The Electoral College Stops The Hunger Games From Coming True

panemAs usual, we’re hearing about how unfair it is that the popular vote doesn’t always win. *sigh* No, that’s what does keep the system fair.

The Founders cared about making sure everyone’s rights were protected; that’s reflected, for example, in the division of Congress into two houses, chosen in different ways and balancing priorities–the Senate to represent states equally, and the House to represent people based on population.

The Electoral College does the same job. It gives everyone, everywhere, a fighting chance of having their voice heard. Without it–if our elections were purely popular–we would have merely mob rule. Really.

The few dozen largest cities in America have large enough populations that the rest of the country would be completely disenfranchised by their ideologically monotonous monopoly. The Electoral College ensures that nobody is simply a serf serving the giant cultural centers. Look at the red and blue election map in this post, breaking down the country by county. See all those red areas? With no electoral college, they would be forever locked out of public life. Is that what you want?

Compare this to the Hunger Games trilogy. The books never give exact populations for the districts, but clearly the Capitol has far more people–and money–than any other location. In fact, with districts spread out in area and population, the Capitol might have more people than the districts put together.

So the districts serve the Capitol, which keeps them in check by force. Might makes right.

Trying to ban the electoral college is akin to trying to chain up all but those who live in a coastal metropolis, so those redneck rural rubes can forever enable the wealth of the elites. The Electoral College does exactly what the Founders wanted it to do, something liberals should love–it protects the dignity of minority populations.

The Best Used Book Store In Las Vegas

Dead Poet Books closed last year, but as great as it was, it wasn’t the best spot in town to find cheap used books. It’s not the also-awesome Amber Unicorn, either, or any of the few other decent such stores.

It’s Savers, the thrift store. Yes, most thrift stores are full of junk and the used book section is a waste of time (I’m looking at you, Goodwill), but Savers gets the job done.

There’s a location near the school where I work, and I drop in sometimes to check in on the inventory. It rotates pretty quickly–a good sign. I could tell about plenty of great finds there, but here’s the most recent one:

Last week I went in with three things in mind: I’ve wanted to read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth for years, but it’s long enough that I would want to own a copy so I could take my time. Ditto for James Michener’s Alaska, which I started three years ago and really liked, but couldn’t finish before I had to take it back to the library. Also, I’ve wanted to read Edward Rutherford’s London ever since it came out when I was in college. I’ve been keeping an eye out for good used copies of each for a long time, and they were all on my mind when I stopped in there last week. I decided ahead of time to buy a copy if I should see one of them.

They had all three. Six bucks well spent!

Here’s another example: a couple of years ago, when the Dragon Tattoo trilogy was super popular, I went looking for them in paperback for a friend. Found all three of those there, too.

Yes, it’s also full of Dean Koontz and John Grisham stuff, but the variety and quality of books there has never disappointed me.

 

 

Notes on the 2016 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

I’m live blogging this conference at BYU today–this post will be updated throughout the day, after each address.

TEMPLE ON MOUNT ZION CONFERENCE, sponsored by the Interpreter Foundation

Saturday, November 5, 2016
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

 

9:30 – Jeffrey M. Bradshaw: “By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified”: The Symbolic, Salvific, Interrelated, Additive, Retrospective, and Anticipatory Nature of the Ordinances of Spiritual Rebirth in John 3 and Moses 6

Temple themes in Joseph Smith’s translation of Moses 6:59-63 and Genesis 17:4-7. Jesus and Nicodemus–a change of heart is needed to see the kingdom of God. “Marvel not” isn’t a scolding, but an invitation to greater spiritual learning. “Born again” can mean “born from above.” Double meanings–the serpents in Moses’s staff story to heal bitten people represent sin and salvation. “No man cometh to the Father but by me,” like the seraphim who guard the gate to the temple or to heaven.

Jesus was “lifted up,” and we can and should be, too, in resurrection and ascension (3 Ne. 27). “Second birth from above” is reflected in some early Jewish thought (see also Ezekiel 37 and 16–temple imagery).

“Born again” isn’t ended with baptism, just started–the goal is exaltation.

