Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Google Sabotage

Some enemy saboteur is inserting commercial advertising into my blog posts.   I suspect Google is behind this.  Not going to post anything else until I get to the bottom of this, and get it cleared out.

This is a very hostile action.  It may even be prohibited by law.

This means war...

Okay, settle down.  The problem appears to be some kind of add-on leach that was intercepting my browser messages and inserting the advertisments into the browser stream.  Seems to have been hidden in some add-on package that I downloaded as an extension to Firefox.  Never seen anything like that before.  Next time, I'll be more careful...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


While I suppose some of us will always be driven to delve deeper into such matters, I do not agree with those accusing the Church of presenting a “sanitized” revision of history.   It has become popular and fashionable to put on a public face of intellectual scepticism and doubting.  I think some of us who fall into this category may have unwittingly postured ourselves into the “great and spacious building” crowd. In the most recent General Conference, Elder Holland admonished,
    I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe")
Everyone has doubts. This is not a trivial consideration by any means. But Elder Holland's counsel on how to address these issues is wise.

Please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe")

We should understand that the mission of the Church is to teach the Gospel. To digress from the Gospel message in order to present and explain every historical deviance from the Lord's direction would be counterproductive and distracting. We stipulate the fact that men are imperfect, and tend to err. Our presentation of Church history frequently acknowledges this, and should suffice for the instruction of the general body of the Church. There is no good reason to spend our Sacrament Meetings or Sunday School or Relief Society or Priesthood Meetings detailing every specific abberation.

Today more than ever before, to any thinking person it must be obvious that not all information is equally valid or valuable. It has been observed many times that not all truths are of equal importance or priority. What we are seeking is the greater light that emanates from the heavens.

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24)

Cultivating doubts and entertaining critical examination are fine academic pursuits. But as members of God's Kingdom, we are called to pursue higher goals.

And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given. (Doctrine and Covenants 43:8)

And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand...  (Doctrine and Covenants 88: 77-78)

Monday, July 22, 2013


Winter Quarters

Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Up Cheering

Cobabe Kids 1955

 Time to dry your tears,

No one remembers your pain.

Laughing is better.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Everybody Dies...

I suppose I should approach this from a sort of philosophical perspective...

From the Kung Fu TV Series Pilot (1972), we watch the vignette,
Master Kan: Quickly as you can, snatch the pebble from my hand.
[Young Caine tries to do so and fails]
Master Kan: When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.
Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
In a similar fashion, Jesus instructed the disciples that for those with "ears to hear", there would be signs of what was to come, as clear as the advent of leaves on the fig,
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matt. 24:32–33.)
All the signs would seem to indicate my time to leave.

I went into the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center on Thursday, for coronary angiography.  The results were not good news.  Lots of clear evidence of advanced atherosclerosis.  The cardiologist said many of my coronary arteries are obstructed, and some are fully blocked.  This less than two years since my major bypass surgery.

Perhaps significantly, the doctor did not bother to explain the prognosis, but only to explain that he has no further remedial measures to offer, he sees no reason to try any further medical intervention.  "Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor, Not A Miracle Worker!"  Nature taking its course.

Not that this was any kind of a surprise to me.  I've heard this before, under similar circumstances.  I've been expecting such a verdict since 2008, with several near-death experiences.

Close family members have died recently.  My brother Tom in Sept 2001, my father in April 2011, and my sister Mary in May 2013.

The cardiologist seemed to suggest that I sorta deserve to have arterial disease because I've chosen to be such a fat person.  Apparently he feels that anyone weighing in at anything over 200 pounds is not really fit for his attentions, and is just a waste of his valuable time.   (I am presuming that the good doctor weighs 200 pounds.)  He recommended that I might want to consider some sort of bariatric surgical self-mutilation to correct my defect, and sent a hospital representative to tell me about this popular medical procedure.  The outcome from that meeting was not encouraging either.

Not that I'm much interested in this sort of thing.  I didn't really even have a chance to voice my vote on the heart surgery, at the time.   But apparently it was just assumed, since I showed up at their hospital.  Going to the ER seemed like the natural thing to do, since I was hurting at the time.  In retrospect perhaps it was a mistake.  From now on, I'll not be so anxious to find relief from suffering pain at the hands of doctors.  Over the last five years, the medical folks have consistently demonstrated to me that such a trivial consideration as easing pain is far from their first priority.

