Monday, October 28, 2013

Uniformity?


Here is a dream worth remembering as we contemplate (or sometimes painfully experience) the recurring push for uniformity and conformity to generally accepted traditions/theories (GATTs). GATTs run the gamut through science, religion, culture, education, politics, philosophy, and so forth. It’s an endless déjà vu as seekers, questioners, innovators, et al. buck the GATTs of every age.
[Brigham Young:] Now I am going to tell a dream that I had, which I think is as applicable, to the people to-day—the 21st day of June, 1874, as when I had it. There were so many going to California, and going this way and that way, and they did not know what they wanted, and said I—"stay here, we can raise our food here, I know it is a good stock country, a good sheep country, and as good a country for raising silk as there is in the world, and we shall raise some of the best of wheat. There stands a man—Burr Frost, and there is Truman O. Angell, who were present at the time. Said I, "We can raise all we want here, do not go away, do not be discouraged." That was when the pioneers came; the next year, it was California, California, California, California. "No," said I, "stay here." After much thought and reflection, and a good deal of praying and anxiety as to whether the people would be saved after all our trouble in being driven into the wilderness, I had a dream one night, the second year after we came in here. Captain Brown had gone up to the Weber, and bought a little place belonging to Miles Goodyear. Miles Goodyear had a few goats, and I had a few sheep that I had driven into the Valley, and I wanted to get a few goats to put along with the sheep. I had seen Captain Brown and spoken to him about the goats, and he said I could have them. Just at that time I had this dream, which I will now relate, I thought I had started and gone past the Hot Springs, which is about four miles north of this city. I was going after my goats. When I had gone round the point of the mountain by the Hot Springs, and had got about half a mile on the rise of ground beyond the Spring, whom should I meet but brother Joseph Smith. He had a wagon with no bed on, with bottom boards, and tents and camp equipage piled on. Somebody sat on the wagon driving the team. Behind the team I saw a great flock of sheep. I heard their bleating, and saw some goats among them. I looked at them and thought—"This is curious, brother Joseph has been up to Captain Brown's and got my goats." There were men driving the sheep, and some of the sheep I should think were three and a half feet high, with large, fine, beautiful white fleeces, and they looked so lovely and pure; others were of moderate size, and pure and white; and in fact there were sheep of all sizes, with fleeces clean, pure and white. Then I saw some that were dark and spotted, of all colors and sizes and kinds, and their fleeces were dirty, and they looked inferior; some of these were a pretty good size, but not as large as some of the large fine clean sheep, and altogether there was a multitude of them of all sizes and kinds, and goats of all colors, sizes and kinds mixed among them. Joseph stopped the wagon, and the sheep kept rushing up until there was an immense herd. I looked in Joseph's eye, and laughed, just as I had many a time when he was alive, about some trifling thing or other, and said I—"Joseph, you have got the darndest flock of sheep I ever saw in my life; what are you going to do with them, what on earth are they for?" Joseph looked cunningly out of his eyes, just as he used to at times, and said he—"They are all good in their places." When I awoke in the morning I did not find any fault with those who wanted to go to California; I said, "If they want to go let them go, and we will do all we can to save them; I have no more fault to find, the sheep and the goats will run together, but Joseph says, "they are all good in their places."
(Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 245-246, bold emphasis added.)
See also: New Testament Matthew 13:24-30 (parable of the wheat & the tares) and 13:47-50 (parable of the net cast into the sea with "angels from heaven" doing the severing at the end of the world).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Forgotten Fruits?


Yesterday I came across a brief video/art exhibit by artist Jon McNaughton titled “The Forgotten Man.”* In that misguided1 presentation and painting, I saw the recycling myopia of man—the predilection to present partial truths as if they were whole. However convinced Mr. McNaughton is of his perspective; however sincere—he exhibits the tragic, one-eyed bias of many who take sides in Pharisee v. Sadducee contests.

The science writer Sharon Begley gives insight into such “motivated reasoning”:2
If you have a strongly held belief with an emotional component, the brain defends information that reinforces those ‘priors’ and is skeptical of information that challenges them. … People who hold these hard priors filter information to support their perceptions.(Bold emphasis mine.)
And so, Mr. McNaughton takes the “Right” side, seemingly oblivious to the appalling Constitutional offenses and hypocrisies of many of his “good, concerned” past presidents. Just because men and women claim to serve God and love their fellowman does not mean they do the works of God4 or the Constitution.

Have we forgotten “by their fruits”5 applies to everyone? So why do we, in these contests of right v. left, pretend truth is respected when we handpick from our chosen “side” only the “good” fruits,6 as if in a supermarket, and give nary a thought to the corrupted fruit that is frequently wheeled to backrooms so as not to offend our selection or sensibilities? Why are we so enamored “by their words” to the point we refuse to honestly contemplate our side's corruptions—their dishonorable fruits—while we decry the corruptions of our rivals?

The offenses of BOTH the right and the left against truth, justice, and the Constitution are egregious, but what if the greater poison is the hypocrisy of claiming to be defenders and saviors of the Constitution when deeds are otherwise? Inspect the entire barrel of your chosen fruit. Read the full history. Review all the stats. Observe the incriminating pictures. Consider the consequences. Quit justifying. Quit filtering. Look within.

Have we forgotten the déjà vus of history? How many peoples and nations have claimed divine appointment and destiny, yet been the authors of ruin and self-destruction because seeing they would not see, and hearing they would not hear?

If ever there was a work of art that illustrated the points of “hard priors” and filtering, I venture we would be hard pressed to find one as blatantly imbalanced and disingenuous as “The Forgotten Man.”

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* http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org/video_player.php?id=58
1. I deliberately use strong, countering words because the painting was intended to be such a strong, condemning image of perceived offenders while lauding perceived heroes without consideration of the known facts of history. (This view applies to several of JM’s other works.)
2. We all do it, (even this writer) and without awareness of a “priors” bias, are we not all more prone to biased judgment—whether pro or con? Shouldn’t 360° honesty in dealing with all the facts help control that bias?
3. From the work of political scientist Hank Jenkins-Smith of the University of Oklahoma as quoted, in Newsweek, October 13, 2010, pp. 29-30 by science writer Sharon Begley about voter tendencies—observations that seem applicable to almost everything that requires choice or discernment.
4. New Testament Matthew 7:22-23: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
5. New Testament Matthew 7:20: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. [In other words, “Do their works honor truth?”]
6. (though too often invented or virtual)

 
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