Friday, December 31, 2010

The Language of Prayer

If we are going to make a choice in prayer language between “you” and “your” as some advocate and “thee” and “thou” as some instruct, perhaps we should be aware of some background. From my analysis, both the advocates and the instructors are, too often, in error when promoting their position, and thus I resurrect, in part, an old letter to an editor.
Dear Editors:

After reading “The Grammar of Inequity” by [LFA] and now two letters in response, I feel compelled at last to comment.

In considering the language of prayer, LFA acknowledges that the singular pronouns “thou” and “thee” were the intimate pronouns of seventeenth-century England; that “ye” and “you” were the formal, polite, proper, courteous plurals; and that “the attachment of any special reverence of respect to ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ is based on historical ignorance, a reading backward into perfectly ordinary grammatical construction of a magical meaning.” But then, despite this “historical ignorance,” LFA persists in ascribing the word formal to “thee” and “thou.”

Granted, many define these old, singular pronouns as formal, exalted, and special, because they are now used almost exclusively in addressing Deity, but they are, in reality, intimate forms that have become uncommon in modern English—abandoned in favor of the formal, polite “you.”

In LFA’s own quoted reference (in footnote), we read, “A grammatical innovation, of somewhat questionable value … is the polite substitution of the plural for the singular in the second person. … Our language has thus lost whatever advantage it had gained by having a polite as well as a familiar form of address, and unfortunately the form that has survived is ambiguous. … The English language is, in respect of clearness, decidedly the worse for the change …”

So, the surviving, ambiguous form is “you”—ambiguous, because, in assuming the several functions of singular/intimate and plural/polite, “you” has become incapable of referencing any of them—intimacy, formality, politeness, or number.

Thus, modern English is truly lacking. Our intimate form is unfamiliar to us and our common form is ambiguous. Yet, it is this ambiguous form that LFA recommends for seeking intimacy. LFA write, “I suggest that we start praying privately in our own normal speech, using ‘you’ and ‘your.’ It will make these prayers more intimate, more natural, and more loving.”

If there is logic in this conclusion, I do not follow it. How can a pronoun of ambiguous usage be more intimate or loving? It would seem rather that in ambiguity and universality, “you” has lost all value save as a verbal pointer, while “thee” and “thou” yet retain strong underpinnings of original intimacy. It is still possible (though unusual) to use “thee” in speaking to a friend, but to use thee with a stranger or foe would be unthinkable.

If we are to achieve a true understanding of modern pronoun usage, we have to be consistent and accurate when discussing origins, meanings, and ascriptions. Intimate words do not become formal words by confining them to a narrower range of original, intimate usage; nor does a formal, polite word become intimate by expanding its usage beyond formal, polite reference.

I do not deny that the narrowed application of words can make their use less natural and comfortable. It was partly for this that I continued to pray in my mission language (Italian) for a long time, because it offered me what English did not. When I address God, it is with strivings toward intimacy—often in the agony of not understanding the course and pain of things. Thee and thou were the most intimate pronouns I had until the Italian ti and tu introduced me to a deeper intimacy. I soon realized that “ti ringrazio,” “ti prego,” “t’amo” had no adequate English rendition. The English translations: “I thank thee,” “I ask thee,” “I love thee” do not convey for me the intimacy of the Italian forms: first, because “ti” has a contemporary usage which “thee” has lost; and second, because the English pronoun “I” precedes and interferes. In Italian (and some other languages), the verb indentifies me in its conjugation placing the one I address foremost. With another’s attention immediately called upon, communication is most personal and compelling.

English, however, is the mother tongue of many and if some, like LFA, cannot find intimacy in the narrowed usage of thee and thou, perhaps alternate usage is a matter left to them and God, though let us not confuse matters further by accusing the Church of inconsistency when the intimate thee and thou and possessives thy and thine are the preferred, counseled forms, whatever (erroneous) attributions some make of formal or special prayer language. Thee and thou were never formal pronouns and should we review Church translation work, we would find the corresponding, intimate, second person singular in place of thee and thou every time.

LFA is not alone in confusing thee and thou as formal and you as intimate. So did those who wrote letters in response. Such erroneous re-definings cannot achieve a trusted conclusion because the problem is not that you has become intimate (which by its history and present universality it cannot become), but that we have removed from common usage the only intimate pronouns we ever had.

It may not be easy to learn uncommon forms, but millions do it—mastering their own and new languages and seemingly endless verbal conjugations. Communication takes effort. It is to use words and meanings that the one addressed understands—not the ones we insist they understand. And though God understands all language, perhaps there is preference for the intimate forms, despite their lack of modern use.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Shock of Contrast!

Shock: 1) extreme surprise; 2) sudden overwhelming dismay or outrage …

Shocking things seem the norm in these days of “reality” TV, bombastic talk-hosts, up-the-anti newscasts, and political Humpties.[1] But with repetitious exposure, like the torture scenes from Iraq, the shock wears off as pundits assuage conscience and justify cause. Thus we “progress” from shock to benign acceptance to titillating entertainment.[2]

One wonders if this happened to Isaiah (700s BC) walking naked and barefoot for three years as a symbol and warning to those who looked to Egypt and Ethiopia for security (Old Testament Isaiah 20)? Or to Hosea (also 700s BC) who took an infamous harlot to wife whose subsequent conceptions were the blatant children of whoredoms (Old Testament Hosea 1:2; 2:4). Both prophets acting under specific instruction from God!

But in our day, without the daily visual—with only the written account—we remain too shocked to read with comprehension the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying:
Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. And they [the misguided people] shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory (Old Testament Isaiah 20:2-5).
We cannot abide even the literary shock of a naked prophet. We prefer to remove only his “upper garment, like a slave or exile” (KJV: LDS footnote at 20:2a). Or more conservative yet, we confine our vision to the removal of “his upper garment …, and to have nothing on but his tunic (cetoneth);” which was “opposed to common custom” (Old Testament Student Manual, Vol. 2: 157).[3]

But that is not what is written in Holy Scripture. There the shock of contrast is too great. We skip loins and buttocks as if God were above such prophetic imagery. Whether Isaiah was fully naked or more likely draped with a meager loin cloth that exposed his buttocks[4]—we are not prepared for either scene, and thus miss the shocking vision and transformative power of both his prophecy and his symbolic truth.

Hosea does not fare much better—nor have the depth charges of the symbolic and parabolic that have been stripped from our “sophisticated” culture and consciousness. We seem to have lost, not only the ability to read between the lines, we can’t even read the lines themselves.

Makes one wonder (with all our latter-day excesses and distractions), if there might not be other shocks of contrast in the wings!

