Three Thoughts

  1. On a recent day at the temple, I decided to specifically look for all the references to symbolism in the endowment, both the implicit ones and the explicit (“Hey, you! This is symbolic!”) ones. There were at least a few of each, and it’s likely that I missed some. In particular I was struck by the use of words like “represents.” This really warrants more focus in future visits.
  2. In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:39-41), this also applies to our relationship with God himself. When we’re asked to tithe, we should voluntarily covenant to consecrate the other 90%. When we’re assigned to serve for an hour, we should do more; we should “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will” (D&C 58:27) as we seek to “waste and wear out our lives” (D&C 123:13). When we’re called on to suffer and sacrifice, we should offer up the rest of all we have and are in life to the Father, anyway.
  3. Steve Reed of the excellent One Climbs blog recently posted a long analysis of Jacob 2:30, suggesting that our traditional reading of it as a hypothetical apologia for polygamy is wrong. It’s a very long post, but represents some of the most careful, detailed close reading of scripture I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if he’s correctly figured out Jacob’s intent or not, but he makes a compelling case. After his exegesis, we might read Jacob 2:30 like this: “The Lord says, In order to be spiritually converted to me, people must accept me as their leader; or else they’ll find themselves making these mistakes and be cursed.” Great stuff, Steve–consider submitting it to the Interpreter!
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How the Family Is Changing

When I once asked, “Is there any combination of consenting  adults you *wouldn’t* accept as a marriage?” only one of my more liberal acquaintances really addressed the question with a substantive response.  He said he wouldn’t support legalizing polygamous unions because of the confusion they would create.

He was absolutely right, but this is another example of how social progressives must not have truly examined the likely consequences of changing the definition of marriage, because such a reality will absolutely be the actual result of where our society is going.

I know this because we’re already well on the way.

In 2012, Brazil formalized a three-person union.

Also that year, a bill was introduced in California to allow children to have more than two legal parents.  The bill made it all the way to the governor before being vetoed.  Obviously, such an outcome is inevitable if same-sex marriage is sanctioned.

As the journal Public Discourse noted:

Continue reading

Philosophy Classic On Tolerating Stupid But Harmless “Mormonites”

One of my favorite books is John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, a mid-19th century British work of political philosophy, and still an influential classic of libertarian thought.  This very short book is really just an extended essay showing how government authority can only be exercised when people’s actions harm the safety or property of others. 

Right at the end of chapter four of this five chapter work, Mill gives a fascinating example of what he’s talking about: consider the Mormons.  Deluded practitioners of an intellectually baseless religion (Mill says), they are nonetheless hurting nobody other than themselves, and that voluntarily.  His dismissal is pretty funny in its absolute sanctimony; alas, more than a century and a half of further history has failed to train otherwise bright and fair people to analyze religion objectively.  Anyway, to Mill, “Mormonites” are exactly the kind of problem that regulation-happy do-gooders would love to rush in and solve by government fiat, but Mill says that this is precisely the sort of stupid but harmless thing (to society in general) that we need to tolerate. 

Here’s the paragraph in question, and I’ve highlighted some passages I think are especially intriguing, and added one critical thought.  I also split it up into several smaller paragraphs–in Mill’s text, this as all together.  Besides the grotesque illustration of a solid principle–allowing Mormons the freedom of individual liberty–there’s another great idea here: at the end of the passage, Mill warns about the attitude that many conservative commentators say we are now seeing, and which Mark Steyn has dubbed “civilizational exhaustion,” the collective lack of will to preserve that body of identity that has always been called “civilization,” resulting in the slow erosion of that identity by, as Mill puts it, “energetic barbarians.” 

I cannot refrain from adding to these examples of the little account commonly made of human liberty, the language of downright persecution which breaks out from the press of this country, whenever it feels called on to notice the remarkable phenomenon of Mormonism. Much might be said on the unexpected and instructive fact, that an alleged new revelation, and a religion founded on it, the product of palpable imposture, not even supported by the prestige of extraordinary qualities in its founder, is believed by hundreds of thousands, and has been made the foundation of a society, in the age of newspapers, railways, and the electric telegraph.  [So this religion is so obviously wrong that it doesn’t even warrant explaining why it’s so obviously wrong.  Nice.  What makes it even worse, apparently, is the rise of such a religion in our modern age, when we’re supposed to be too evolved and refined for such crude crap.]  Continue reading

It’s Just Hitch Being Hitch…

International columnist and atheist advocate Christopher Hitchens has a new syndicated column in Slate, which also ran in my local Las Vegas Review Journal today.  As always, his writing is passionate, clever, and lucid.  And, also like much of his writing, it is very, very wrong. 

Now, I actually agree with his ultimate thesis: that the freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, is not an absolute: speech is limited by not being able to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and religion is limited by, for example, not being able to deny emergency medical care to children (one example that Hitchens uses).  Hitchens discusses this to make his main point in the article: that Islam, as it comes into increased contact with the West, must reform some of its aspects, such as its hostility to criticism.  If it doesn’t happen voluntarily, Hitchens implies (referring to the first half of the article), it must be done by force.   

Well, sure, this is an important conversation to have now, and many others have already said as much.  The general agreement that as new cultures increasingly interact, there must be adaptation, is so common, in fact, that one wonders why Hitch feels compelled to repeat it.  It’s not like him to be unoriginal. 

But the first half of the article is where he shines, and where his heart clearly is.  This article is just a platform for him to do his favorite thing in the world: bash religion. 

However, Hitch reveals his own lazy prejudices when he does this: his evidence and arguments against religion are sloppy, to say the least. 

Consider the religion that takes more heat in the article than any other, even Islam itself: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Yes, Hitch has some opinions about the Mormons.  Continue reading