So it hurts.  But I'm not dead yet.  And I'm not giving up hope.  I've faced this kind of attitude before, and it is no use trying to obtain any further medical help from those with this sort of fatalistic thinking.  Seems like the medical guys are trying to make me believe, "Resistance is futile".  I'm willing to try reasonable things.  But five years ago, I encountered a similar attitude in the doctors attending me after the stroke that should have killed me then.  The suggestion then was for me to take anti-depressants - and find another doctor.

Some time later, a University of Utah neurologist discovered that I had a tumor that was causing at least some of the problems. I had seen literally dozens of doctors with the same symptoms.  Nobody else came up with any diagnoses that seemed even remotely related.

Not every doctor seems exclusively focused on the technical aspects of the medical practice.  There have been notable exceptions that I recognize and apprieciate, like Dr. Digre, Dr. Skalabrin, Dr. Kennedy, Dr. Kielar, and others.  Some seem to realize that the relief of pain and suffering is one of the best things medical science can do for humankind.  But perhaps this pursuit is simply too mundane for most doctors to face - I really don't know.  All I know is, I go to doctors seeking pain relief, and most of them only seem to perceive me as an object that needs "fixing".

I am far beyond the point of hoping for that.

Apparently for me the most obvious interests to pursue now are end-of-life considerations.

Everybody dies.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trial by Tee-shirt

Yes, it probably is.

One thing stood out in Eric Samuelson's dramatic review of the George Zimmerman trial coverage.  Samuelson wrote,
I am frightened for our country.  I thought it was a good thing in our country when we elected a Black man as President.  When I saw photos of Tea Party rallies with men wearing T shirts that read ‘Keep the White House White,’ I thought it was just a minor thing, a vestigial remnant of our bad ‘ol past.
My first impression was that it seems somewhat odd, to judge such an important issue on a basis as trivial as a tee-shirt slogan.  So I went to the Internet to verify the availability of such slogans.  Surely something so regarded as representative should be easy to find on Google search.

Sure enough, someone captured a photo of the infamous tee-shirt.

Such things are certainly not any kind of anachronism.  They're being sold today across the Internet.

Just a little aside to Eric - perhaps you will note that the shirt itself designates this as a "Romney/Ryan" campaign event, not a Tea Party rally. And it seems to be one man wearing the tee-shirt in question, not a whole cadre.  Please pay better attention.  Details such as these might be important.

But as I searched for tee-shirt themes, I came across quite a diversity of interesting examples of the tee-shirt slogan mentality.

This one is a very nice example.

And this one comes across with a certain style that leaves little to the imagination.

Unfriendly tee-shirt slogans certainly seem to be something to be feared!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Revisiting: Reflections on Fatherhood

Revisiting long-ago posts from the Bloggernacle, some reflections on fatherhood...

The Divine decree has always been informed by a certain special relationship that the Sons of God share with their Father in Heaven.  Fathers and sons in Zion are a typical reflection of this relationship.

What a perfect provocation for a personal tirade!
 …how having children has changed them...
Indications of how children changed fathers are always there, and are usually just as obvious as the signs of the motherhood dynamic. Women generally cannot see them, or do not care to acknowledge them.

I speak as a divorced, former father. Because of my own cynicism I find it doubtful that women are really interested in fatherhood stories at all. I suspect that they really just want fathers to tell motherhood stories.

In my experience, men have far less of a proprietary sense with regard to children. To a mother, her children are status objects very much like property. Our social and legal system ratify this proprietary interest. Even among church members we hear of divorced familes, “The children follow the mother”. (Whatever they think that means.)
…how they juggle the demands of working...
(Laughing…)  Amazingly, this is one the mothers seldom comprehend, not even “single” mothers working full time. For fathers, children and families are the demands of working. As a former father and single man I don’t feel the same obligation to perform and compete at work or anywhere else. The family is the strongest motivating force for fathers.

Working is not a juggling act. It is a crushing, overpowering everpresent insatiable demand that we impose upon ourselves, through endless reinforcements and social conditioning.
…nurturing their family...
Nurturing doesn’t really belong on the fatherhood list, does it? Since the term is basically synoymous with motherhood, it doesn’t apply.

I’m not just cynical about this observation. Motherhood has its own set of expectations that constitute a holistic definition. Why should the terms of fatherhood be forced into the same definition?
…and maintaining their sanity...
Again, this is a motherhood cliche. Too many mothers resort to this kind of gratuitous self-aggrandizing hyperbole — “Oh, you should congratulate me, I survived another day with the kids (and my Prozac)!