Moses 6:60–three clauses: water, spirit, blood.

WATER: baptism, sacrament blessing. “Stage 1” of temple (1st floor in SLC)= Moses 4 themes, 2= Moses 5, 3= Moses 6. Circumcision is close to baptism in JST Genesis. Genesis 17:3-7 in JST re: Abel and ordinances, clarifies doctrine, has ancient parallels. See David A. Bednar on priesthood ordinance being salvific, interrelated, additive. Truman Madsen: washing and anointing is like a patriarchal blessing on the body itself.

SPIRIT: D&C 20:37 explains that the Spirit cleanses, not baptism itself, which is symbolic. Justification and sanctification are twin blades of scissors–C.S. Lewis. Telestial room / baptism = justification, terrestrial / additional ordinances & consecration = sanctification, celestial = exaltation. D&C 20:30-31 teaches that justification and sanctification both come from the grace of Christ. Blood / anointing makes one both our and royal in ancient settings. British ceremony to initiate a new monarch has echoes of all this old temple symbolism. C.S. Lewis–become “a little Christ.”

BLOOD: Exodus 24 shows symbolism of blood needed to sanctify. Isaac is a substitute king before the ram–a symbol of a symbol. Neal A. Maxwell–we must put the animal *in us* upon the altar and burn it. Endowment depicts multiple births through the grace of Christ. C.S. Lewis- God turns tools-servants-friends-sons. Psalm 2:7 reflected in Moses 6 with Adam. Mosiah 2-5 has same symbolism–disciples are to become “little Mosiahs.” Alma 13 teaches high priest is symbolic of Christ. Moses 6, last verse also teaches of exaltation, leading to Enoch’s ascension in Moses 7. Nibley: scriptures aren’t platitudes, they’re things of eternity. Water in sacrament goes beyond beginning discipleship to a consecrated life: accepting prior blessings and continuing to exaltation; like Christ, must suffer, even unjustly, to serve others and lead to God.

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The Aeneid

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The Aeneid

I liked the rest of The Odyssey more than the part with all the monsters; I liked The Iliad more than The Odyssey; and I liked The Aeneid even more than The Iliad. In fact, I love how The Aeneid is clearly structured as a condensed complement to the earlier epics:

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I’ve now read all three in the excellent recent translations by Robert Fagles (I like that he produced these works in chronological order, but The Aeneid was the last major translation of his long and storied career; he died only two years after publishing it, in 2008). My overall reactions to The Aeneid fall under three headings:

Fathers and sons

The first thing that struck me about The Aeneid is its focus on duty and family–themes that resonate strongly with me. I posted about one such passage on another blog.

At the end of book 2, Aeneas faces a choice–take revenge on the villainous Helen, or rescue his family from the crumbling, flaming ruin of Troy? In cinematic fashion, the scene cuts from his enraged face struggling with this decision to him running through the bowels of the city, young son in his hand and elderly father on his back.

In fact, I see another structure here: the first half of the book focuses mostly on his loyalty to his father, looking to the past, and the second half focuses on his loyalty to his son, looking to the future.

Indeed, the end of book 6–his visit to his father in the underworld, and the unveiling of his divine new shield, with its illustration of his people’s glorious destiny–is the perfect transition between the two. The quote below comes right at the midpoint of the tale, and gives me goosebumps.

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Book 8, lines 854-858

Of course, the little boy from the beginning of the story grows up over the years, and by the great battle at the end, he is a young man fighting at his father’s side.

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“St. Matthew Passion”

Today I’ve been listening to a wonderfully simple, old fashioned performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.” It’s perfect for a cool, cloudy, windy Sunday in October; and this recording even provides English subtitles of the scriptural text. (I mentioned another performance of this oratorio back in 2009.)

Some Dark Humor in The Aeneid

I’m in book 10 of The Aeneid–a major battle scene–and I just came across this lovely bit:

aeneid

Ha! “There were these two identical twins…at least, they were identical twins until one got his hand cut off and the other got decapitated. NOW we can tell them apart just fine!”