[1] Unfortunately, too few were Humpty Dumpties as was proven in the latest election. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men” seem to have retired in favor of all the king’s money.
[2] Just ask Jack Bauer devotees.
[3] See (14-32) at reproduced here:
(14-32) Isaiah 20:2. What Was Meant by Isaiah Walking “Naked and Barefoot”?
“With the great importance attached to the clothing in the East, where the feelings upon this point are peculiarly sensitive and modest, a person was looked upon as stripped and naked if he had only taken off his upper garment. What Isaiah was directed to do, therefore, was simply opposed to common custom, and not to moral decency. He was to lay aside the dress of a mourner and preacher of repentance, and to have nothing on but his tunic (cetoneth); and in this, as well as barefooted, he was to show himself in public.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 7:1:372.)” [Relevant questions: Were sensitivity and modesty the norm imposed on slaves and exiles whom Isaiah was symbolizing? And can we ever, with our limited vision, impose our “moral decency” upon the God of Abraham (who was commanded to sacrifice his son); or upon the God of Hosea; or the God of Nephi1 (who slew Laban); or the God of Moses/Joshua/David/Elijah/Elisha, and so forth (and their participation in the deaths of countless numbers)? The shock of contrast and contradiction keeps us, too often, from reading, let alone acknowledging, what is written. Or admitting that we shall never understand God with the rational mind alone.]
[4] –the common lot of many slaves—

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What are we attracting?

Our present world seems consumed with theories of attracting (accumulating?) wealth, fame, power, prestige, etc., etc.,—in short, the things of this world. Are these things not the substance of LoA[1] pitches and promotions? Finding favor with the Universe? Tuning in to energies that will materialize our material desires—grant our wills and wishes? But do we ever ask what the Divine Mentor attracted? What His Will and Desire was?
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (New Testament John 15:18-19).

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (New Testament John 4:34).
Consider also the words of Isha Schwaller de Lubicz:
Many are those who project their imaginings outside themselves and create gods “in their own image and likeness.” The powers they would adore are those that can grant them all the boons they yearn for in this world and the next. They are answered by Christ’s word: “Ye know not what ye ask” (Mark 10:38).

Their wish is for an idol to protect and favor them, or else for a divine being who can be loved possessively. But paradises, like gods, are made by men according to their desires, and their misfortune will be that they will often find what they have imagined. But what we can imagine is no part of the inexpressible Divine.

An omnipotent desire is one which animates the very cells of your being and makes you able to seize and grasp the object of your affinity. Such a desire has magic power, and, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, man uses it imprudently. For the god, or power, which answers him is of the same nature as his desire. The money-grubber invokes the powers of money, the social climber the powers of the social order, and the thinker invokes intellectual powers. Thus the seeker is ruled and restricted by his affinity. This is his hell, or purgatory, in which he is already confined in this present life.

As for the so-called “spiritual desires,” the potency of “the Desire” must not be confused with these anemic wishes for spirituality, or emotional longings toward some God or other who is expected to reciprocate, to show good intentions, and to provide all the scenic effects which lull the pious into an illusion of beatitude.

… When the illusory vanishes, reality appears. The necessary experience is to recognize the real in the midst of the world of illusion.

To do this I must clear my own ground, eliminate all that is not my true self, and create in myself the milieu which can attract the Spirit …[2]
[1] Law of Attraction
[2] The Opening of the Way: A Practical Guide to the Wisdom of Ancient Egypt by Isha Schwaller de Lubicz (Trans. from the French by Rupert Gleadow), © 1981, Inner Traditions International, New York, p. 78.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lesson from an Old Prophet*

(*with an assist from the JST)

In the Old Testament (I Kings 13) we have a somewhat disturbing story of a man of God who under strict instructions delivers a dire warning to Jeroboam, king of Israel. After a furious, then humbling and miraculous encounter, the king mellows and invites the man of God home (to the palace?) for refreshment and a reward.

The man of God replies:
If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Beth-el (1 Kings 13:8-10).
Shortly thereafter, upon hearing the dramatic events related by his sons, “an old prophet in Beth-el” rides off after the man of God and extends another invitation to return to Beth-el and eat bread. The man of God again refuses, repeating the strict instructions of his errand. Whereupon the old prophet says (as corrected in the Joseph Smith Translation):
I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water, [that I may prove him; and he lied not] unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers (JST: 1 Kings 13:18-22, JST correction in bold).
What is the lesson? What is the warning? Here, an old prophet counsels a younger one to disregard a personal directive from God and follow his [the older prophet’s] contrary counsel. Joseph Smith tells us that the contrary counsel was to prove the man of God. If we read the rest of the story, we see how dire the consequences were.

So what is the lesson? Perhaps it is this: that personal directives from God—including personal directives of the Holy Spirit— are NEVER to be over-ridden—not by a spouse, not by a good friend, not by a bishop, not by a stake president, not even by an apostle or prophet.

And might not a corollary of this be: that we never act upon anyone’s word (or inspiration), no matter who they are or what position they hold, unless we have our own personal confirming witness?

Have we not been warned about trusting in the arm of flesh? And been advised that the wise are those who “have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived” (D&C 45:57)?

Consider these:
Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me (Old Testament Micah 7:5-7).

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 4:34).

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world (Doctrine and Covenants Section 1:19-20);
Again, a quote from George Q. Cannon[1]:
It is indeed our right and privilege to have the companionship of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, and we need it.

Even children may have it if they will, and need not be left to walk alone on earth. Every woman should win and keep it for herself, and never try to walk by another's light. If she puts her whole trust in another, even if he be her husband and a good man, he will surely some time fail her. Let her learn to stand alone so far as human aid is concerned, depending only on God and the Holy Ghost.

Do not, brethren [and sisters], put your trust in man though he be a bishop; an apostle, or a president; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place, they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. They could still see that He is just and true, that truth is lovely in His sight, and the pure in heart are dear to Him.

Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men.

Therefore, my brethren and sisters, seek after the Holy Spirit and His unfailing testimony of God and His work upon the earth. Rest not until you know for yourselves that God has set His hand to redeem Israel, and prepare a people for His coming.

If any present have it not, let me advise you to begin seeking for it this very night. Pray, fast, study, and open the doors of your hearts that wisdom may enter; and you shall know when you have received the Holy Ghost by a great increase of faith, courage, strength, understanding, and all good gifts. This is indeed a precious gift, the source and fountain of all other gifts. Ask for it, therefore, until you receive it, because we should have it.[2]
In short, even this blogger’s thoughts and questions should not be blindly accepted or rejected. I raise these matters because it seems in these latter-days that we too often neglect (maybe are even counseled at times to disregard) the Holy Spirit as our guide in favor of the easier path of trusting and following leaders and pundits without sufficient thought, assessment, and confirmation.

[2] “Need for Personal Testimonies” discourse delivered by President George Q. Cannon, in Manti, Sanpete County, on the Evening of Feb. 15, 1891. Reported by L. L. Dalton. (Collected Discourses, 1886-1898, Vol. 2; Brian H. Stuy, ed.; see also Millennial Star, 53:674.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Some years ago at a BYU alumni leadership meeting, Elder JKC spoke about the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) initiated in April 2001. He said, in essence, “I will not tell you the amount of the fund, but church members have been exceedingly generous and the fund is very, very, very substantial.” Then he explained that all PEF donations were invested and that only the interest earned was used for educational loans.[1]

I was somewhat amazed to hear that this enormous fund was locked away to earn interest when the immediate need for educational opportunity was so enormous—not only in “3rd world” and developing nations, but even in industrial and advanced ones where there are poor and needy in every town, city, and rural community. I could not understand this investment in banks (etc.) rather than immediate investment in people’s educational needs and dreams. It reminded me of several years ago when many, many Wards also invested their local budget monies in banks instead of adequately funding their programs. When the authorities announced a centralization of finance, where all funds were to be turned to the Church (for centralized reallocation), many wards went on buying sprees (often for scouting equipment) to use up their excess surpluses before centralization deprived them of their investments.