When they were part of my stewardship I never asked for or wanted a medal for providing for the children. Even after our relationship was legally terminated I continued to to my best to support them, though they ceased to acknowledge me as a father. Fathers don’t require special recognition just for doing their routinely accepted duties. That seems to be a singular distinguishing factor.

Imagine me writing a suggestion that to celebrate mothers’s day, women should try to relate to their children more like a man.

  • Take your children into the forest for a day, teaching them to run a chainsaw and heft a double-bit axe, and bring home five cords of firewood.
  •  Train your children to understand and respect automobiles by rebuilding an engine, with the stipulation that they must walk or find rides everywhere until the job is finished.
  • Help your kids understand the meaning and value of life by teaching them how to slaughter a domestic animal that they have raised, and preparing it for food for the family.
  • Provide opportunities for temporary employment for your children that involve high hazards and routine risk of serious personal injury. Educate them in how to deal safely with such risk. Teach them to endure temporary physical discomfort and pain without complaining. Help them understand that preparing meals and doing laundry are not comparable burdens.

Do these qualify as “nurturing”? They would for me. These are some of the kinds of things I could have taught my former children, things that they will likely never learn from their mother.

June 14, 2006 at 9:52 am
...that is exactly the kind of nurturing my dad gave me. I love him for it...
Mine too. It was always dad’s job to go camping with us, to take us to work with him, to bring us home dirty and tired and a little bit bruised and bloody from time to time.

My dad served in the bishopric in our ward during most of the time I was growing up. He was always busy. But I don’t think he shortchanged us on time spent.

This is what I mourn the most for my lost children. They have a “nurturing” mother who decided that by her standard their father was not making a positive contribution. So she decided to change the arrangement. And she had every resource of the law and the church to support her. As well as my continuing mandatory financial “obligations”.

It has been more than ten years, and I have seen or heard nothing from my children since then. But I suppose they are “nurtured”.

Memorable moments of early fatherhood.

Mental image of firstborn son Jim. (He used to share my name. I don’t know what he calls himself today.)

At the instant of birthing, he emerged with skin colored bright blue. Shocked, unexpected, wondering what went wrong. The first breath, feeble cries, and quickly turning healthy pink. The most incredibly full and dark mane of thick black baby hair running halfway down his back.

Weeping with joy, filled with the most intensely overwhelming emotional flood.

A photo of son Jim, just a toddler. In an unsupervised moment, him standing in the unfinished basement room, the current family project. Beaming brightly, his little hands and arms raised high, coated an inch thick up to the elbows with heavy yellow sheet rock mud.

Hustles off to the shower.

A handful of boys at play in the sandbox. Son Robert, five or six years old. Shouting, “By the Power of Greyskull!!!”. Unsheathes a long butcher knife from hiding down the back of his t-shirt, and strikes a pose emulating the tv hero He-Man, brandishing the knife as his invincible weapon, threatening his foes in the sandbox.

Frantic parental intervention.

Another vignette of Robert, several years older. Unaware that he is being observed, standing on the sidewalk contemplating as neighbors drive by. He finds a big rock and launches it at Randy Jones passing in his truck. Strikes a bullseye. Randy stops abruptly with a squeal of tires. Looking at me...
Better do somethin’ ’bout that, slick.
Oh yeah, I will. 

Randy continues on. Robert takes to his heels, dad following into the house at a slightly more leisurely pace.

Intensive father/son discussion on why we don’t throw rocks at cars.

A landscape moment. Striving to make the desert blossom. Mother and children huddled around the front porch, watching in shock as dad wrestles with the ditch-witch that won’t. Frustrated and enraged beyond control, temper long-lost, cursing and swearing a blue streak.

At a later sandbox session, father overhears the interplay where one of the children announces that his name is “Dammit”.

Sincere father/son discussion about how we sometimes say things that we know we shouldn’t.

Son Thomas, eleven, suffers a serious leg fracture at the roller-skating party. Shocked at such an unexpected turn, the father secretly weeps tears of fear and anguish. 
Father in Heaven, please, let the pain and suffering come to me — please spare my children! 
 Thomas spends miserable months in wheelchair and full cast...

What a fragile thing our lives really are.

