I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"The Counterfeit Self" and Living the Gospel

When the study, entitled "The Counterfeit Self : The Deceptive Costs of Faking It" first hit the news media, I read some commentary about it. I have been thinking about the implications for Church members for some time now.

In the abstract it states:
Although people buy counterfeit products to signal positive traits, we show that wearing counterfeit products makes individuals feel less authentic and increases their likelihood of both behaving dishonestly and judging others as unethical.
The implications are on our own behavior. We are likely to be more dishonest if we are wearing fake things.

It makes me wonder about other things we do to our appearance that are fake like dying our hair, wearing a toupee, having a face lift, wearing age-inappropriate clothing, or even wearing make-up. Hair dye jobs rarely fool anybody. But, I think people do these things because they look better to themselves, not necessarily because they think they look better to other people. But, could this all be having an effect on our own behavior?

As I age, there are simply changes happening I can do nothing about. My teeth are yellowing and becoming more irregular. I'm okay with these things, but I would not want to have someone discount a verbal point I'm making because they are distracted by my appearance or some aspect of my appearance. I have found my own attention wandering if someone speaking is doing something or wearing something distracting. For this reason, my teeth concern me. I live in a world of perfect teeth and mine are not perfect. I am willing to settle for "not out of the ordinary" rather than "perfection."

I am not going to dye my hair because I think it looks fake. I do not like doing anything fake. Although, I have sympathy for people that go grey or white inordinately young. That would be distracting to people to observe a young face and too old of hair. Having no hair at all would also be distracting. But bald is less distracting for older men than comb-overs.

I have to wonder if the General Authorities had normal looking, irregularly yellowed teeth that people might focus on that trait rather than the gospel wisdom they impart. I think that type of visibility would affect my choices as well. Currently, I do not have a visible job or calling.

In general, I think we ought to avoid doing anything that is remotely fake because it is dishonest. I hope we see some additional studies in the future that examine whether people that do not artificially alter their appearance exhibit more honest behavior. In the meantime, we don't have to wait. We can decide this for ourselves.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Best Commentary I've Read on "8:The Mormon Proposition"

Mormons, Gays and Prop 8, posted by Mark Paredes on his blog, "Jews and Mormons: a blog by Mark Paredes. Mark Paredes is the religion columnist for the Latter-day Trumpet newspaper and serves as a High Councilor in the Santa Monica Stake of the LDS Church.

He states that he has seen the movie. So, obviously his comments are going to be more detailed than mine. I have collected my favorites points he makes in the quotes below. The full article is well worth your time.

Now for full disclosure of LDS beliefs on homosexuality. [Note to “8” producers: if you’re going to belittle our beliefs, at least make sure that you accurately state them. Given all of the ex-Mormons involved in your project, I have to conclude that your distortion of our theology was deliberate]. 
A Mormon bigot should be an oxymoron, and Mormons who hate gays are hypocrites. Am I denying that there are Mormon homophobes? Of course not. Any organization of 14 million members is bound to have self-righteous bigots in its ranks, and we do have our share. However, it is deceitful to attempt to portray these people as representing the majority of straight Mormons, who regard gays as their spiritual siblings.
. . . I cannot empathize with the bigots in the gay community who attempt to portray people of faith who oppose gay marriage as homophobic haters. This is nonsense.
While tax-exempt religious organizations are not allowed to sponsor political candidates, they can certainly encourage their members to support initiatives that enshrine their values into law. The church/state separation principle has to do with government endorsement or prohibition of religion, not with the right of churches to support moral causes.
While it’s relatively easy to splice together anti-Mormon clips and lash out at the Church, the real work of promoting dialogue is a lot harder—and ultimately more rewarding. I am optimistic that there are members of the gay community who are as committed to promoting understanding as “8”‘s producers are to undermining it.

Mormon Mission Biz: Video from CNBC

See the article, "Mormons Wield Influence in Business"

Mormons Gave Willingly to Proposition 8

One of the strange inaccuracies I keep reading about people's response to Proposition 8 from the documentary "8: The Mormon Proposition" is that they think the Church forced people to donate money to it. I have already stated that no compulsion is ever involved, even to give tithing. In a phone interview with Reed Cowan by a reporter for Salon who is ex-Mormon herself, this inaccuracy should be set to rest. Here is the dialog:

Jodi Mardesich for Salon: The film mentions one family, the Pattersons, who withdrew $50,000 from their children's college fund. Was there any backlash against that call for extra money? They're already donating 10 percent [tithing], and now they're expected to pay double or more?
Reed Cowan: Those who participated in it gave willingly.

Read the article, "Cancel Gay Pride until we have marriage equality!: What can same-sex rights advocates learn from the Mormons? The director of a documentary on Prop 8 explains" at
this link.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"8: The Mormon Proposition" and Faulty Assumptions

I have been following the coverage, discussion and comments of the documentary "8: The Mormon Proposition" but have held off posting about it. However, after the review of the film in The New York Times I decided it was time to comment.