What President Monson Is Reading

512ktnfwjelIn President Monson’s brief remarks at this month’s General Conference, perhaps the thing that struck me most was in the priesthood session when he said, “Recently I read the true account of a dramatic manifestation concerning these promises.” Most of the talk, in fact, is a summary of a story from the book. That right there is already pretty high praise for a book, to have a prophet mention it and cite from it as the core of an address to the world.

It’s great to know what the prophet has been reading. He’s still working full time as CEO of a global organization, he’s several years a widower now, and his strength is starting to decline, but he still reads, and this is what he reads: a book about the inspiring experiences of Latter-day Saints during World War II. As far as I know, there isn’t a team of research interns doing any behind-the-scenes lifting in preparing anybody’s conference talks; when the prophet says he’s been reading this book lately, it’s really something he chose to pick up and spend time with.

Maybe we would do well to follow the prophet in his priorities, his habits, and even in his specific choices in reading. The book he mentions, Saints at War: Experiences of Latter-Day Saints in World War II, isn’t on Google Books, but it’s on sale at Amazon for as low as 14 cents a copy.

14 cents, to do what the prophet does.

You know what would be great? A “Prophets Book Club,” where people read books mentioned by prophets and apostles in General Conference.

At the end of the citation for this book in the published version of President Monson’s talk, a note says, “used by permission.” That’s wonderful: the prophet (or maybe his secretary) reached out to the author to ask if it was OK to refer to the book in General Conference. What a sweet conversation I bet that was.

 

The Book of Moses: Dramatized Audio with Illustrations

This is a complete dramatized reading of the Book of Moses, from the Pearl of Great Price, with various pictures and study aids. The Book of Moses really is a little masterpiece, hidden in plain sight. It’s wise, beautiful, and leads directly to Jesus Christ–a scripture classic!

Top 5 Most Frightening Scenes In Stephen King Books

 

Be ye warned, Constant Reader: here there be spoilers.

5. The Dark Tower VII: “The Thing Under the Castle”

This is the most recent entry on this list; the only one from the 21st century, but it works because it so strongly harkens back to classic King style: that combination of simple, elemental storytelling with detailed, psychological exposition.

Roland and Susanna are, as the chapter title implies, fleeing some unknown thing in the winding, dark passages under a ruined, ancient castle. At first, there’s just a slight noise in the distance, but then, over the course of several pages, the noises get clearer and closer, and that primitive instinct we all have warns of an approaching predator.

The pace increases to one of sheer panic as they first jog, then run, then sprint with terror-fueled energy away from the mysterious thing. Susanna, whose wheelchair has been lost, rides on Roland’s back and can see behind them into the darkness at what’s coming. As it finally comes within biting distance…

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A Message For Religious Conservatives Who Still Support Donald Trump

Nobody has championed Donald Trump based on his character. The argument I keep hearing is, “This is our last chance to save conservative values…We need to shake up the system…We need to make our voice heard…Trump will fight back…” etc.

Two things:

First, if that scenario is true–if we’re in a position where we need some desperate last ditch effort of a president to save us–then it’s already too late. We are completely and utterly doomed.

Second–and this is specifically for my fellow believers out there–it is wrong to put our trust in the arm of flesh. And yes, that’s exactly what Trump’s religious supporters are doing.

“But we have to be involved citizens and vote,” you say, and I agree, but that does not mean going along with the options presented by a corrupt mainstream. A third party vote or (as I’m doing) a vote for “none of the above” is also a moral choice. I suspect that our efforts as citizens will be most useful on the names and issues at the local levels of our ballots now, anyway.

Yes, issues and policies are important, but none of them–or all of them put together–are as powerful as God. The “wrong” person winning an election or the “wrong” law being passed will not break our country.

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Another Way To Look At The Sacrament

I’ve always thought of the bread and water of the sacrament–the body and blood of Jesus–as emblems of his death only. That makes sense–the ordinance is to commemorate the Atonement.

But lately I’ve also been focusing on how it could direct us to his life, as well as his death.

The prayer on the water says, “the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them” (D&C 20:79), that second part explicitly directing us to think of Lord’s infinitely painful sacrifice that last night and day of his life.