In 2010, with many members unaware of the “investment” strategy of their PEF contributions, the ENSIGN announced the success of the fund for “38,000 participants in 42 countries.”[2] In nine years, that amounts to about 4,200 educational assists per year—a huge blessing, of course, for those assisted—BUT how much more could have been done with this enormous fund? How many languish without hope when the huge fund is administered sparingly (when compared to its size) by a few, including volunteers?

What could Greg Mortenson[3] have accomplished with PEF monies? How many children, adults, and communities have been blessed by the initiative of one man, his supporters, and his local recruits?

Why can’t we trust the members to continually replenish the PEF? Aren’t they doing so? This is not a frozen fund, so WHY do we resort to business school strategies of BIG finance? Why do we trust in the vagaries, excesses, and volatility of financial markets? How much did PEF lose in the downturn? Why do we read the parable of the talents as if it were a treatise on increasing the money supply? Why do we pretend that the Perpetual Education Fund is like the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, when in size and administration it is not?[4] Why is there so little transparency? Why, if education is so important, do we not seek out every possible educational need (regardless of age) and invest more in people than in financial instruments? Why do we, in déjà vu of other times, places, and peoples seem so easily distracted by the business of business and the promise of profits? Is our capital fund the priority or our brothers and sisters?

Why do I raise these questions? Because even the wisest of the wise, as in King Solomon, could not maintain his balance and divine perspective when surrounded by wealth and power! Are we any different? Or do we need persistent Socratic questioners of every stripe who annoy, and perhaps even infuriate and displease, those who walk in the corridors of power and wealth? Jesus himself was one of those “offenders.” Just take a look at the number of ?-marks amongst his words. Perhaps He would have us all asked a few more questions.

In the words of Brother Brigham and Brother George Q. Cannon:
Brigham Young: Some may say, Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am. I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are, this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord. ¶ Every man and woman in this kingdom ought to be satisfied with what we do, but they never should be satisfied without asking the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether what we do is right. (Brigham Young, October 6, 1855, Journal of Discourses, 3:45)

George Q. Cannon: Do not brethren [and sisters], put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support is gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him, and not in any man or men. (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, 53:674)

[1] See “The Perpetual Education Fund: A Bright Ray of Hope” by Elder John K. Carmack, Ensign, Jan 2004, p. 37+ which confirms this at:
[2] Perpetual Education Fund Thriving Nine Years Later, Ensign, February 2010
[3] (May 10, 2011: Recent news has clouded his reputation. What have been his accomplishments is still uncertain.)
[4] As a revolving fund, emigrating loans were made out of donations, not the interest on donations. “How shall I Gather?” by William G. Hartley, Ensign, Oct. 1997 . See also “They Came by Handcart” by Paul H. Peterson, Ensign, August 1997 (at subheading: Gathering to Zion)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Skimmed Milk?

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Isaiah 28:9-10)

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)[1]
In these statements, prophets of old speak of progressing from milk to meat. In these latter days, are we progressing? Sometimes, I wonder if we’re not regressing—preferring skimmed milk in order to rationalize more enthralling things. Does God not warn us in Jeremiah that He will even allow false prophets and priests if that is what we love to have[2]—in déjà vu of other times and peoples?

But what is the meat and where is it to be found?
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (New Testament John 4:34)
President David O. Mackay said:
I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: One is spiritual communion arising from our own meditation; the other, instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation. Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as "a form of private devotion or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme [or truth]. … Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. Jesus set the example for us.[3]
The example? He sought solitude; He sought it in nature; He allowed for extensive periods of time.[4] Others too[5], when given to pondering, mediation, and contemplation have seen beyond the veil into the meat and mysteries of God. Are not the mysteries clearly sanctioned by the counsel of Jesus himself and many others?[6] Or have we been instructed in more recent times to be afraid of the mysteries? Or have we become too preoccupied? Or is it just easier to endure repetitive translations of “milk” rather than the meditation and meat of transformation.

In our consuming labors for money, security, fame, power, possessions, homes, amenities, entertainments, etc.[7]—and even in our commitments to family, community, and church service—where is the time and solitude for contemplation, pondering, mediation?[8] Where is the emphasis? When was the last time we heard a sermon or lesson devoted to this “most secret, most sacred door”? And where are the peaceful, quiet, undisturbed places for extended solitude?[9]

Isha Schwaller de Lubicz, in The Opening of the Way, sums up our modern world (and our propensity for skimmed milk):

Nerves trained to excitement feel an unhealthy craving for it, and when the life of brain and senses has been accustomed to be fed continually from without by an unending flow of secondhand thoughts and images, of catchy tunes and twitching rhythms, it calls for these things because they render individual effort superfluous, and shake to pieces any notion of values. That is our modern world, dancing the infernal roundelay of haste, ever more deeply involved in the quest for variety and novelty.
A mind trained to these frantic gymnastics will clearly show two characteristics: It will be insatiable, always preferring quantity to quality, and it will suffer from the need for speed. …
But the worst effect of all these new impulses has been the nervous imbalance which cannot tolerate silence or inactivity—these two pillars of meditation, without which one can have no true intuition or spiritual experience [emphasis mine].[10]
If the arm of flesh cannot be trusted,[11] and if milk is not the be-all-and-end-all, then our progression and security reside in 1) cultivating individual recognition of and obedience to the spirit of God; and 2) personally seeking the meat and mysteries of God, ever keeping in mind:
... there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also. (Doctrine and Covenants Section 20:32-34)
[1] See also: New Testament 1 Corinthians 3:1-3: AND I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
[2] Old Testament Jeremiah 5:31 - The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?; Jeremiah 6:13 - For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.; Jeremiah 2:8 The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.; See also Isaiah 30:10; Jeremiah 23:16 and many other references against trusting blindly in the arm of flesh, even prophetic flesh, for the counsel is: Doctrine and Covenants Section 46:7-8 But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
[3] David O. McKay, Man May Know for Himself: Teachings of President David O. McKay, compiled by Clare Middlemiss, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1967, 22-23.
[4] For example: Matthew 4; Matthew 14:23. And yes, he might have sought it in the temple, too, had the House of God not been corrupted. However, it cannot be known, in His day, if the requisite solitude and privacy would have been available to one who was not in the hierarchy.
[5] See the search results for the following words (and their derivations): ponder, meditation, contemplation in a scripture concordance or computer search.
[6] The words (mystery and mysteries) are worth reviewing in their 75 scriptural references!
[7] Is the perfect contrast between laboring for Zion and laboring for Babylon to be seen in the environs of the Daper Utah temple?
[8] Some may find sufficient privacy and solitude for meditation in LDS temples, but the experience of others is to feel too conspicuous, too intruded upon, too constrained in their emotional needs, and too misjudged, as was Hannah, mother of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1:12-16).
[9] Do we imagine that fifteen minutes, once a week, during the sacrament service—if we can manage even that—is enough? And how do we properly divide our attention while in temple sessions between our personal mediations and our proxy work? Isn’t that a large measure of Babylon‘s ploy—to distract and divide our attention from the thing to which we should be paying most attention?
[10] Isha Schwaller de Lubicz in The Opening of the Way: A Practical Guide to the Wisdom of Ancient Egypt © 1979. (Translation 1981, Inner Traditions International Ltd. New York, NY., pp. 1-2)
[11] Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 4:34 - O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.; Doctrine and Covenants Section 1:19-20 - The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Using our heads?