I have not seen the film. However, I have viewed the trailer, clips and read a great deal about it including descriptions of all it contains. Please take my comments in that context.

I do think there are some faulty assumptions perpetrated by the film and people's ignorance about the Church.

1. I recognize all the video clips from official Church sources and I can tell many of the quotes are taken wildly out of context. This is the filmmaker's deception.

2. These clips can hardly be exposes when the Church itself released them all on its official Newsroom web site. See this link and scroll down to "Video: Broadcast to Church Members in California."

3. Also on this link is a reference to the web site PreservingMarriage.org where it says the Church's teaching are more fully explained. The web site identifies itself as an "official" web site of the Church.

4. The Church does NOT teach its members to disown, kick out or otherwise disavow their homosexual family members as inferred in the documentary. If families do this it is a personal decision. I have homosexual family members and they have not been treated in this manner.

5. Members are never required to give money to any cause or even the Church itself. Members give because they choose to. There is no compulsion.

6. The Church is not one monolithic entity that is tax exempt. There are many different accounting funds in the Church. It has some profit making ventures and some that are borderline. It pays taxes on these aspects and has since the 1920s if I remember my modern Church history correctly. (From my religion class at BYU in 1984 from Church scholar and Professor, Dr. Richard O. Cowan.)

7. How can anyone possibly know how much of the funds for Proposition 8 came from Mormon individuals? Did people have to identify their religion when they contributed? How can something unknown and unknowable be known?

8. The film and others are confidently asserting that the Church contributed millions to defeating Proposition 8, yet the California Fair Practices Commission collected and investigated all the Church's disclosures and confirmed the total amount was just under $200,000 largely in in-kind contributions. Where is the proof for these wild assertions. The facts we have say otherwise.

9. The Commission investigated one individual's complaint. This individual asserted, and still asserts, the Church contributed millions. He never offers any solid proof. His outlandish accusation resulted in an 18 month investigation and a fine of about $5,000. Why is no one protesting his frivolous complaint and the amount of money a public institution spent in investigating it? I'm certain it cost much more than $5,000 to complete its investigation -- all of it is probably tax money.

10. The Church's position on homosexuality has always been consistent. Society has changed its stance, but the Church never has.

11. I do not think the Church was trying to obscure its involvement in Proposition 8 to deceive non-members. I think the Church was trying NOT to exert undue influence on members, thus the indirect approach it took. By the way it did things, it allowed Church members to hold a differing view and to pursue political means to that end without undue pressure.

12. Try as you might, you will never be able to prohibit, control or render illegal a Church's ability to instruct and guide its members and that is what the Church did -- instruct and guide its members concerning Proposition 8.

Note: Since I have no wish to revisit old issues, I will simply refer you to my "To Gays & Lesbians: An Open Letter to the Gay and Lesbian Communities after Proposition 8 passed in California -- from a Mormon" which is currently being displayed on my Google Sites page next to a Google placed ad for "8: The Mormon Proposition" which I think is a hilarious juxtaposition. Thank you Google. . . 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

California Fair Political Practices Commission to Decide on Fining the Church

Well, I'm certain the digital wires are going to heat up now that a fine has been proposed for the Church concerning its contributions to the Proposition 8 fight in California in 2008.

So far, only a blog on The Sacramento Bee and The San Jose Mercury News are reporting the story. The actual proposal and details of the recommendation to the California Fair Political Practices Commission can be found here. The Church's statement of what contributions it made and when the disclosure was filed can be found here.

I think it needs to be put into perspective. A fine of $5,539 is hardly the amount we have been led to expect from the opponents of Proposition 8 and especially the gay and lesbian press. The fine is not from non-disclosure but late disclosure. So, it is saying the Church fully disclosed everything but the timing was a bit late.

The fine is on a total amount of $36,928 of in-kind contributions the Church made. In-kind are non-monetary. They can include such intangibles as expert advice or tangibles such as storage space for equipment. These contributions have to be assigned monetary value and then disclosed as such.

The fine has not been levied yet. It is only proposed and will be taken up at the Commission's June 10, 2010 meeting. The agenda and details can be found here.

The Bee's quote, "The Human Rights Campaign, a supporter of same-sex marriage, said the $5,539 fine may seem inconsequential but that it "provides ongoing evidence that the Mormon church was a significant leader in the campaign to repeal marriage equality."  

The word's "significant" and "leader" are laughable given the amounts involved. The Church pointed out that its contributions represent less than one half of one percent.

I suspect this is not the final chapter in this story.

Note: According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Church has agreed to pay the fine because although it disclosed all the contributions it made there are daily reporting requirements right before voting day and the Church missed these.

Also access An Open Letter to the Gay and Lesbian Communities after Proposition 8 passed in California -- from a Mormon.