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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Mormons are Conservative Republicans: Part 5: Socialists and Libertarians

There are liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. However, their numbers are relatively small and they are usually explained by the history of the area they live in. For example, there may be a strong union tradition in a manufacturing community but they live rural and value their firearms. These would be classified as conservative Democrats.

Currently, the “conservative” or “liberal” labels tend to be conferred because of how we feel about social issues rather than fiscal ones.

I can’t ignore that socialists and libertarians exist. However, in the U.S. their numbers are quite small. Most of us fit under conservative or liberal banners.

In general, socialists prefer more government activity in all issues and libertarians prefer less government activity in all issues.

Communists are a specific branch of socialism.

At times in our Mormon history, socialism has gained popularity and some strength. Usually it is the collectivism that has appeal. Okay, I’ll stop talking jargon and explain.

Think back to Communism in the Soviet Union, where people worked collectively and ownership was collective. Private ownership really didn’t exist much. Everyone labored for the common good and government controlled everything.

The theory behind all of this was that no one was allowed to corral more resources than they needed. People had what they needed and there was equality. Everyone owned everything. The government directed all of the economic activity.

Obviously, this version of socialism had some appeal for Mormons, because we believe that living the Law of Consecration or United Order is the highest economic way to live. The few times we tried to live it, though, we didn’t measure up.

In general, it involves pooling all of our efforts and resources and only being granted what we need. This system ensures equality and eliminates poverty.

The difference between this Mormon utopia and the socialist methods of the past is that the Mormons’ system is entirely voluntarily. Socialism involves compulsion, which is totally at odds with our belief system. Also, it is very different for government to control things versus Church leaders.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Mormons are Conservative Republicans: Part 4: Republicans Explained

Most Republicans are conservative.

In general, Republicans favor less government involvement in fiscal issues and more in social issues.

Republicans also have a more international focus than Democrats, who tend to emphasize domestic issues. This usually results in more support for the military amongst Republicans than Democrats. Most military people are Republicans.

Republicans have more respect for market forces and what they can do to address any excesses of businesses in the economy. They prefer minimal regulation, so that business can flourish and provide jobs.

Republicans are distrustful of too much regulation and see government activity as meddling. They often view government as the problem, not the solution.

As a group, Republicans are more religious than Democrats and see little wrong with school prayer or a nativity scene on public property.

Being religious, they tend to have firm ideas of right and wrong and are not willing to leave these decisions up to the vagaries of “individual choice.”

This also affects their approach to crime. They tend to be more willing to incarcerate than Democrats who may see crime as evidence of economic inequality.

They like to see market forces applied to other things as well, like education, and tend to support efforts like charter schools and school vouchers.

Republicans tend to embrace a more traditional definition of “family” than Democrats.
Republicans are less likely than Democrats to limit gun rights.

They may agree with Democrats on what problems exist, but generally don’t assign government responsibility for the solution.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why Mormons are Conservative Republicans: Part 3: Democrats Explained

Most Democrats are liberal.

In general, Democrats tend to prefer more government involvement in fiscal issues, than social issues.

Democrats tend to distrust business more and expect government to keep it in line by regulating it and curbing free market excesses. They protect jobs.

Democrats are more likely to support antitrust measures and monitoring how business operates. They may be more concerned than Republicans about things like government addressing CEO salaries and if business appears to be cheating the consumer or endangering safety and well-being.

On the flip side, Democrats are more likely to assume that abortion is a personal choice, that school prayer or other religious issues have no place in government run schools and that it has no business telling someone that being gay is wrong.

Since Democrats envision an active government, they may enact measures to assure that anyone considered different is protected by not allowing individuals or organizations to discriminate against them.

Government action is necessary in order to help the family function better. This justifies many of the social safety-net programs (like food stamps) that make up the government’s public assistance network.

Democrats like the uniformity, and equality, of federal activity to the disparity produced by differing state and local government actions.

Democrats tend to embrace a more expansive definition of “family” than Republicans.

Democrats are more likely to limit gun rights.

Since Democrats see a larger role for government in society and the lives of individuals, you’ll find them working for government in higher percentages than Republicans. Most government employees are Democrats. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It is a natural result of their ideology.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Mormons are Conservative Republicans: Part 2: Ideology Explained

When I taught basic American Government to college students, I assigned them to explain their ideology to me. I got so exasperated with people who would insist it was irrelevant and that they “vote for the person not the party.” I docked them points because I’d told them not to make that claim beforehand. I also remarked, “I didn’t ask who you vote for, I ask you what your ideology is.”

