Category Archives: LDS Church

Ahistorical Culture of Laziness

We are at spiritual war.  The adversary, Satan, seeks to destroy us.  He seeks to make us miserable.  One area the adversary is laboring dilligently regards our work ethic and related culture of gratitude and cultural awareness.  All three are related, and as the paths to destruction are many and varied, the adversary would be pleased with us taking one or more of these.

One of the marks of a declining civilization and sagging culture is an overall sense of laziness.  Each of us likely has countless tales of individuals in the workplace or classroom (or chapel) whose laziness and apathy knows no bounds: they seem unwilling to do much of anything, and unconcerned at the notion of accomplishing little or nothing.  If honest, most of us could recount instances where we ourselves manifested an unholy laziness, an idleness which does not breed the best in individuals or families spiritually, emotionally, socially, mentally, or temporally.

A recent co-worker was lamenting over the hardship of sitting in a relatively long (by our standards) meeting.  An hourly five minute break, he claimed, barely made the whole experience tolerable.  I was annoyed at this attitude.  After all, he was at work.  Was he getting paid for self-amusement or entertainment?  If only he could go back a few generations and see the sort of subsistent farming his ancestors (or mine) required to merely survive, laboring sixteen hours a day in cold, heat, etc., with no retirement plan or paid holidays.  How can sitting in an air conditioned room be considered any sort of hardship?

It is a sad indicator that few people understand where we have come from, and therefore lack any sort of significant appreciation for the good in our current circumstances.  There exists neither motive for improvement, nor gratitude for current blessings, nor awareness of the billions today who live literally in poverty, in the humblest of circumstances, living day-to-day and meal-to-meal.  This sort of ahistorical and myopic, self-centered view on life is emblematic of our entire culture.

And it is counter to teachings of Latter-day prophets.  For instance, the admonition in D&C 88:79 for all to seek knowledge:

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home; things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations…and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.

We could consider other examples related to gratitude and charity, to name a few others. 

There are opposing forces to this over-arching laziness.  Redemption continues to be possible, not just for liars, thieves, and Sabbath-breakers, but for the lazy and ignorant as well.  If such poses a significant barrier to spiritual growth and progress, then we are assured that the Savior’s grace is indeed sufficient (i.e. Ether 12:27).  His power is able to save and redeem us from not only external enemies, but from internal constraints which inhibit spiritual growth and development.

Scripture is full of admonitions to shake off our laziness, to awake and arise, to gird up our loins, to shake off the dust or chains which bind us, etc.  Surely the Lord wants us to take this counsel to heart!

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Steps Forward and Back

I served a mission in south Asia among Chinese people, and so I am interested in the spread of the Gospel to mainland China.

Regarding Mormonism, two recent developments are interesting.

Firstly, from this article, I see that Taiwan is down-sizing from three to two missions.  It is noteworthy that a similar event occurred roughly thirty years ago, when the Kaohsiung mission (which was actually the second created in Taiwan to my knowledge) was down-sized after the creation of the Taichung mission (the third created in Taiwan).

Secondly, there is the well-known story of Utah Governor John Huntsman being enlisted to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China.  Huntsman, an active Mormon to my knowledge, would certainly be a friend to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should they be interested in some sort of assistance from Uncle Sam in facilitating ecclesiastical or humanitarian efforts.

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Responsibility Problems

We have a responsibility problem in this country.  It is everywhere, from the voters that voted for President Obama because he would pay their mortgage and utility bills for them (I do not recall him refuting this oft-repeated argument, by the way) to the auto bailouts to local and state governments clamoring for federal stimulus money.

I recently read this interesting and insightful statement in an article regarding record deficits and federal borrowing: “The deficits … are driven in large part by the economic crisis inherited by this administration,” budget director Peter Orszag wrote in a blog entry on Monday.

This follows the pattern: no responsibility.  The deficits are driven by government spending, pure and simple.  It may be true that such spending was seen as necessary by some.  However, to blame the economic crisis for irresponsible and reckless government spending is at least irresponsible and sounds nearly reckless.