A few quotes relevant to the “culture of yes”?1

Joseph Smith
We deem it a just principle, and it is one the force of which we believe ought to be duly considered by every individual, that all men are created equal, and that all have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience. Consequently, then, we are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive any one of exercising that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts; (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 49.)

Joseph Smith
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel—said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the [house of Israel]— that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls—applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall—that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. (Ibid, 237.)

Brigham Young
Shall we deny the existence of that which we do not understand? If we do, we would want to keep an iron bedstead to measure every person according to our own measurements and dimensions; and if persons were too long we would cut them off, and if too short draw them out. But we should discard this principle, and our motto should be, we will let every one believe as he pleases and follow out the convictions of his own mind, for all are free to choose or refuse; they are free to serve God or to deny him. We have the Scriptures of divine truth, and we are free to believe or deny them. But we shall be brought to judgment before God for all these things, and shall have to give an account to him who has the right to call us to an account for the deeds done in the body. 14:131. (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 67.)

Brigham Young
Some may say, Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am. I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are, this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord. ¶ Every man and woman in this kingdom ought to be satisfied with what we do, but they never should be satisfied without asking the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether what we do is right. (Brigham Young, October 6, 1855, Journal of Discourses, 3:45)

George Q. Cannon
Do not brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support is gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him, and not in any man or men. (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, 53:674)

Samuel Richards
"We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything that they were told to do by those who preside over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God...would despise the idea. Others in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves." (Apostle Samuel Richards on Nov. 13, 1852, recorded in the Millennial Star, 14:393-395)

George Teasdale
I understand that all men and women are their own agents; and I do not know a worse degree of slavery than to be afraid to think for yourself and speak what you believe. (Apostle George Teasdale, Conference Report, April 1901, Second Day—Morning Session 34-35.)

J. Golden Kimball
Latter-day Saints, you must think for yourselves. No man or woman can remain in this Church on borrowed light. (Elder J. Golden Kimball, Conference Report, April 1904, Overflow Meeting 97.)

David O. McKay
Ours is the responsibility … to proclaim the truth that each individual is a child of God and important in his sight; that he is entitled to freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly; that he has the right to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience. In this positive declaration, we imply that organizations or churches which deprive the individual of these inherent rights are not in harmony with God's will nor with his revealed word. (124th Annual Conference, April 4, 1954, p. 26)

Hugh B. Brown
We are grateful in the Church and in this great university that the freedom, dignity and integrity of the individual is basic in Church doctrine as well as in democracy. Here we are free to think and express our opinions. Fear will not stifle thought, as is the case in some areas which have not yet emerged from the dark ages. God himself refuses to trammel man's free agency even though its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science and revealed religion find their fullest and truest expression in the climate of freedom. ¶ I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent - if you are informed. ¶ Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, 'From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth - O God of truth deliver us'. (Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958); also Hugh B. Brown, Continuing the Quest [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1961], 200-201)

Hugh B. Brown
We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration. (Edward Kimball, Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, p. 139, a quote from his “ Testimony”)

Hugh B. Brown
Faith is the ground of all religion, but there is no special virtue in blind faith. Only faith that is grounded in a courageous search for truth is worthy of the student. We should reject every temptation to irrationality, overcome every inclination to disregard or distort the facts, avoid the extremes of fanaticism, and above all else, demand the truth. Here is the firm foundation for our religion—a religion that describes the glory of God as intelligence and proclaims that man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge. ¶ Just as the truths of science must be tested and verified by reason and factual investigation, so the moral and spiritual truths which the world is seeking from its prophets must be proved and validated in the experience of men. In his search for truth, every man must be true to himself. He must answer to his own reason and to his own moral conscience. Anything less than this would betray his dignity as a human being and a child of God. True dignity is never won by place, and it is never lost when honors are withdrawn. (Elder Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, April 1970, Second Day—Morning Meeting 77.)

1. Reference

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Truth? (ALL Truth?)

Are we, as a people, becoming more insular in our search for truth? More content with authoritarian pronouncements? Too satisfied with the status quo of ranking? Too skeptical/rejecting of truths in other faiths and domains? Too convinced we do not need to think for ourselves—to seek our own personal witness? Here are a few reminders of how truth was framed in our early days.

Brigham Young
Our religion descends to the whole life of man, although some, sometimes, say, there is divine law, there is human law, and there are principles which pertain to our religion and there are principles which pertain to the philosophy of the world. But let me here say to you, that the philosophy of the religion of heaven incorporates every truth that there is in heaven, on earth, or in hell. 15:125 (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 8.)

John Taylor
In regard to our religion, I will say that it embraces every principle of truth and intelligence pertaining to us as moral, intellectual, mortal and immortal beings, pertaining to this world and the world that is to come. We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word "all," comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity. And it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or preconceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 16:369, February 1, 1874)

John Taylor
If there is anything good and praiseworthy in morals, religion, science, or anything calculated to exalt and ennoble man, we are after it. But with all our getting, we want to get understanding, and that understanding which flows from God. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 20:48, August 4, 1878)

B.H. Roberts
To pay attention to and give reasonable credence to [scientific] research is to link the church of God with the highest increase of human thought and effort. (B.H. Roberts, The Truth, the Way and the Light, p.364)

Joseph F. Smith
We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Reports, p. 7, April, 1909)

Monday, July 19, 2010

“Yes” & “No”

Several years ago, during a particularly stressful, confusing, demanding time of life, my good bishop arrived to ask if I would teach early-morning seminary.1 The request was stunning and overwhelming for in truth and full disclosure, I confess that I was never a “teenager” and had never particularly enjoyed teenagers, even when I was in the age category. Somehow, I missed all the “teen” years—always too serious;2 too inquiring; too prone to pursuing order, clarity, justice,3 and rationality.

However, I had been raised in a church culture of “yes.” I had never said “no” to a church calling before and almost always the “yes” was given within minutes of being asked to serve, as seemed the expectation (and sometimes the necessity). I was not always comfortable with the “speed” of how and when callings were issued, but had accepted and served in numerous capacities in both ward and stake. But this calling was such a sucker-punch to my psyche, that I mustered the strength to put my bishop on hold for the night. I had to ask God how much He thought I could/should endure.

For several hours I poured out my distresses (as if He needed to hear/re-hear the litany), but in the end I said “Thy will be done. If this is required, I will do it—but I will require immeasurable divine help.”

Finally, I fell asleep, but within short hours awoke with the clear impression that having said “yes” to God, I could/should say “no” to the bishop. In this instance, I had done all that was required.