Ideology defines what role you think government should play in society and in the lives of individuals.

Think back, okay maybe way back, to high school history and the term “laissez faire.” This is a French term. The term described the attitude people had before, and during, the Great Depression. The attitude was that government should not do anything about the economy. It wasn’t its responsibility, so to speak. Obviously, that attitude has changed. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s time period, the government has been involved in the economy. We now think government does have a responsibility to manage the economy.

What is important for our purposes in examining ideology is identifying what we think government should and should not be involved with, what it has a responsibility for.

Unfortunately, we assign just about every problem to government now. If great-aunt Gertrude has a hangnail, then the government should do something.

This wasn’t always the case. So, if we are to understand ideology, we have to look at the degree of responsibility we assign to government.

For example, nowadays, people differ on how much the government should be involved in the economy, not whether it should be.

In general, Democrats prefer government play a larger role in society than Republicans. Republicans assign more responsibility to business, non-profits (like churches) and individuals.

In general, Democrats prefer that the federal government play a larger role in society than the states and localities. Republicans are much more likely to assign responsibilities to the states and local governments than the federal government.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Mormons are Conservative Republicans Part 1: Introduction

This series will continue over the next ten days and consist of ten blog postings.

For numerous personal reasons, I’ve had to limit this blog to weekly posts. However, I don’t want to spend the next ten weeks posting on one subject and something tells me I can’t keep readers in suspense that long anyway.

I’ve wanted to do this series for some time; but I have intentionally waited until an election year and a time when I thought people were ready for it. Romney will be the Republican nominee for President. The primary season is officially over and the outcome is clear. Romney started running against Obama a short time ago. Now seems a good time for this series.

Other countries have multiple political parties. In this country, we have two, Republicans and Democrats. The other parties are too small to merit attention.

Our two-party system developed soon after our country was founded. We’ve had the same two parties since the Civil War. Positions on all major issues, and most minor issues, have been staked out by both parties. The positions are on opposite ends from each other. If parties share views on an issue, then it is no longer an issue.

Defining “conservative” and “liberal” are a little harder. Definitions change over time. History often determines what the terms mean.  What was considered liberal ten years ago may now be considered conservative.

Also, the terms can differ according to subject area. For example, they have different meanings in math than they do in politics.

I’m going to use the terms according to what they mean right now, in today’s political environment. In general, Democrats are liberal and Republicans are conservative.

I suspect someone will comment on this series and try and hit me with the fact that Joseph Smith was a Democrat. I believe he was; but that fact is irrelevant now, as is the fact that most Mormons used to be Democrats.

Most Mormons are conservative Republicans now, and likely to remain so.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Make the Church's New Ward and Stake Calendaring System Absolutely Worthless!

The Church's digital tools for the living are just as sophisticated as their digital tools for the dead ( https://familysearch.org/). However, instead of extolling their virtues like they do for the Family Search site, local and stake church leaders seem intent on sabotaging, undermining or totally ignoring the digital tools for the living. This is most evident from the new digital calendaring system the Church recently unveiled.

If you are unschooled in this art, you haven't been in local leadership positions long enough to be calloused enough to fit in with normal practices.

Below, I will detail how to make the Church's new Ward and Stake calendaring system absolutely worthless:

- Don't call anyone to be a Stake Web Site Administrator. This will ensure that people in stake callings don't have sole responsibility for the web tools. It will just be an unnecessary appendage to regular callings we are used to. This also ensures that Ward or Branch web site administrators, if they exist, won't have anyone to go to for help. Since only stake people have access to Church headquarters for real-time digital help this will keep units in the dark.

- Don't call anyone to be a Ward or Branch Web Site Administrator. This will allow you deniability in using the tools, making it so you can simply plead ignorance on everything.

- If you do call these local administrators, be sure you bypass them or don't use them. For example, if you want to send a message to every ward/branch member, simply compile your own email list on your own email account and send out messages that way. It is best to only include members in leadership positions or those you like on your list. It's even better to have each leadership person compile their own email list on their own email account. This will create maximum redundancy by everyone creating their own list only they can use and no complete master list will ever exist.

(In addition, we don't want Church Headquarters being able to send email to our local members. That would undermine local power. This way members will only know what you want them to know, not what the Church wants them to know.)

- If you do send out emails, make sure it is only one email per household and to the least digital spouse at an outdated email address.