Yesterday on the radio, I heard a story about how the Postal Service was needing to increase stamp rates (probably annually) to make up for lost revenue (over $1 billion this quarter alone).  At the end of the story, the reporter mentioned how that people who use email and make purchases online are largely to blame for this rate increase, but that such individuals will likely persist in their behavior.  Again, this sounds completely irresponsible.  Blame is shifted from who is truly responsible (the U.S. Postal Service for not providing a service whose costs are covered by individuals who will voluntarily pay) to those who are not (individuals acting freely, economizing to save money in hard times, or increase convenience in good times).

Lest you be concerned that I am pounding on democrats alone, I find that the GOP blame games which we have seen repeatedly over the years show a similar trend: the mainstream associated with both major parties shows major irresponsibility.

Contrast this with us, with you and I.  In a time of frozen credit and economic hardship, none of us can afford to make reckless personal economic decisions.  We can blame whoever we choose, but ultimately, it is our own individual responsibility to make sure that we are economically healthy.  None of us have the political clout and lobbying power to bend Washington to our will, nor should we.  Instead, we are to rely on tried and true principles of budgeting, economizing, and hopefully saving, consistent with provident living.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, fiscal policy, LDS Church, Libertarian, Mormonism, Paleoconservatism, politics, Prepare, recession, Social Commentary

Old-School Communication

Let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege. – D&C 88:122

I admit it: I’m antisocial.  It used to be a little badge of shame.  Now, I don’t mind it.  It’s part of my identity.  That’s who I am.

When I do talk with people in my imperfect way, there’s a very old-school technique I strive to employ.  I try to use a scriptural word that appears hundreds, if not thousands of times in scripture.  It is this: listen.

I find that people I enjoy talking with also employ this technique and do so effectively.

I have been disappointed to find over and over again that among people of my demographic (mid 20s to mid 30s), there are people who lack the interest in, much less skill of, listening.

Don’t get me wrong.  Some listen very well.  But there are many who do not, and put very little effort in doing so.

Not listening is a significant communication problem.  One related problem is interrupting.  Tuning out to someone’s droning is one thing, but wilfully interrupting a conversation or a sentence is a whole other level of rudeness.  Butting into a conversation when uninvited is similarly rude and could even be considered an invasion of privacy.  Giving unnecessary and unwanted glares is an unspoken method of rude expression, though common in society, especially here in the midwest.

Over the centuries, private discussion between individuals has led to conventions of conversation.  We call these manners.  They have been a safeguard to keep people civil and communication effective and humane.

In general, the state doesn’t care too much for manners.  The IRS doesn’t seem too grateful for our taxes.  Nor do say “Excuse me” when a tax increase comes along, nor ask our permission.  They have monopolistic privileges, so it’s understandable.  (That’s not to say that people who work for the state never have manners, for humane people do and will work in large bureaucratic organizations of all stripes, including governments.)

It is sad to see the rising generation discounting manners.  Respect and reverence in general have declined.  This is evident in the Church, where reverence and grooming, to name two examples, have degraded now compared to a generation ago.  A normal Sunday makes me wonder whether we are running a daycare or a Church.  Occasionally I wonder if we run a zoo.

Why are manners important?  Here’s one line of thinking: consider the damage one ill-spoken word can do.  We have all had experiences with one or two hurtful words.  Then multiply this a thousandfold to get some idea of how damaging and hurtful our communication can be when we refuse to follow the conventions used to protect each other: manners.

We need a return to old-school politeness, manners, reverence, and respect, especially with respect to interpersonal communication.  It’s a simple way of maximizing personal and social benefit, and in these tough times, we need all the help and support we can get.

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Good News on China

Reading this article gives me great hope in the future.

To see China investing in Taiwan, and the continuation of increasing ties and connections between the island and the mainland is very positive news indeed.

Why is it such great news?

One reason is the theology that contention is of the devil, and so reconciliation is a move away from the adversary’s ways and tactics and towards the Savior’s ideal of unity.

Another reason is that the closer relations between Taiwan and China become, the less likely a worldwide conflict will stem from their animosity (less than ten years ago, relations were significantly frostier between the two).  Avoiding world war, in my opinion, is always a good thing.

A third is that closer ties between Taiwan and China and the inevitable economic growth to follow is a great example to the rest of us to avoid isolating ourselves from each other, both as individuals and as nation-states.  For instance, are sanctions really that effective at punishing governments we oppose?  Are they moral?

