluctuation of precipitation through time.  Judging from the graph, it looks like the variation for this year is pretty normal.

What should probably matter more to water management people at this point is the status of reservoir storage throughout the west.

For comparison, the same report from 2014.

The statewide report of Reservoir Storage for Utah also shows near average water storage.
 Inflow to Lake Powell is in large part a reflection of available water throughout the Colorado River water use area.  The chart shows that inflow usually peaks sometime in early June and continues to exceed outflow until September or October.  The inflow for 2015 looks promising.

Though eastern Utah and Colorado have received far above average springtime accumulation of water, most reporting authorities are claiming that it is much too soon, and far too optimistic, to see any end to the drought situation.

I don't know how to respond to this.  Except it makes me suspect that water management people tend to be pessimistic and rather uncharitable.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Wasatch Wildflowers

Calochortus nuttallii (Sego Lily)

 Wasatch Wildflowers

Photo Collection courtesy of friends at

Hike the Wasatch Club

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nothing to Fear...

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.  (Roosevelt)

 Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.  (German proverb).

It is inarguable that life always entails an element of risk.  But along with the bad things, risk also brings us good.  In this is I am wont to characterize myself as "pro-choice".  In my view, fear - or happiness - is an individual choice.  I choose not to compromise my own happiness obsessing about potential threats to my personal welfare.

Jesus presented this idea to his disciples...
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

In his recent General Conference address, Elder Bednar amplified this idea...
In our daily lives, endless reports of criminal violence, famine, wars, corruption, terrorism, declining values, disease, and the destructive forces of nature can engender fear and apprehension. Surely we live in the season foretold by the Lord: “And in that day … the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:26)....

Our works and desires alone do not and cannot save us. “After all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23), we are made whole only through the mercy and grace available through the Savior’s infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice. Certainly, “we believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3).  (Elder David A. Bednar, April 2015)
We will never satisfy the demands of our fears by assuming a hostile defensive attitude.  This will only foster hatred and resentment.

Projecting our own fears against whoever seems to pose a potential threat only serves to polarize and justify the irrational.  Paranoid delusions will have you imagining the boogie man lurking in every dark corner, but the real bad guys will more likely come from a surprise direction you never anticipated. 

 I’m always amazed by what women will do because they’re afraid.

Make no mistake.  I am not advocating a wimpy passive acceptance of violence and aggression.  We have an obligation to defend ourselves.  But in the end, strong defense always has limits - there will always be someone that is physically superior.

The only way to succeed is found in ultimate promise from Jesus...

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  (John 14:27)