- Don't send emails to children or young adults. They are second-class members, unworthy of direct communication. Since they are almost universally digital, including them may result in their educating their parents on the Church's digital tools and this would undermine your efforts to make the calendaring system worthless. The Church's system allows them to receive emails. You have to ensure that they won't.

- If you do call someone to be a web site administrator, make sure they never access the help pages and instructions for properly operating the calendaring system:  https://ue.ldschurch.org/ldsapphelp/calendar/#main_topics/calendar_help.htm

- If you do have a web site administrator conscientious enough to actually read and follow official instructions for properly using the calendaring system, simply say that it "isn't in the Handbook" and you can ignore it if you wish. Then ignore it at your leisure. Do things however you want. This will undermine any appropriate attempts by web site administrators to perform their calling properly and effectively.

- Never access, and never allow anyone else to access, LDSTech. Better yet, insist it isn't an official Church site even though it is. People will be able to get guidance on using the Church's tech tools and you don't want them to have that. It is especially important to keep any stake or local clerks ignorant of LDSTech.

- Make sure no one that can add or edit items knows policy on formally approving items. Just approve everything. This will ensure that inaccurate or unapproved items are continually added or re-added to the calendar.

- Never allow people to be trained on the calendaring system. Doing so may make it succeed and totally undermine your efforts to undermine the system.

- Be sure and use Mormon Shorthand for everything, especially local parlance. This will ensure that almost no one can figure out what is going on, or will go on, now and in the future.

- Put events on the calendars but don't put all events. Make sure you leave some out. This will train people to think the digital calendars are unreliable and they won't use them.

- Forget that the Church itself puts Churchwide Events on the Churchwide Events Calendar. Put such events like General Conference and the General Relief Society Meeting on every conceivable calendar such as Stake Activities and Stake Leadership Meetings. This will ensure redundancy allowing the same event to show up numerous times on the same day -- in different colors of course.

- Ignore the color coding system and be sure and put "Stake" on all Stake events and "Ward" or "Branch" on all Branch events. What does it matter that the color coding system already identifies these as such? The redundancy will increase the necessity of clicking on the item for more details in order to find out anything else. Which brings me to the next point.

- Don't provide any details on any event such as location, time, who the event is for, if something needs to be brought or what the event is going to accomplish. Who needs details after all? This will ensure that people know an event is occurring but they will have absolutely no idea how they personally can participate. This is sure to keep fringe and inactives ignorant and uninvolved.

- Ignore the fact that the Church has created different calendars for different needs and entities and put everything on one calendar. It is especially effective to put all stake leadership meetings on the stake activities calendar even if you have a different calendar set up for stake leadership meetings. By splitting the stake leadership meetings into two calendars leaders have deniability if they don't show up for meetings. In addition, regular members will assume that all the calendar items are leadership meetings and, therefore, irrelevant to them.

Putting everything on one calendar doomed the old calendaring system. It can do the same for the new.

- Don't use the calendaring system at all. Develop something else that totally bypasses this wonderful system and exposes the Church to litigation and/or breach of privacy by putting confidential information on something like Facebook or GoogleDocs calendars. It also has the added benefit of duplicating effort unnecessarily and keeping people from doing something that may be worthwhile. This is especially useful since you can sync the official calendaring system with third party calendar tools through the Church's system. Just don't learn how to sync and you can maintain redundancy.

- Stick with the paper system. We've being using it for years even though it only marginally works there. This has the added benefit of keeping the young people unempowered and ignored just as they should be. Keep up the ridiculous practice of assuming their parents will tell them about things even if the parents are inactive or not members. It will have the added benefit of keeping single sisters uninformed, especially if the paper calendaring system only circulates amongst priesthood leaders and their families.

Whew, I think those are the main points. You can also access this prior blog posting. Please let me know if you can think of anything else.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"[A]s a Catholic, we’re basically cannibals"

Larry Wilmore:
And I don’t want to slam somebody else’s religion. I mean as a Catholic, we’re basically cannibals: We eat Jesus every Sunday, you know? So who am I to say your religion is creepy?
Wilmore is surprisingly gracious in his interview, "Larry Wilmore on Race, Politics, and Mormonism" by Daniel Haglund in Slate magazine.

He acknowledges that when viewed by an objective outsider, every religion probably looks strange.

To his credit, he spent two and a half weeks in Salt Lake City. I wish others who want to understand us would spend that much time, or more, immersed in our organization and culture.