The prayer on the bread, however, only mentions “the body of thy Son,” with no added description like there is on the water.

Indeed, the first two of the three Biblical synoptic gospels (John does’t mention the Last Supper), inspires this: both mention the body of Christ, without any further explanation, but then also mention the blood of Christ, with the overt follow-up about it being shed as a sacrifice for us:

Matthew 26:26-28

26 ¶And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

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Favorite Quotes From Lorenzo Snow

teachings-of-presidents-lorenzo-snowBrethren and sisters, there are some things that you and I ought to think about. The time is come when it behooves every man and every woman to know for themselves in relation to the foundation on which they stand. We should all strive to get a little nearer to the Lord. It is necessary for us to advance a little and obtain a full knowledge of those things which we should more fully understand. It is the privilege of every Latter-day Saint.

This is the condition of all men, no matter how well they start out, who allow their thoughts and affections to run after the world and its ways, and it is a plain and indisputable proof that when this is the case with men they love the world more than they love the Lord and His work upon the earth. Having received the light of the everlasting Gospel, and partaken of the good things of the kingdom, and being of the seed of Israel and heirs to great and glorious promises, we should labor with fidelity and diligence to accomplish what God has designed to do through us; we should be men and women of faith and power as well as good works, and when we discover ourselves careless or indifferent in the least, it should be sufficient for us to know it in order to mend our ways and return to the path of duty.

Nothing can be more foolish than the idea of a man laying off his religion like a cloak or garment. There is no such thing as a man laying off his religion unless he lays off himself. Our religion should be incorporated within ourselves, a part of our being that cannot be laid off. If there can be such a thing as a man laying off his religion, the moment he does so he gets on to ground he knows nothing about, he gives himself over to the powers of darkness, he is not on his own ground, he has no business there. The idea of Elders in Israel swearing, lying and giving way to intoxication is far beneath them; they ought to be above such things. Let us put from us every evil and live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God [see D&C 98:11]. Let us lay hold of every duty assigned to us with ambition and energy that we may have the spirit of our God, the light of truth and the revelations of Jesus Christ within us continually.

CHAPTER 3: LIFELONG CONVERSION: CONTINUING TO ADVANCE IN THE PRINCIPLES OF TRUTH

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On The Ironic Fallacy of “Diversity” In Education

I just posted a review of Anthony Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, which I was inspired to read by coming across this excellent essay of his over the summer. I can’t speak highly enough of his translation or of his essay; I feel compelled to share with you at least a three-paragraph excerpt from the essay here. Professor Esolen gives a powerful critique of one modern fad in education, and of its proponents, who would erase the classics and enshrine the contemporary, all in the name of “diversity.”

The material I teach in the first year of DWC spans four millennia, from ancient Babylon to the end of the Renaissance. This year’s entries were originally written in Babylonian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, old French, Italian, German, Spanish, and English. We are in Jerusalem with David, on the coast of half-Christian England with the poet of Beowulf, in Rome with Cicero, in Madrid with Calderón, in exile with the Florentine Dante, and in London with Shakespeare. We have studied the Parthenon and Saint Peter’s, Giotto and the stained glass windows of Chartres, Arthurian romance and the poetic philosophizing of Lucretius. It is utterly preposterous to say that we are anything but multicultural. We study cultures, and there are a lot of them, and they diverge far from ours and from one another. A Viking chieftain is not a Roman senator or a Christian friar. Xerxes is not Francis Xavier.

But I know that none of that really counts. One of the student protesters, abashed, has written in our newspaper that even though a Viking is admittedly “diverse” from anybody we may meet on the street now, studying the Vikings does not serve “the larger purpose” of diversity. And thus has he unwittingly given up the ballgame.

He and the students are not really interested in studying cultures other than ours. What counts for them as “diversity” is governed entirely by a monotonous and predictable list of current political concerns. If you read a short story written in English by a Latina author living up the road in Worcester, that counts as “diverse,” but if you read a romance written in Spanish by a Spanish author living in Spain four hundred years ago, that does not count as “diverse.” It probably does not even count as Hispanic. If you pore over the verb system of Old Icelandic so that you can stumble around in the sagas of Snorri Sturluson, that does not count, despite the fact that the sagas are utterly different from any form of literature now written. But if you collect a few editorials written by Toni Morrison, that does count, despite the fact that they are written in English and that you have read hundreds of such.