Son Joseph, the most sensitive of the boys. He is so enthralled with Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers that he has a prolonged tantrum when his games are interrupted.

Some soul-searching for an answer. The game is retired.

Dad goes to summer camp with the older boys. Along the hiking trail, son Robert is separated from the party for a brief time. Searching, praying, franticly looking for some clue that he might have passed this way, through the thousands of acres of wilderness surrounding. Shortly thereafter, as he is found...
I couldn’t find you guys anywhere!
 Trying not to show the tears of relief and gratitude.

Dad and son wrap their arms around each other, for a brief instant understanding and acknowledging everything that it means to be dad and son.

Discussions about what to do when we are lost.

Another short picture of the integral father/child bond of long ago…
Son Joseph, retired to his bed early, suffering from flu, feverish. The rest of the family is eating dinner together.

Some strange signal from the children’s room alerts that something is wrong.
Distress!  Help!
Urgent message, unuttered, yet clearly received.

Hastening into the room. The child’s body is distended and racked with convulsions. His skin is dusky, ashen gray — impossible. No living person can turn that color. Shock condensed into one horrified frozen moment.

Suddenly comprehending the need to act, a frantic summons issues for ambulance and paramedics. Confusion over what to do, not knowing what might be wrong.

Then, a few quiet seconds, like the eye of the hurricane passing over.

Father gently takes the infant son in his arms. He quietly pronounces a priesthood blessing.

Moments later, the paramedics arrive and the calm is broken. Amid noise and haste, the child was carried away to the hospital.

Tense hours followed. Doctors performed diagnostics and made recommendations.

But everything turned out okay. And the father knew, assured from the moment of the blessing, that it would be so.

And I believe that somehow, though he was unconscious, the son knew it as well.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ender's Game rising...

Sure looks like the announced boycott of Orson Scott Card is really having an effect.

Behold the quintessential devil in these matters.  Hmm, he does not appear to have horns.  Must be Photoshopped to cover them up.

Card's popular sci-fi novel of some twenty-five years ago is now showing up in the NY Times top 100 best-seller list.  And has been there for months.
Apparently the upcoming release of Ender's Game as a film production is stirring public interest.  Discussion of this divisive proposed boycott shows up in some interesting places such as here, here, or here, affording some insight into where the lines have been drawn.  The media sharks sense blood in the water, and are engaging in a feeding frenzy regarding Card's supposed reaction to homosexual activists disapproval for his outspoken defence of traditional social values.

Reported in a touted "Entertainment Week" exclusive, Card quipped: 
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute. 
These days, "tolerance" seems rather nuanced in the direction of the politically-correct.  Apparently "tolerance" means "I approve of anyone who agrees with me".  Just fine to express venomous hatred and contempt for any who think differently.  Hollywood fringe interests now seem to reserve the idea of "tolerance" as their own exclusive quality.  Apparently, no others need apply.

A local blogger opines, " retreat, Card couldn't resist playing the victim", and ascribes Card's supposed cowardly backing-down to his fear that he might lose some money as a result of the boycott.  Never mind that others have characterized Card's support for traditional marriage campaign as "working ceaselessly for the last decade".  Not sure how one derives from this that he was only in it for financial gain. Another convoluted rationale supposes that Card's recalcitrant behavior must be a by-product of his latent homosexuality.   One over-hyped liberal voice characterized Card's remarks as "ironic", apparently in the sense that Card has supposedly been the one guilty of intolerance.  Another popular media source says, "That's not an argument that's likely to carry much weight with anyone who was set to boycott his film, which arrives on November 1."  Most of the accusations against Card appear to be based in ad-hominem.

There have been other such controversies in the past.  Generally represents contrast between "popular Hollywood depravity" versus "traditional Mormon values".  It seems that most Hollywood fads are born and die in a brief moment in time.  Time alone will tell if all the frenzied media attention actually benefits Card, as far as providing hours of free media promotion for his books and the film.  If he was really only motivated by greed and self-interest, it would seem that the proposed boycott plays right into Card's hands.

I personally enjoy Card's writing and editorializing.  Especially relevant are Card's 1990 editorial views on homosexuality.  This seems to be the source material from which many of the "homophobe" accusations made against Card are being derived.  As near as I can judge, these accusations are uniform in misrepresenting the actual context for Card's editorial, in order to effectively pummel the strawman.