The 18 months to two years that full time missionaries spend in other locations and cultures has a phenomenal effect on their understanding. I wish news organizations would examine this a bit more in depth. Missionaries come back not only loving the people they served amongst but understanding them as well.

I lost my taste for playing the tourist when I lived in Hawaii. Yes, I lived there, for an entire semester going to school. I developed a healthy, yes healthy, dislike for tourists just like every other student on campus. They disgusted us. Tourists' Hawaii experience was so superficial and artificial. In order to understand Hawaii, you have to live there.

Tourists don't see Hawaii. They see other tourists. . .

Wilmore acknowledges that in order to understand Mormons he really needs to spend more time with them, but he says:
I started to learn more things about it, but you’d have to spend more time within the church to really get a sense of where it’s at and where it’s going.
What a novel concept. In order to understand something you really have to be willing to put in the time.

I once had a discussion with a film studies colleague where I worked. He complained that my expertise, and his own, suffered from the same problem. No one really understands movies or politics but they talk about them anyway.

Few understand Mormons, but they talk about them anyway. It's just doubly irritating when it's journalists.

I'll reserve any more criticism until I'm able to actually view NBC's offering from Thursday night (August 23) on Mormon in America.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Untangling Mormon Lay Ministry

(Illness has prevented me from posting regularly lately. My thanks to those of you who missed me.)

The following infographic is part of a presentation on the Church's lay ministry and how it works. Understanding the organization is one thing. Understanding how it works is something else. See my prior post on compartmentalization.


Monday, August 6, 2012

"[C]overing Congress from Kalamazoo"

Writing or reporting about Mormons from a desk and a keyboard without a field trip to a Mormon ward is like covering Congress from Kalamazoo. You have to be there. You have to feel the pulse. You have to understand the perspectives, the nuances, the motivation deeply rooted in belief. Then you’ll be better able to explain what makes Mormons tick so enthusiastically.
I missed a week's posting, so this is a make-up post. The above quote is from a blog posting, "What makes Mormons tick?" in The Washington Post by Michael Otterson, who is in charge of public affairs for the entire Church.

Otterson's point is well taken.

If a reporter visited my Branch (I don't live in a congregation large enough to be a Ward) what would he or she see?

1. An outpouring of love, support and concern over someone who just (barely) survived a massive heart attack.

2. The distress of the young people who requested the roller skating activity that resulted in the heart attack.

3. The victim's wife's assurance to the young people that being at the roller skating rink probably saved the victim's life because an EMT was at the rink who administered immediate and crucial care and the easy proximity of the hospital made quick transport of the victim possible.

4. The administration of a priesthood blessing to the victim where healing was promised, giving us all faith that the victim would survive.

5.The family's including all the congregation members in the information loop on Facebook so that we could all follow his progress and recovery as well as share our good wishes with him and his family.

6. The immediate, but temporary, reassignment of the family's church responsibilities so that Sunday services could be conducted efficiently and effectively.

7. The fasting and prayers of the entire congregation so that the victim's recovery would be assured and speedy.

8. The joy at the news that the victim is conscious (albeit weak) and cracking jokes, just like normal . . .

9. The abundant food at the Sunday pot luck because everyone was concerned that with the victim's absence there wouldn't be enough food for everyone since the victim's family normally provides such a large amount.

10. Anticipation of when the family will rejoin us at church -- along with pulled pork which they promised to bring to yesterday's pot luck. I'm sure we will see them all . . . very soon.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Idaho Falls Temple -- Ancient Nephite Temple

I chatted today with some women at church about temples. We talked about the ones we had visited ourselves, what we liked about them and what made them unique. When the Idaho Falls Temple came up I passed along an interesting tidbit that I will pass on to you now.

In Temples to Dot the Earth by Richard O. Cowan, a former professor of mine, stated a little known fact that I passed onto my friends today. I'll quote it here for you:
     The board of architects headed by Edward O. Anderson was assigned to draw plans for the Idaho Falls Temple as well as the Los Angeles Temple. These men found it best for each to prepare his own sketch. The group chose the concept prepared by John Fetzer, Sr. He affirmed that after praying for guidance, "he saw in vision an ancient Nephite temple which he used as the basis for his design."
There are many different editions of the book. This tidbit is from Chapter 8: Continued Expansion, and the quote comes from footnote 21 -- Groberg, The Idaho Falls Temple, p. 63.

So, perhaps our best guide on what an ancient Nephite temple looks like is to look at the Idaho Falls Temple. See the following photos on the Church's  image media library or the official temple photos that can be found at this link.