A fourth, and perhaps the most important, is that a greater opening of China to the outside world will eventually result in the preaching of the Gospel on mainland China.  I am a firm believer the day is coming when the Gospel will be proselyted, at some level, in mainland China, and this type of information makes me think the day is increasingly closer.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, foreign policy, LDS Church, Libertarian, Mormonism, Personal, politics, War

Capitalism in the Work of the Lord

I served a mission to one of the Four Tigers.  This Asian economy rapidly developed and when I was there not quite ten years ago, didn’t seem all that different, in many respects, from the United States.  There were many advantages to serving in a country where capitalism had literally transformed daily life.  Consider the following:

  1. Many people had leisure time to spend with their families and to hear the Gospel as a result of regular time off (like a weekend or a vacation, for instance); it wasn’t that long ago when six and seven day work weeks were much more common in one of these countries.  This also means that Church members would have more time to spend helping and assisting in the work: temple trips, missionary exchanges, and Home Teaching are just three examples.
  2. Many people had much higher incomes than just a generation or two previous: financially, they could contribute much more to the Church than those who are impoverished.  They were more able to travel to the temple, serve missions, get an education, and support their family on one income.
  3. Housing included luxuries like indoor plumbing, hot water heaters, air conditioning, and privacy.  My wife, alas, was not so lucky: she had a semi-private outhouse in her backyard which served as a latrine and cold-water bucket shower, and no air conditioning in a very hot and humid Central American country.
  4. Time-saving devices like bicycles were not only common but inexpensive and high quality as well.  The work, in my opinion, would not have progressed as quickly without bicycles.  Laugh if you like, but this would have been a significant constraint in sharing the Gospel.
  5. Another time-saving device was the traditional fast-food hole-in-the-wall restaurants.  These neighborhood restaurants may not have passed OSHA or FDA inspections, but the food was delicious and inexpensive and relatively healthy: we trusted places where the locals ate.  I can’t think of any food poisoning downtime as a result of one of these many decisions to eat out.  You may attribute this to the Lord’s protection of His servants, that they may be able to consume poison and not be harmed.

You may find it silly to consider the benefit of capitalism in the work of the Lord, but I can’t help thinking of David O. McKay’s account of their trip to China to dedicate that land for the preaching of the Gospel, around 1920 or thereabouts.  He told of countless beggars desperately looking for food.  Elder McKay and his companion were swarmed at the Beijing train station.  Conditions were primitive.  Due to unrest and instability, he recommended to the First Presidency that China would have to wait for the preaching of the Gospel.

To consider the miraculous changes in China since the early 1920s (or even Mao’s cultural revolution in the 1960s) is remarkable to me.  I see it as the hand of the Lord preparing China to open its doors to the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, LDS Church, Libertarian, Mormonism, Personal, role of government

The Compromise of Spirituality in Entertainment

Many Mormons justify violence and immorality in books and film by appealing to scriptures.  They say something like, “Have you ever read the last chapter of Ether, or the tale about Ehud in the Book of Judges, or David and Goliath, or Captain Moroni’s battle with Zerahemnah?  If there is so much violence in scripture, then violence in media must not be a problem, as long as the consequences are visible.” 

A similar argument goes for immorality: “Have you ever read about Judah’s transgressions in the Book of Genesis, or David’s transgression with Bathsheba, or Hosea marrying a prostitute?  If there is so much immorality in scripture, then immorality in media is OK, as long as the consequences are visible.”  (I am using immorality to mean portrayals of sexuality.  For when sexuality is crassly explored in a public venue, beyond the privacy it was divinely intended for, it becomes immoral.)

A great example of this argument was written by a relatively popular Mormon author named Brandon Sanderson.  In an interview on the Times and Seasons blog, he said,

“A wise friend (an LDS writer) once explained that in his opinion, glorifying violence or sexuality comes when consequences are removed. The scriptures themselves don’t shy away from graphic content or descriptions (scalps on swords, anyone?) The important issue, however, is that the scriptures show the destructive effect that these things can have, even on the good people who are forced to engage in them.”

This is a clear illustration of this idea.  As long as the consequences are made known, then viewing or reading it should be OK.  Granted, General Authorities, including, in my remembrances, Elder Ballard, may have made recent statements which can be interpreted to be consistent with this ideology.  But perhaps there is a misunderstanding of intent and context.