I have often wondered since if we endure unnecessary sufferings in service when we skip the spiritual, personal confirmation of our callings. Of course, that confirmation may come even before the calling and sometimes at the moment of calling, but what if a confirming peace has not presented itself? Why should we feel pressured to say “yes” when we don’t have our own personal witness? Is that what God really expects?—every time? Or does He, first and foremost, desire that we say “yes” to Him, so He can then instruct us what to say to His stewards? Is that not the law of witnesses—that we be amongst the requisite witnesses to establish the truth of a call to service? How does the Spirit tutor us if we perpetually rely on another’s inspiration without asking our own questions?—getting our own answers?

Was my bishop inspired to issue this call, to force me into a tutoring, sacrificial moment—when distressed and overwhelmed, I still said “yes” to God? And was there (even before my bishop asked) some better, more loving, inspiring “teacher in the thicket” somewhere?

And for those who might think that opening this “Pandora’s box” of yes and no is an easy cop-out for refusing church service, I say, “Yes, there is that risk,” but is there not also risk and “cop-out” when we, like the wandering Israelites, refuse to approach God and insist that a “Moses” (or “Moses-substitute”) be our communicator.4 Is that what God wants?

How can we expect spiritual transformation unless we accept the contraries,5 paradoxes, ironies, and responsibilities inherent in life, in gospel teaching/service, and in the “yes’s” and “no’s” of spiritual guidance?
1. An approximate 1-hour, 5 day-a-week, religious instruction time for teenagers (ages 16-18) before their secular school day begins. The required readings and preparation time for instructors consume hours of each day outside of class time.
2. For my grade 12 graduation, I did not want a grad dress. I would wear my sister’s from the previous grad year. I wanted the equivalence in money to buy books. I got $30.00, a princely sum in 1967.
3. I eventually got a law degree, but found the practice more the pursuit of money than of justice.
4. And they [the people] said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. (Old Testament Exodus 20:19 - 21)
5. See posting about contraries/contradictions at

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Offering Up the Children

by SMSmith

Laid upon the altar of the world
The innocent child of the Hinnom wild
Killed amidst the groves.[1]

Laid upon the altar of the world
The neglected child in pursuits reviled
For things laid up in store.
The ciphered child in perversities defiled
By addicts demeaning, ever demanding more.
And the embryo child in a world beguiled
By rights of all but those.

By Moloch's priests amidst pagan feasts
Laid upon the altars of the world.
In proxied price for the willful sin
Of an idolatrous kin
Who feign in sacrifice.

What of these groves and altars of the world?
And the plague-orphaned child abandoned while
We surfeit in ease
Bottom-line disease
Kill in war
Pursue self ever more.

How long, O humankind,
These groves and altars of the world?

[1] Jer. 32:35, 19:5-6, 7:31; Isa. 57:5

© 1987 by SMSmith. Some Rights Reserved. See Creative Commons License at bottom of this page.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Natural Man

We have been told:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (King Benjamin’s discourse: Book of Mormon | Mosiah 3:19: .)

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 121:39)

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 1:16)

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (New Testament | 1 Corinthians 2:14)
In addition, déjà vu confirms that the natural man adores power, wealth, and fame—those classic, three temptations that shadow every man (and woman) in varying degrees. Thus, the natural man is in constant marathon-mode, racing the shadows. He is obsessed. He wants no distraction; no interference. He wants the thrill of passing; of besting himself and others. He cares not for the bleeding and broken. It’s a race of competition, efficiency, surpassing, “meriting” the prize. He scorns those less obsessed; those who stop to aid the exhausted. They are losers, as surely as those they foolishly succor. The natural man comes to expect that others, less gifted, should sacrifice for his visions and brilliance. He deserves. They serve.

In King Benjamin’s parallels, the natural man is not submissive, not meek, not humble, not patient, not full of love, not willing to submit [to the ways of God] … Loser traits, one and all, in the business world of yesterday and today.

So, if the natural man is so contrary to the order of God, what about a collective of such men and women? Does the collective ameliorate the “natural man” tendencies or does it concentrate them—as in a tornado?

Why is it that being surrounded by collectives of “natural men” of business, we blissfully follow the pied-pipers of laissez-faire (do your own thing, be a law unto yourself 1)? Why do we swallow hook, line, and sinker, the “rights” of the natural man; the omniscience of markets; the “dictates” of supply and demand; the propaganda of maximized profit and “blessed” prosperity; the disparaging of governments and unions—the only entities powerful enough to counter the corruptions2 of the natural man and his “private” capital collectives? Why do we bow to the so-called inevitability/determinism of (one-world) globalization?

These are all the ways of Babylon. She seizes upon things that call for balance and forces them to extremes. She caters to, praises, and propagandizes the natural man. Her ambition is to co-opt and corrupt the incentives of business and channel them to her own ends. Her spokespeople endlessly trumpet the “virtues” of privatization, efficiency, and deregulation (her most prized business tool); and ceaselessly denounce the evils of taxation, regulation, criticism, and the common good. She hoodwinks democracy in the name of freedom, agency, prosperity, “merit,” and individualism.

Why have we become so adept at severing conscience from commerce? Espousing moral and religious values in our lives and churches, but in our work and business following/favoring (though we deny it with passion) the ways of the natural man?

Suckered by Babylon, yet incensed beyond measure that anyone would suggest it.

1. In other words, follow the dictates, rules, necessities, etc. of competition and the marketplace.
2. Yes, these too have become corrupted by the entreaties and temptations of Babylon, but without them there is not even a glimmer of “balance of power.”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To bless & prosper?

This morning, I finished Joel ben Izzy’s The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness and was again reminded1 of the contradictions and contraries that “plague” this life.2 Stories that continually affirm what we try to forget—that life is full of Job-like contradictions that challenge our notion of a just and loving God, of meaning and purpose, of success, of the blessed life. Stories that “make no sense,” yet could bring us to a more perfect sense of what it means “to bless and prosper,” if only we would LISTEN!

Stories of:
▪ Storytellers deprived of their voices*
▪ Great musicians imprisoned in silence*
▪ Artists / filmmakers blinded by circumstance*
▪ Superman bound to a wheeled, breath-giving chair*
▪ Gifted souls afflicted with manias and depressions*
▪ Perfect souls reduced to wretchedness*
▪ Rich men in hell; beggars in heaven3
▪ An Omnipotent God crucified, and
▪ Dreamers everywhere who dwell in sackcloth and the ashes of their dreams and labors while the Heavens wait for them to be still long enough to hear.
Why is it that we continue to define “blessed and prospered” from the dictionary of Babylon when the stories (from antiquity to the present) beat a constant drum of contradiction?
Why do we persistently forget the corrosiveness and divisiveness of worldly wealth? 4
Why do we keep judging by appearances instead of the eternity of things?5
How long does it take for us to understand that “What seems like a blessing may be a curse; what seems like a curse may be a blessing”?6

2. … the Son, … ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh, and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer; or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be. But, notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin, … (Lectures on Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 5:2, emphasis added.)
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (New Testament Hebrews 12:2-3, emphasis added).
* Including: Joel ben Izzy; Beethoven; Hugues de Montalembert; Christopher Reeve; Patty Duke; Biblical Job; etc
3. New Testament Luke 16:20-26
4. Book of Mormon & prosperity cycles; New Testament Matthew 19:24
5. "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart"(Old Testament 1 Samuel 16:7).
6. Story: The Lost Horse (see Izzy’s book, p. 11-12. See also

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

“Priests & Levites”1—modern day parallels?

