A decent article from City Journal:
Today, some religious fundamentalists continue to rail against Mormons, while coastal sophisticates scoff at their earnest approach to life, religion, and family. Yet the methodical Mormon way, which stresses education, ambition, and charitable giving, has succeeded in ways equaled by few religious groups.
Read the rest.
You know how every post-debate analysis is incomplete without someone saying, “if you were listening to the debate on the radio…” and you wonder, “who listens to debates on the radio?” Well, I actually did. Last night I listened to the vice-presidential debate while driving from Charlottesville to DC to visit my brother and his family.
When I pulled up to their Romney-clad home I was surprised to find out that they were not watching the debate. They weren’t missing much, I said. My layman’s analysis was that Biden was narrowly winning, and while Ryan scored some pretty good points, Biden spoke with his characteristic enthusiasm and passion. He was a little overbearing and disruptive at times, but not inordinately so.
My mildly political wife, on the other hand, witnessed the debate with less antediluvian technology and said Biden’s smirk and demeanor were bizarre and that he came across as abrasive and condescending.
This seems to sum up most of what’s being bandied about on the interweb.
There’s no getting around it; we perceive the world through filters that help us efficiently process new information. Though flawed they are remarkable useful. We’re not limited to a single filter either, and much like an experienced photographer we can choose the most appropriate filter for a given situation. But more likely than not we have a trusty, everyday, point-and-shoot version. Sometimes it’s off kilter, but we capture some semblance of the moment. When deciding which primary filter to use, a little self-awareness goes a long way; it should be intentionally chosen and aligned with our greatest priorities.
I recently read about a group of LDS Democrats who met (congregated?) at the Democratic National Convention this past week to affirm that their political positions are consistent with their religious convictions. It is understandable that Mormon Democrats would feel obliged to show solidarity during this particular election cycle, and I applaud their efforts. But politically active Mormons on either side of the political spectrum should be careful of their choice of primary filter. Are we disciples of Christ filtering the political world through a spiritual lens or a political animal using our religion to justify our politics?
To hold a philosophy, political or otherwise, that is consistent with scripture is demonstrably insufficient. Though it’s unlikely that either party has a platform perfectly consistent with every Gospel principle, most of what’s contained in each of the recently published party platforms could be defended on scriptural grounds. It doesn’t make someone evil, stupid, or heartless to accept an opposing platform.
If your greatest priorities are political, by all means choose a political filter. But own it. Don’t preach Gospel principles from a political podium to persuade me to your cause. Be open to the fact that someone else might be doctrinally comfortable in a different political camp.
My dad used to say, “don’t let ideology trump theology.” Not bad advice. We’d avoid a lot of contention if followed.
It is the duty of the rich Saints every where, to assist the poor, according to their ability, to gather; and if they choose, with a covenant and promise that the poor thus helped, shall repay as soon as they are able.
It is also the duty of the rich, those who have the intelligence and the means, to come home forthwith, and establish factories, and all kinds of machinery, that will tend to give employment to the poor, and produce those articles which are necessary for the comfort, convenience, health and happiness of the people; and no one need to be at a loss concerning his duty in these matters, if he will walk so humbly before God as to keep the small still whisperings of the Holy Ghost within him continually.
– Brigham Young, General Epistle, 1847
Weary of the unsubstantiated whispers of white horses that are passing as journalistic scholarship, I thought I’d share some of what Joseph Smith actually said about the US Magna Charta and his bid for President. As I’ve said before, LDS appreciation of the Constitution stems from a love Liberty of conscience and adequate protection of such.
On defending the Constitution:
It is one of the first principles of my life, and one that I have cultivated from my childhood, having been taught it by my father, to allow every one the liberty of conscience. I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth. In my feelings I am always ready to die for the protection of the weak and oppressed in their just rights.
On his candidacy for President of the United States:
I would not have suffered my name to have been used by my friends on anywise as President of the United States, or candidate for that office, if I and my friends could have had the privilege of enjoying our religious and civil rights as American citizens, even those rights which the Constitution guarantees unto all her citizens alike. But this as a people we have been denied from the beginning. Persecution has rolled upon our heads from time to time, from portions of the United States, like peals of thunder, because of our religion; and no portion of the Government as yet has stepped forward for our relief. And in view of these things, I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can, lawfully, in the United States, for the protection of injured innocence; and if I lose my life in a good cause I am willing to be sacrificed on the altar of virtue, righteousness and truth, in maintaining the laws and Constitution of the United States, if need be, for the general good of mankind.
We have as good a right to make a political party to gain power to defend ourselves, as for demagogues to make use of our religion to get power to destroy us. In other words, as the world has used the power of government to oppress and persecute us, it is right for us to use it for the protection of our rights. We will whip the mob by getting up a candidate for President.
It was never about theocracy; it was about protecting liberty, freedom of conscience, and protection of those rights for all.
Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In endless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
Freedom and reason make us men;
take that away what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
The beasts may think of heav’n or hell.
May we no more our pow’rs abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.
Anonymous, ca. 1805, Boston. Included in the first LDS hymnbook
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by longsuffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile– reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou has reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.
Calling for civility in politics is wishful thinking. Godly persuasion is unnatural. “But what is government itself,” said James Madison, “but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”
Those striving to live as saints should not participate nor condone lashing out in vitriolic envy towards others. It is not a noble demonstration of patriotism. Rather it leads to despotism.
…but not for the reason you’re probably hoping. Personally, I feel Frederic Bastiat was erudite in explaining the virtues of liberty and laws that maximize human dignity. But he is wrong, or at least incomplete in his reasons for such strong opposition to it. He wrote in The Law:
[W]hat is the political struggle that we witness? It is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty…. It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted, especially in France. This is greatly due to a fatal desire — learned from the teachings of antiquity — that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy.
Bastiat is only half right. He is correct in assessing mankind’s lust for power and desire to rule but is overly optimistic about the universality of the desire to be free. He ignores the complicity of the citizenry in the establishment of authoritarian forms of government. Didn’t ancient Israel cry unto the Lord for the establishment of a king despite the litany of warnings from the prophet Samuel? And why did they do it? To be like other nations and for someone else (other than the Lord) to fight their battles. They were willing to pay the heavy price for that privilege.
Philanthropic Tyranny, meet your willing citizens.
There is a more striking example that is uniquely Mormon, as far as I know. We believe in a pre-earth life as spirit children of God. Prior to the creation of the world, Heavenly Father presented a plan for us to progress, to be tested and according to our diligence and faith exalted. Lucifer proposed a counter offer whereby none would be lost, all for the low low price of forgoing Free Will. A full third of the hosts of Heaven followed Lucifer and were cast out.
So even in the presence of God there is something within each of us that is tempted to sell our liberty for a mess of pottage. No wonder this is the great political struggle.