I honestly and sincerely hope Mr. Card gets everything he so deserves.  :-)

Latest news - Lionsgate weasels for "LGBT community" proposed boycott of "Ender's Game",  hastens to throw Card and DOMA under the bus, while proposing to host an exclusive advance showing at an "LGBT" coming-out party for the new film.  Perhaps signs of who is really worried about loss of revenue?  ;-)

More interesting news articles on this issue, from the ever-conservative LA Times, here and here.

Further deliberations at "Comic-con" - so appropriately named, convened in San Diego, California

Harrison Ford responds to questions about Ender's Game, in a panel discussion at the convocation.   Ford is obviously a smart man - his responses were good answers.

Not to be outdone, NY Times throws a hat in the ring.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Reiterating: Bypassing Blog Security

Some time ago someone at one of the less moderate "moderators" at a rather uncommon LDS blog became perturbed at my participation in the discussion, and activated whatever lame mechanism they use to try to block people they don't agree with from participating. Why did I care? I wasn't aware that I did until I found that the blog did not even prompt me for a comment any more.

Well, it turns out that this blog and most others use a software black box called Akismet that supposedly filters out unwanted stuff. It is supposed to keep spammers from cluttering up the place.  It works just fine for preventing spam.

I decided that anyone rude enough to presume to cut me off deserved more-or-less equal treatment. So I started researching the Akismet machine to figure out how to bypass the security measures.

According to the authors of the software, it is supposed to be very smart. As far as I can tell, it isn't. Akismet just tries to associate comments with a list of IP addresses and other possible junk commonly associated with spammers.

I have known for some time of software servers that anonymize the IP address of a web browser session. So, being the persistent bother that I am, I experimented until I could post again.

After I had accomplished that rather unremarkable feat, I was nonplussed to realize that I had absolutely nothing to say. So I decided to study more about Akismet.

This defense mechanism reminds me of the Star Trek phaser dilemma when attacking the Borg defenses.

Phasers could only penetrate their shields on the first few tries. After that, the Borg shifted the frequency of their shields to restore attenuation.

Blog operators only have a few parameters they can use to check incoming traffic against known spam offenders. This approach doesn't work at all against those who know how to shift the values of those parameters. It is effective against spam only because the spammers are mostly mindless automatons exploiting easy undefended targets.

I suppose most network users do not have much idea what an IP address signifies, let alone how to manipulate it. To put it simply, IP addresses are assigned by software, and can be easily changed or manipulated by software. Internet users with a bit of technical savvy and ambition can easily switch IP numbers and other software parameters. And for every more sophisticated technique of tracking addresses, there are even more elaborate schemes to conceal them.

My web browser volunteers personal information to web pages I interact with. I have no obligation to surrender this data, nor do I see anything unethical about refusing to freely hand over everything arbitrarily demanded. When blog operators use my voluntary compliance as a weapon against me, they forfeit my willing cooperation. The blog security structure is based entirely on voluntary compliance. I become an advocate for freedom from oppression.  Unless they resort to a closed system that only allows comments from established, trusted sources, blog operators cannot do much to block anonymous comments.

Not only that, but I strongly suspect that this particularly uncommon blog and others like it absolutely depend on anonymity to even operate at all. Many LDS Internet users who tend to waver on the lunatic fringe have grown noticeably paranoid about someone taking note of what they say in open forums. And rightly so, I suppose. Ironically, I suspect many of those with such concerns do not exactly subscribe to the principle of uncommon consent. They want free license to criticize the Church and speak evil of the brethren without suffering any consequence. This uncommon blog is not about to jeopardize the mechanism that affords naysayers a forum in which to offer criticism without disclosing their identity.

Also an interesting phenomenon observed in this context - on another similar blog, after some supposedly anonymous person had left behind a stinking deposit of obscene comments on my blog, I happened to make casual mention of the fact that "anonymous" comments on the Internet are not really anonymous, and are in fact rather easy for a technically-minded blogger to track to their origin.  Most gratuitously, the obscene comments ceased.  Good thing, too - it was starting to draw flies. :-)

I recently renewed my attempts to participate on the uncommon blog.  They didn't seem to want to bother blocking me again, just deleted some of my comments that someone apparently found alarming, or took exception to.  The mental gymnastics some will go to in trying to protect the sanctity of the domain they have staked out for themselves is just amazing to me - worth every effort to defy their devious "moderation", for the entertainment value alone.