At my father’s funeral, a speaker (giving the biography) said:
“Travers didn’t separate temporal and spiritual matters. Often times we hear people excusing themselves, ‘Well, that’s business, and this is church. You don’t mix the two.’ They do mix, and Travers kept them together all the time wherever he went, and in the work that he has done.”
Perhaps that is why I see the separation of “church and business” as one of the great failings of our corporate times where many of the values taught in churches and other spiritual centers seem lost in our collectivized rush to prosperity in an increasingly business-dominated world.

Have we, by relying so much on the collective hierarchy of corporate systems, lost our sense of individual responsibility, accountability, and compassion for those that the system casts to the side of the road? Why is it that respectable, honorable men and women can countenance—even engage in—disreputable, dishonorable acts when working for legal fictions2 or when shielded as mere investors? Why do so many of us hide our head in the sand of maximized profit and deregulation while our “priests and Levites” promenade the byways of so called “free-markets”? “Free-markets” that have surreptitiously reverted to Adam Smith’s despised mercantile system of amassed wealth, power, and privilege!3 Déjà vu, anyone?!

Adam Smith4 believed that self-interest, when properly channeled in the competitive marketplace, could promote virtues of order, trust, self-command, prudence, probity, and even benevolence; that a properly channeled self-interest would redound to the public good. This required that a monopoly of physical power reside with the state—that the state monitor the considerable ironies and negatives that the natural tendencies of competitive markets exacerbated.

Our newspapers, magazines, newscasts, blogs, and websites are filled with stories of the wounded and dying because of increasingly unregulated tendencies. Consider:

▪ Companies continuing to operate unsafe mines5 after numerous citations and huge fines.
▪ Businesses justifying subsistence wages and sweatshop conditions.
▪ Companies polluting air, water, land, and living beings.6
▪ CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies engaging in bribery and fraud.7
▪ Companies knowingly manufacturing and marketing hazardous goods: addiction-enhanced cigarettes, fatal pharmaceuticals, toxic toys, contaminated foods, defective autos, bogus cures, etc.
▪ Financial schemes plundering to the right and to the left.
▪ Multinationals buying up global competitors or destroying them via rumor-mongering.
▪ Big-business falsifying earnings and liabilities.
▪ Etc., etc., etc. 8

The list is endless, as are the witnesses8 that cry in continual litany against our blindness and deafness. Why do we keep defending corrupted systems that pose as advocates of “competitive free-markets” while violating both the tenets of such free-markets and the professed virtues of owners, managers, shareholders, employees, and citizens at large? Why do we sustain these imposters that malign and weaken, with our consent and complicity, the very institution meant to monitor their adherence to the rule of law and human decency? Instead, we champion a corrupted system that has brought death, disease, injury, pollution, fraud, bribery, and a myriad sins into a marketplace that now survives, not on competition, but on favors? And we? Instead of identifying the brigands that plunder for profit, we demote the “sheriff” by popular (and propagandized) sentiment.

Adam Smith was not anti-government or anti-regulation. He believed that government would grow in size and importance along with the growth of a “channeled” and appropriately regulated competitive free-market as it helped elevate citizens to “universal opulence.” But the very institution designed to protect private property and enforce the rule of law has been co-opted by increasingly unrestrained self-interest and the negatives of wealth combined with power and influence. Large sectors of government now lie wounded at the side of the road along with other citizens while faux, laissez-faire priests and Levites of every stripe take great pains to “not see” or, in the alternative, to justify the wounded and dying. (“Them’s the breaks of the marketplace!”)

There is much good that has come out of the marketplace, but if we persist in blindness by mocking “motes” in government while discounting “beams” in business,9 our democratic values and the very Republic of America herself shall be found amongst the victims at the side of the road.

1. New Testament Luke 10:25-37: And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
2. See Corporate Personality at
3. For example: Who else gets Golden parachutes for failing?
4. Review lectures 7-10 of “Thinking about Capitalism” taught by Jerry Z. Muller, PhD; The Catholic University of America (© 2008, “The Teaching Company®, The Great Courses®)
5. Mining, e.g.: ; ;
6. Polluters, e.g.: ; ;
7. Corporate Fraud: ; ; ; ; Bribery:,8599,1977526,00.html ; ; Smuggling: ;
8. The list grows every day. For past examples see: ; ; ; ; ;
9. New Testament Matthew 7:3 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Of course there are problems with the present state of government excesses and abuses, but the real threat to liberty and democractic values is in the corrupted state of wealth, power, influence, and excess of modern business, which also accounts for much of government corruption.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

With Their Lips …1

(OR Why it is TIME to abandon the Republican/conservative “read my lips” allegiance)

Note: This is not a back-hand endorsement of liberals or Democrats. They have their own endangering (and often similar) failures. Rather, this is a voice of warning concerning those who present themselves as the last-gasp “saviors” and “guardians” of liberty and the American Constitution. Their rhetoric is full of “freedoms” and “values,” but by their actions, they repeatedly violate those very freedoms and values. Consider:

With their lips—they claim grounding in rational economic and Constitutional truths, but manifest a reflexive, emotional devotion to words over realities, seemingly unable to acknowledge the colossal inconsistencies between their words and their deeds.2

With their lips—they espouse the virtues of small government and fiscal conservatism, yet preside over massive government growth and ballooning debts and deficits.3

With their lips—they claim the moral high ground and divine endorsement, yet espouse and implement policies that foster and sustain economic darwinism (survival/enrichment of the richest and most powerful).4

With their lips—they ennoble the sacrifices of the military, yet denigrate the service and opinion of soldiers, veterans, or family members who oppose war or criticize the conduct of war.5

With their lips—they denounce central, planned economies, yet cater to the centralized, planned economies of multinationals and bow to the “invisible [deterministic] hand” of (fictitious) free-markets and -trade;6

With their lips—they venerate justice and equity, but preside over egregious injustices in pursuit of American and business hegemony.7

With their lips—they scorn the follies and corruptions of their opponents, yet turn a blind eye to their own.”8

With their lips—they advocate the rule of law, yet justify “executive” powers that enshrine the “opinioned” rule of presidents.9

With their lips—they claim to be defenders and promulgators of freedom, human dignity, and the Constitution, yet foment uprisings against democratically elected governments in foreign countries that do not bow to the Washington Consensus; sanction torture and assassination; suspend habeas corpus; deliberately deceive citizens and “uncooperative” officials; turn a blind eye to human rights violations in favored nations; foster the aggregation of power and wealth to the detriment of individual citizens, etc.10

With their lips—they denounce extremists, yet wildly applaud Barry Goldwater’s infamous “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”; and champion the bombing of enemies to manifest toughness.11

With their lips—they advocate free-markets, yet subsidize big-business; bailout corporations; award no-bid contracts; cater to lobbyists; legislate private agendas; sell off public assets; etc.12

With their lips—they claim to speak truth, yet continually neglect/refuse to fact-check or correct themselves.13

With their lips—they advocate individualism, yet favor private corporate collectives and reward compliance to authoritarianism.14

With their lips—they denigrate government, yet spend their private fortunes in pursuit of its power, privileges, employment, and (where politically possible) earmarks.15

With their lips—they speak of moral and family values, yet pursue pro-war agendas that tear families apart, exacerbate moral decay, and shatter minds, hearts, and bodies.16

With their lips—they claim to honor free speech and democratic values, yet vilify voices that question their ideology, “facts,” opinions, worldview, etc., especially attacking journalists, professors, researchers, historians, dissenters, anti-war advocates, scientists, philosophers; in fine, anyone who does not “see” as they do.17

Note: I do not concur with all that is claimed in the recommended reviews (RR) below, but there is much to consider, reconsider, and research in going beyond the “speed-of-knee-jerk” rejection characteristic of too many right and left ideologues. Both right and left have positives, but both have become enmeshed in the negatives of money, power, and ideology. Thus, we are increasingly presented with two unacceptable alternatives. But, the reason I find the right even more dangerous than the left, is their increasing abandonment of honor and justice as they pursue and justify the extremes of “individualism,” nationalism, and the primacy of the market-place.

