Category Archives: Mormonism

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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Sunday Morning Thoughts on Nihilism and Transcendentalism, and Exaltation in Film

I recently have been persuading my four year-old to watch snippets of the Disney film Fantasia 2000 (one of my favorite all-time films) on youtube.  So far, he has been willing to do so.

I have a passion for classical music, and I find that the music featured on Fantasia 2000 (similar to the music featured on the original Fantasia) includes some of the greatest musical achievements of western civilization.  I have a desire to show my children that there is something valuable, something profound, something meaningful, something transcendent, and even something divine in these great orchestral works, and thus in life itself.

The stories told by the animators, too, are primal and transcendent.  Themes include pure romantic love, family love, the power of community, transcendent communal unity with the divine, individual strength, sacrifice, and timeless struggles of life vs. death and light vs. dark, among others.  Thus, the movie is moving, enjoyable, and profoundly meaningful.  I realize how far off the mainstream I am with this analysis: for instance, when watching this movie nine years ago with a friend and two siblings, I was the only one who thought the movie was better than a marginal “OK.”

And yet, when I compare these transcendent, timeless themes coupled with sublime music, I cannot help but compare this film presentation to that of the other extreme: nihilism, (or meaninglessness) as in The Dark Knight and The Fountain.

Discussing nihilism is pointless and contradictory: if everything is meaningless, then why put forth any effort to preach such a philosophy?  If there is meaning or purpose in preaching meaninglessness, then one does not truly believe in meaninglessness.

It does not take a brain surgeon to comprehend this: such is really the default philosophy of existence.  Just as failure is the default mode of success in life (if we do nothing, we fail to accomplish anything), so nihilism is the default mode of existence (if there is no meaning in anything we do, life must be meaningless).

Who is it that encourages us to adopt this philosophy, that life is dark and meaningless, that values bind us down, and that there is nothing else beyond this dark and dreary existence?  The answer is obvious: the adversary wants us to believe this.

In contrast, the Lord wants us to be happy and to find joy even in darkness and despair.  As we do so, we find the sublime fruits of progression, unity, love, and holiness.  Living the disciples’ life, we can find the good wherever we look and wherever we go, if we choose to do so, and use that knowledge and those experiences to our eternal benefit and our exaltation.

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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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Movie Recommendations

Let me recommend two movies about life and relationships.  (These are private human relationships and have no relevance to the relationship between man and state.)

First, I recommend Bella.  It’s a film that tackles important themes related to tragedy, relationships, the grind of day-to-day living, joy, and family.  Some would and have seen this as overly sentimental.  I find it interesting and emotionally powerful.  In terms of objectionable content, there is very little in the way of violence, profanity, or immorality.  See for details.

Because of Winn-Dixie is another film considered simplistic or overly simplistic.  I find it another interesting exploration of human relationships.  The dog is really a projection or catalyst for each of these.  This film explores relationships pertaining to a broader human community as opposed to focusing solely on the nuclear family.

I find both films containing principles consistent with what we Mormons consider “Zion:” the ideal society where imperfect, fallen individuals through their own goodness and God’s grace lift and bless each other.

Be warned that my wife has lukewarm appreciation for both of these movies.  But I find they explore important themes in a thought-provoking way and with a convincing emotional power.  They speak to me.  I challenge you to find books or films that touch and move you and cause you to think.

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Tolerating the Intolerant: Yes on 8 = Yes on Hate?

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!     -Isaiah 5:20

While listening to the situation regarding Proposition 8 and its on-going backlash this morning on the radio, I couldn’t help but think about the above scripture.  There has been (and will continue to be) some measure of mocking, violent disagreement, and even persecution to those who supported Proposition 8 in California last November.  My hats are off to all who patiently reason sensibly through the nonsense and childish behavior.

This link is a list of all donors for and against Proposition 8.  Some of those who supported it have been picketed against.  Many angry emails have been sent.  Boycotts have been attempted.  One of the common refrains is that a vote for Yes on 8 is a vote for Yes on hate.

There’s great irony and misunderstanding with those that see a vote for “Yes on 8” or opposition to a homosexual lifestyle in general as equated with a vote for hatred of homosexuals.  One can hate the sin and love the sinner.  This is a possibility, though many seem to think it impossible or incomprehensible to do such a thing.  How sad to be so limiting in one’s comprehension of the possible!

A great irony is that many (admittedly not all) of those who preach tolerance with regards to homosexual marriage or homosexual rights themselves are intolerant with those who oppose a homosexual lifestyle.  “Please be tolerant to me,” they may say, “But give me maximum latitude in rejecting and being intolerant of you and your beliefs.”  I find this inconsistent: either be tolerant of all, or intolerant of all, and expect the same from others.

(Lest you misunderstand, I realize there are many homosexuals who do not have this perspective, but understand somewhat the complexity of a Christian stand against homosexuality.)

This problem extends to many other areas.  For instance, those who believe that public education should be very tolerant and accepting of secular humanism while intolerant of divergent views and beliefs.

Or consider the government’s intrusive (and increasingly intimate) and unconstitutional airport searches and seizures (I’m tempted to ask the TSA officer for a signed warrant, or some sort of legal explanation of how this squares with the Fourth Amendment, but have a feeling that won’t go over well): we are to be obedient and 100% submissive and supportive, while at the same time, no amount of toleration will be given for someone unwilling to go through such an invasive search: they are denied flight entry.  Further, government socioeconomic racial profiling (as part of the so-called “War on Terror”) exists and has taken place: an intolerance of identity itself.

Such is the case with taxation, or nearly any government action: our submission is required, regardless of our personal feelings, of which the government is largely intolerant of.  Consider the difference in a minimalist state, where individuals are more free to exercise their agency with much fewer constraints: as the smallest of examples, airports or airlines could themselves determine what level of safety was appropriate for them, rather than Washington bureaucrats, lobbyists, or elected officials.  If an individual didn’t like it, he could try another airport.  Individuals could decide which companies are worthy of being “bailed out,” as it were, voluntarily, rather than having such an idea thrust upon them without their consent.

This all relates to whether we can trust individuals more than the state: can people work out their differences, or is the presence and perpetual intervention of some vast welfare/warfare state required to mediate and regulate vast portions of individual life?


Filed under Austrian Economics, foreign policy, Libertarian, Mormonism, politics, role of government, Social Commentary, War