We should consider is the admonition in the 13th Article of Faith, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  Notice the Article of Faith does not mention that if there is anything graphic or violent or immoral we seek after these things, as long as it is in the proper context.  No, the Prophet Joseph teaches that we seek after virtue and beauty.  Now of course, some may say that a book can be violent or immoral to some degree and still be praiseworthy.  In whose eyes is it praiseworthy?  This is somewhat of a slippery slope.

Why do I say this is a slippery slope?  We all know that desensitization is real.  We all know someone who doesn’t find the most violent violence shocking, or the most graphic pornography morally troublesome.  And the pathway to this line of thinking is desensitization: too many R-rated movies in grade school, or even kindergarten, can have bad results, especially when a strong moral backbone is not included in one’s life.  Even with a strong moral backbone, individual choices can offend the Spirit.  A great scriptural example of this is Laman and Lemuel, who had seen an angel, but were so wicked they were “past feeling,” that they could not “feel” his words.  Likewise, when we choose to view something offensive, the Spirit is offended, and cannot dwell in unholy temples.  If we are choosing to be in an unholy temple, then how can the Spirit be with us?  If we ignore this loss of spiritual sensitivity, then we do so at the risk of our own spirituality.  Where do we draw the line?  When have we decided we’ve had our fill of sin or trashy entertainment?

My contention is that what we view pertains to our morality and our spirituality.  Yes, Jesus taught that whatsoever cometh out of a man defileth a man, and not what we consume (Matt. 15:10-20).  But consider that when we consume (i.e. visually) something violent or immoral, often spirituality is compromised.  What we participate in can directly affect our thoughts, our beliefs, and our attitudes.  Just as when we read scripture or go to General Conference, our thoughts are uplifted and attitudes can change, so to when we read a book or see a movie or even listen to a particular song, our attitudes and beliefs can be modified; even the slightest modification can be spiritually detrimental.  In that way, what we consume can lead to what comes out of our minds, our mouths, and our actions.

And of course whenever we choose to view something, some thought is proceeding out of our mind.  If our motivation to view something unclean in not right in the sight of God, then we have, according to the scripture, defiled ourselves, even before we have seen whatever it is we desire.  The mere thought, proceeding from our hearts, can defile us, if it is not right in God’s eyes.

That is not to say this is a sole factor in one’s spirituality.  But it is a factor, and a significant one considering the focus on media in today’s world.

Creating or recreating violent or immoral content can compromise one’s spirituality, even if consequences are presented.  This is not to say that it always does so.  But there is always this risk, and to ignore this risk is again, spiritually dangerous.

Why is there so much violence and immorality in scripture, then?  Why is that justified?  There are several reasons.  One is that scripture represents words spoken under inspiration of God.  If God commands someone to write something, then that is obviously justified and right.  But to suppose that fiction writing (however well-intentioned) is equivalent to scripture is a bit of a stretch for me.

Another is the understanding that some scripture is more spiritually significant than others.  2 Nephi 9 is more scriptural and spiritually significant for us than the numbering of the Levites in the Old Testament, for instance, or the descriptions of David’s warriors.  Rarely do we find the violent and immoral episodes embedded in the core doctrinal scriptures.  There are exceptions, of course.

Consider the toned-down violence in any recent Church film.  Surely that is a guide for how graphic violence should be toned down, even when it is absolutely necessary to tell an important, scriptural story.  If it is to be toned down for a scriptural story, then what about an optional, fictional story?  Is there a double standard?

Another is the teaching from Mormon (Moroni 7:12-13) that

  12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
  13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Scripture clearly qualifies as inspired of God.  We wonder what about the muddled middle, that which mostly persuades to do good some of the time, or just sort of persuades to do good?  We remember that there are many doctrines: some are of God, some are of men, and some are of devils (D&C 46:7).  Verse thirteen describes the divine doctrine, and verse twelve the devilish.  We can imagine there are man-made doctrines as well.  It is likely there is some neutral middle ground where individuals are free to act, for it is not meet that we be compelled in all things; else we are slothful (D&C 58:26-27).  We are also admonished to judge righteous judgment (JST Matt. 7:1).

Ultimately, we have to rely on our own judgment, based upon our own understanding and experience.  If our hearts are true, then we will be guided in the way pleasing to Him.  Some decisions may not matter (D&C 62:5).  In time, as we spiritually mature, we put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:11).  But sometimes we still may enjoy a game of t-ball, metaphorically speaking.

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