1. “With their lips do honor democratic principles, but their actions are far from it.” Variation on a theme: Old Testament: Isaiah 29:13; New Testament: Matt. 15:8; Mark 7:6; Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 27:25
2. RR: Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Dean; The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew J. Bacevich; hyprocrisy segments on The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC)
3. RR: ; ; ; ; The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too by James K. Galbraith; Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy by Will Bunch; government statistics of relevant periods
4. RR: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston
5. Remember: John McCain 2000; Max Clelland 2002, John Kerry 2004, “Swiftboating” tactics; Pay attention to how they profile veterans or family members who oppose war
6. RR: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan; One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism by William Greider; The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy by William Greider
7. RR: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer; Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky; Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic by Chalmers Johnson; Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
8. That is, all liberals are evil, but errant conservatives are an infrequent aberration—“a ‘few bad apples’ in a gigantic barrel of goodness.” Observe political discourse; review ; check in on occasion with The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC)—hyprocisy watch; suspend emotion in order to assess facts
9. Aka: government by legal memo; Also read John Yoo, et al.
10. RR: The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation by Thomas Frank; Torture Team: Uncovering War Crimes in the Land of the Free by Philippe Sands; see also RR at #7
11. 1964 speech: ; other Republican Conventions: 1984, ; 2000 or 2004
12. RR: see RR at # 4 & 6
13. Listen to both conservative and liberal newscasts. Reference
14. RR: see Johnston at #4; and Dean at #2
15. Listen to faux-rogue candidates from McCain/Palin past Romney to Reagan; observe the realities of politicians in power
16. See Republican Convention 2004, 2008; observe the “tough on terrorists/extremists” talk by GOPs such as Sarah Palin ( ) and the repeated accusations of liberal softness—of liberal wimps. Do they forget that republican Reagan actually talked to Gorbachev of the “evil empire”? Do they forget that Democrats have taken America into more wars than Republicans? Not an accolade for either side! The tendency to romanticize war is a national shame. We can be grateful for the sacrifices of service men and women and their families, but do not pretend that war is not attended by moral degeneracy and terrible, lifelong consequences. Also see
17. Observe political discourse; pundits commentators, etc.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Clever Decoy—a Fearful Deception

(Excerpt from “Three Degrees of Righteousness from the Old Testament,” speech by Hugh Nibley, November 1982)

At the dedication of the Manti Temple [site, April 25, 1877], the Prophet Brigham Young offered this prayer: "We ask Thee that Thou would hide up the treasures of the earth, . . . preserve thy people from the inducements which these perishable things offer, which are liable to decoy the minds of Thy saints." We don't want to discover the gold around here, he insisted, and this just after George Albert Smith had reported discovery of a great gold vein. "And cause that these things may not come in their path to tempt them." The wealth of the earth is a clever decoy;52 "it is a fearful deception which all the world labors under, and many of its people, too." 53

This is one of the last speeches Brigham Young gave: "Many professing to be saints seem to have no knowledge, no light to see anything beyond a dollar or a pleasant time, or a comfortable house, or a fine farm." These have their place, but what do we enjoy? "O fools, and slow of heart to understand the purposes of God and his handiwork among his people."54

Go to the child, and what does its joy consist in? Toys, we may call them, . . . and so it is with our youth, our young boys and girls; they are thinking too much of this world; and the middle-aged are striving and struggling to obtain the good things of this life, and their hearts are too much upon them. So it is with the aged. Is not this the condition of the Latter-day Saints? It is. What is the general expression through out our community? It is that the Latter-day Saints are drifting as fast as they can into idolatry.55

This was all Brigham Young could preach in his last year: "fast into idolatry, drifting into the spirit of the world and into pride and vanity."56 "We wish the wealth of things of the world; we think about them morning, noon and night; they are first in our minds when we awake in the morning, and the last thing before we go to sleep at night."57 "We have gone just as far as we can be permitted to go in the road on which we are now traveling. One man has his eye on a gold mine, another is for a silver mine, another is for marketing his flour or his wheat, another for selling his cattle, another to raise cattle, another to get a farm, or building here and there, and trading and trafficking with each other, just like Babylon. . . . Babylon is here, and we are following in the footsteps of the inhabitants of the earth, who are in a perfect sea of confusion. Do you know this? You ought to, for there are none of you but what see it daily. . . . The Latter-day Saints [are] trying to take advantage of their brethren. There are Elders in this Church who would take the widow's last cow, for five dollars, and then kneel down and thank God for the fine bargain they had made."58 This is the great voice of the economy of Babylon. It does not renounce its religious pretensions for a minute. Many in it think they are identical with a pious life.

Now to Brigham's final word—his last speech, as a matter of fact:

"Now those that can see the spiritual atmosphere can see that many of the Saints are still glued to this earth and lusting and longing after the things of this world, in which there is no profit. . . . According to the present feelings of many of our brethren, they would arrogate to themselves this world and all that pertains to it. . . . Where are the eyes and the hearts of this people? . . . All the angels in heaven are looking at this little handfull of people, and stimulating them to the salvation of the human family. So also are the devils in hell looking at this people, too, and trying to overthrow us, and the people are still shaking hands with the servants of the devil, instead of sanctifying themselves, [given a choice between the two]."59

We are being pulled in two directions, he says; all the powers of heaven are looking to us, waiting for us to perform our mission; the devils are looking at us to fail in it, and we are shaking hands with them, instead of the other way around. "When I think upon this subject, I want the tongues of seven thunders to wake up the people."60

We see clearly the three economies. There is such a thing as a celestial economy. After all, Mormons believe in cosmism. Some churches still say that the greatest vice of the Mormons is that they look upon the physical universe as having some relationship to the gospel. We say it's all physical—there are universes we know nothing about; there is matter of a nature that we can't perceive at all. It's all real—what's on the other side of the black holes, or wherever it may be. This is part of the celestial order, and we have been given the great honor. The Lord has flattered us to the point of revealing to us this particular order. This is what has worked in ancient times, he explains. In the time of Adam I did it; in the time of Noah I had it. In the time of Moses I tried to introduce the people, but they wouldn't take it. In the time of apostles, I restored it. The Nephites had it for two hundred years, and you could have it too. I want you to have it. It's the only thing I will accept from you. And meanwhile, you will live by these rules and work your way toward it, but for heaven's sake, don't let yourself be decoyed and sucked into this third order, which becomes dominant. This picture of Babylon is so very striking, it's overpowering. It meets us everywhere. Today's newspaper is like a commentary on the whole scriptures. You could find in it a hundred items that are completely relevant on this subject, which makes us wonder how far along the way we are, and what the Lord is doing in these things otherwise.