I think it would be most interesting to know just how incoherent the casual hackers who read this post find it.

Thanks for all the fish.

LDS Church Leaders: Legislating Morality

Church Authorities speak on “Legislating Morality”

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)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Some Responsibilities of Citizenship

Certainly an appropriate occasion to seriously consider comments offered in other years, on this day of celebration of independence and freedom in this great country

Elder Oaks shares his concern about the future of the rights and privileges we enjoy as citizens of this country, and admonishes us to turn to "responsible personal conduct" as a the only legitimate means to promote and preserve our heritage.

Quoting from the previous year's speech by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
Our whole society really rests on the capacity of its citizens to give 'obedience to the unenforceable.'
Elder Oaks observes that these days it is popular to speak of "rights".  He suggests that the security of the rights of citizens is dependent in measure on how we meet the corresponding responsibilities.

He addresses three particular responsibilities that represent current issues:
  • serving in the military
  • paying taxes
  • participating in democratic government.

In preface, he refers to the general responsibility of followers of Christ, and particularly LDS, to recognize and be supportive of civil authority.  Citing several of the admonitions of Paul, as well as the LDS 12th Article of Faith, and other scriptural references,
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work (Titus 3:1)
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  (Romans 13:1)
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.  (Articles of Faith:12)
We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.  (Doctrine and Covenants 134:6)
Elder Oaks warns,
Church members who seek to use LDS doctrine as a basis for concluding that government infringements on inalienable rights have excused them from obeying the law seem to have forgotten the principle of following the prophets. Until the prophets invoke this principle, faithful members will also refrain from doing so. We remain committed to uphold our governments and to obey their laws.
Regarding the belief of some who voice their objection to the first two things mentioned, Elder Oaks points out, "Both claim that the government compulsion to do these unpopular things interferes with freedom".  They commonly conflate the issues of freedom and slavery.  He points out that Jesus never advocated for freeing slaves, though slavery was common practice in his day.

These objections contradict the familiar teaching of Jesus,
...Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.  (Matthew 22:21)
Citizens are not free to choose which laws they consider themselves not subject to, and which they opt to obey.  This rationale to justify disobedience to the laws of the land is not far removed from justification for disobeying the laws of God.

With regard to taxes, he quotes from Will Rogers,
 We're just lucky we're not gettin' all the government we're payin' for!
He mentions being contacted by a number of LDS-affiliated tax protesters over the years, who justified their non-compliance with various rationales.  But he cautions that an LDS member
...who refuses to file a tax return, to pay required income taxes, or to comply with a final judgment in a tax case is in direct conflict with the law and with the teachings of the Church....If a member disapproves of tax laws, he may attempt to have them changed by legislation or constitutional amendment, or, if he has a well-founded legal objection, he may challenge them in the courts.

He discounts the legitimacy of arguments based on
  • peephole history
  • selective readings of historic documents
  • advice of persons who advocate private armies
  • collection of heavy weapons
  • extraordinary quantities of private arms
  • draft avoidance
  • tax evasion
  • eccentric theories
Elder Oaks promotes greater citizen participation to resolve three major problems: 
  • ever-increasing massive national deficits
  • reacquire state powers and initiatives usurped by the federal government
  • reestablish the principle of limited federal government powers.
One caveat to citizen participation is a warning to avoid "single interest groups". In applying political pressure to address specific issues, these specialized "single interest groups" tend to lose broader focus on what can be the solution of the large general problems that affect the entire body politic.

He warns, "...we must not go into blocking tactics when a representative body fails to satisfy us fully on our favorite special interest".  Americans are well advised to support the best that can be obtained in the circumstances that prevail.  While this represents unacceptable compromise in the view of some, most important historic government and political developments have been enacted in such a fashion.

Oaks lists a number of possible acceptable ways citizens can participate in supporting good government:

  • Celebrations of citizenship, patriotism, and national holidays and values.

  • Volunteer work in public institutions.
  • Assisting private education at all levels.

    • Working with activity and athletic programs for young people.

    • Supporting and helping in charitable projects.

    • Helping to clean up the air, water, and soil.

    With regard to the superficial "hero" status our society invests in modern "stars", Elder Oaks observes that the true hero is seldom seen pursuing "rights", but that most often the real hero is characterized by "distinction in the fulfillment of responsibilities".

    Every citizen has the potential for achieving epic heroic status by finding the best within each of us.

    We all have to be heroes!