 

Anthony Esolen’s Translation of Dante’s Inferno

downloadI had never read the Inferno because, unlike other classics where there is broad agreement on which translations are the best, opinion here is divided. However, over the summer I read this amazing essay by Anthony Esolen (which I cannot recommend highly enough–it may be the best essay I’ve read all year); I was so impressed that I looked to see what else he had written, and lo and behold, he’d translated Dante.

This book was a beautiful joy from beginning to end. Dante’s story is even better than I’d imagined it would be. I was surprised to see it so full of, what was for Dante, contemporary social criticism. Quite a few of the movers and shakers of his world–men who had wronged him personally–were called out by name and given the retribution of having their eternal torments depicted in poetry. Even more surprising was the fact that popes were among that number (indeed, multiple passages basically say, “Hey, Pope Boniface VIII–you suck!”).

Dante’s criticism even veers into satire at points, with the punishments of hell fitting that “poetic justice” paradigm we expect. He seemingly relishes such opportunities to kick some of his targets when they’re down; for example, noting not only that one kind of sinner might spend eternity with their heads literally turned around backwards, but that the tears they always shed are running down between the cleft in their buttocks. Other sinners are seen wallowing in raw sewage forever. Stay classy, Dante!

This is not to make light of the text at all, though. In fact, the last several sections contain some of the most gruesome, horrific scenes I’ve ever come across in a book (and I read a whole lot of Stephen King as a kid!). The final scene, in the very center of hell, is fantastically graphic: Satan, frozen from the waist down in a lake of ice, has a second and third face on either side of his giant head, and each of the three mouths is eternally chewing on one of the great traitors of history: Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot. The image is incredibly vivid–below is just one of the more tasteful illustrations I found online.

Beside the text itself, Esolen has given us a great gift in this volume. The translation itself is crisp, clear, and moving, but the other features also make this a great book: the Italian text on each facing page, the extensive endnotes delving into Dante’s references in detail, and a series of appendices that provide excerpts from seminal texts that all informed Dante’s vision. I made frequent use of these, and look forward to a time when I can just sit around all day and absorb them all. For the avid reader of classics, Esolen has provided a truly fine treat.

satan-consuming-judas-from-dantes-inferno

Clinton vs. Trump: First Debate Winner

It wasn’t even close. I don’t like either of them and I’m not voting for either of them, but this fight was a total K.O.

Demeanor: Trump was dour and grouchy most of the time, while Clinton was smiling, calm, confident, and even friendly most of the time. She was never rattled; he frequently fell into traps that she baited.

Names: Clinton called Trump by his first name all night, and he never mentioned it, while he always deferred to her as “Secretary Clinton,” going so far as to make a point of pleasing her with the title. If he thought he was being subtly classy, it was so subtle that it got lost. She won that aspect by default.

Content: Trump actually had plenty of solid content, but his scattershot delivery and constant repetition undercut any power his points had. His content was consistently better than hers, but she also had an impressive roster of facts, and his points got lost in the noise of his painfully bad delivery.

Pivots and pandering: Both candidates pivoted unceasingly, but Clinton’s tended to be smooth and clean. Trump’s pivots were ghastly–bald, clumsy, and as obvious as the rookie he is. Clinton’s worst moment was her pathetic pandering to African Americans on the race relations issue, but Trump was bad there, too. He always sounded like he was regurgitating the talking points some intern made him memorize backstage. Of course, Clinton was doing the same, but she didn’t *sound* like she was.

Rhetoric: Trump actually did score a couple of solid one-liner shots at Clinton, but she had more, and her quotes will be more memorable. Where she always came back strong after he landed a good argument against her, he usually meekly acquiesced and then went off on another weird tangent.

Bottom line: Trump’s campaign has shown the far better fight for months, but tonight Clinton appeared completely presidential. It was a giant victory for her.