Brigham, the greatest and certainly the most able economist and administrator and businessman this nation has ever seen, didn't give a hoot for earthly things: "I have never walked across the streets to make a trade."61 He didn't mean that literally. You always do have to handle things. But in what spirit do we do it? Not in the Krishna way, by renunciation, for example. I have never visited Calcutta, but the reports are utterly heartbreaking. If you refuse to be concerned with these things at all, and say, "I'm above all that," that's as great a fault. The things of the world have got to be administered; they must be taken care of, they are to be considered. We have to keep things clean, and in order. That's required of us. This is a test by which we are being proven. [Emphasis added.] This is the way by which we prepare, always showing that these things will never captivate our hearts, that they will never become our principal concern. That takes a bit of doing, and that is why we have the formula "with an eye single to his glory" (Mormon 8:15). Keep first your eye on the star, then on all the other considerations of the ship. You will have all sorts of problems on the ship, but unless you steer by the star, forget the ship. Sink it. You won't go anywhere.

This is the important thing: we must keep our eye on the principles of the gospel that have been given us. The Lord has given us great blessings in these things, and great promises; and because the spirit of the Lord is stirring in the church today, I am sure we all feel it in various ways. The interesting thing is how we all operate in different areas. I don't suspect for a minute either the burdens, or the trials, or the troubles, or the privileges of the capacities of any other person in the world. I am sure that if I were to start to analyze and describe them, I would be completely wrong, so I just forget it. Here we are, all relating to our Heavenly Father, and as such, related to each other as brothers and sisters. He's the one we go to; he's the one we keep in mind. So we are not concerned to lay down the law to each other, saying, "This is the way you have to do it. That is the kosher way." Let us each go to the Lord, who will reveal these things to us. May he inspire each one of us with understanding and the good sense and the faith and devotion that we need in order to live by the laws of the kingdom, …. [end of quote.]

(Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 333-7.)

JD=Journal of Discourses
MS=Millenial Star

52. MS 39:372.[See # 24, June 11, 1877: "Prayer offered by President Brigham Young"]
53. JD 10:271.
54. Ibid., 8:63.
55. Ibid., 18:237, 39.
56. Ibid., 18:239.
57. Ibid., 18:238-39.
58. Ibid., 17:41.
59. MS 39:118-19. [See #8, Feb. 19, 1877: "Dedicatory Services at the Temple of St. George, Utah Territory, Jan. 1, 1877"]
60. Ibid., 39:119.
61. JD 12:219.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Whoa! Woe! Whoa!

The slope led to a precipice and now we seem in free-fall. Is there a dangling bungee we can seize before impact?! By too many accounts (and déjà vu), it shall not be supplied by our lawyers and our judges.

Consider the “American” continent, circa 82 B.C.:
And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges. … Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ (Book of Mormon Alma 10:27, 32).
Consider Palestine, circa 30’s A.D.:
Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he [Jesus] said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. … Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered (New Testament Luke 11:45-52).
I do not fault all lawyers and judges for some are truly casting bungees after us as fast as they can, but two recent events highlighting unbelievable tragedies of injustice and exculpation come to mind.

2010—February 19:1

Jay S. Bybee and John Yoo, former Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyers and authors of the infamous torture memos, were exonerated of professional misconduct (and its severe consequences) by a finding of “poor judgment.” That lesser finding by DOJ Associate Deputy AG David Margolis was against the recommendation of his very own Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The Margolis decision is long and legalistic as it searchs for exoneration and lesser accountability. Margolis finds excuse in a veritable Jack Baur 24/7 justification replay of “context,” “necessity,” and “defense of others”! An incredible Pandora’s folly in a world where context, necessity, and self-defense/defense of others will forever rationalize torture and forever goad the terrorizing foe into greater resolve—both sides engaged in an endless competitive race to “do unto them before they do unto us”!

And how strange that U.S. SERE-training2 (based on much maligned torture techniques of totalitarian regimes and mad “scientists”) should become the model for our “enhancements.”3 How ironic that inhumane torments that extracted false confessions from American POWs have been crafted into tortures for “extracting truth” by 21st century “freedom fighters”! How “collateral” the nearly 100 detainee deaths4 in a system asserting that “no lasting mental [or physical] harm results from the use of the proposed procedures?!”5 And how, in the name of integrity, did we legalese ourselves around THIS!
18 U.S.C. Section 2340 (1) makes it a criminal offense for any person "outside of the United States [to] commit or attempt to commit torture." Section 2340(1) defines torture as:
an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control. [As quoted in the Bybee memo, p. 9.]
What do these contortions and exonerations say to the world? Where is the rule of law? Where truth and justice?6 Where was the Moran Report of 1943 on “Truth Extraction”?7 What is the state now of a revered Constitution?8
And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, ... (Doctrine and Covenants Section 98:5-11, emphasis added).
A finding of “poor judgment” to excuse “legalese-ing” of this magnitude and consequence is, in my view, a great American tragedy in a growing accumulation of them (See Memo ... ).

2010—January 21:9

CITIZENS UNITED, APPELLANT v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: a decision of crafted rationality in a 5/4 split by the supreme judges of the land—a decision freeing corporate wealth to freely speak from general funds. A decision massaged to appear as championing freedom, but in practicality and power deeply corrosive to representative democracy.

“Terrible judgment” is the essential analysis of Justice John Paul Stevens10 in his lengthy dissenting opinion. Considering the magnitude of this decision, it is worth the read, especially the dissenting opinion. Here are two excerpts from Justice Stevens:
“We have repeatedly sustained legislation aimed at ‘the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.’” (p. 49)
"At bottom, the Court’s [majority] opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics." (p. 90)
Thus, whoa! woe! whoa! to the course of our affairs—where nothing seems to mean what it is meant to mean—from Clinton’s “it depends on what the meaning of is, IS;” to “torture” memos; to “poor” justifications; to free-speech rights for multinational corporations (aka, legal-fictions) in American politics and elections.

How déjà vu the Orwellian Ministries of Truth and Justice! How invasive and powerful the voice of mammon!

2. SERE-training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape);
3. See The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer, © 2008, p. 159-164
5. “Furthermore, although [redacted] indicated that surveys of students having completed this training are not done, he expressed confidence that the training did not cause any long-term psychological impact. He based his conclusion on the debriefing of students that is done after the training.” (Bybee Memo: Aug. 1, 2002, p. 5). . Interesting how debriefing can substitute for long-term research!
8. And how terribly ironic that members of my faith played such key roles in these tragedies. Lawyers: Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury (Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice),; Timothy E. Flanigan, (White House Counsel’s Office), see Jane Mayer, The Dark Side … p. 50 and Re Mormon psychologists James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, see Mayer, p. 156-163. Also see,;
10. Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975.