A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Vocal Stylings of Mitt Romney

So I finally had to do it.  Had to watch an entire speech by Mitt Romney.  I realized I had only heard the little sound bites that they throw out on the news, but I had never listened to an entire speech from him.  Here's the one I listened to:

Things I liked:
- We will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friend's businesses.
- The part where he talks about getting to know us and what we care about (I genuinely thought this sounded  genuine).
- Being American means something different to each of us, but it means something special to all of us.

Things I didn't like (note that Democrats can be just as guilty of these):
- The implication that as president he could control the economy.  I generally don't think the president can control the economy - he (or she, someday!) can tinker at the margins, but a lot of the economy depends on larger trends beyond the President's reach.
- He spent most of his time bashing President Obama instead of expounding his own ideas.  A subset of this is that he continually implied that President Obama's views were anti-American.  It really really REALLY bothers me when politicians of any stripe accuse the other side of anti-American views.
- Running for government office while disparaging the role of government!  I mean, you are going to be the most visible member of the Federal government, yet you don't think it can do anything good?

All in all, I didn't think he was as stilted and stuffy as the media make him out to be - sure, he's not the most charismatic guy EVER, but I thought he did a pretty decent job of getting his points across without sounding like a robot.  So, have you all watched an entire speech of someone who you disagree with?

(Note: I realize this speech was short, only 15 minutes.  But, it's better than a 30-second sound bite.  I'm baby-stepping it to a full blown speech someday, maybe)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Take This Sabbath Day

I'd like to start with a small story - we'll call it "The Parable of the Primary Manual."  Long ago, when I was a wee one in Primary (the Mormon equivalent of Sunday School for kids ages 3-12), we had a series of lessons that I had heard before.  In the LDS church, lesson manuals are standardized across the church - so a kid in Guatemala and a kid in Georgia would, in theory, have the same lesson on the same Sunday.  For whatever reason, whether travel, a blip in the schedules, or teacher error, we spent several weeks (or perhaps months) repeating lessons that our class had already been taught.  I remember thinking: "AWESOME!  I know ALL the answers!"  (Yes, I was a goody-two-shoes extraordinaire)  I was literally excited by the prospect that I would know the "right" answer to give because we had already heard the lesson.  I was probably only 7 or 8 years old, but I already thought I had the gospel nailed down - I knew the answers to the questions that would arise.  I think of this experience as a time when I knew the "right" answers without necessarily understanding them or applying them in my life.

Jesus with little children - one of my favorite Primary pictures!
Fast forward to yesterday when my brother was telling me that he was teaching a lesson on Sunday about Elder Scott's conference talk, "How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life."  He asked me "how do you receive revelation in your personal life?"  I quickly responded "I don't" (Upon rereading Elder Scott's talk and finding that he condemned loud laughter as something that drives the Spirit away, I probably shouldn't have been so flippant about something so sacred).  But the whole question feeds into one of my constant worries about the gospel - do I know the "right" answers in theory without actually acting on them?

If you read my blog earlier this year, you'll know that one of my three goals for the year was to pray every day, both morning and night.  It's something that I know, in theory, is a good and desirable thing.  I have a testimony of prayer, that it can be an important source of inspiration, an outlet for thankfulness to God and a moment of meditation in an otherwise crazy busy life.  Yet I have trouble implementing it on a day-to-day basis.  I forget to pray in the mornings, and I often find my prayers are rote and repeating the same pleas every night, when I do remember to pray.  So I found myself in the temple celestial room on Friday night, asking in prayer for forgiveness.  Forgiveness for my forgetfulness and frailty.  It's been a week when I have felt acutely aware of the gap between my knowledge and actions.

The truth is, that I feel that my moments of inspiration and revelation are few and far between.  When I do have revelation, it is not the showy BIG kind that leads to any major flashes - it is a quiet thought or feeling that leads me in a good general direction without giving me specific step-by-step guidance.  I do wish it was more specific - that God would tell me where to work, where to be, who needed service.  But my life has just had a few times where I have felt truly at peace and 100% sure of something - most of the time I'm worried, stressed, tired, impatient, or some combination of these characteristics.  Still, the moments of peace come, and tell me I'm on the right path.

Picture of me and my Dad on my baptismal day
One of those peaceful moments was my baptismal day - now more than 20 years ago!  I remember being baptized, and then I remember as my father and other priesthood holders laid their hands on my head to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I felt such a surge of peace and love.  Similarly, when I left on my mission and was given a blessing on being set apart as a missionary, my Stake President blessed me to know that I was in the right place - something I had been worrying about and was a small bit of personal revelation.  I hope I am always able to remember those moments, and I will re-commit to try to have more of them.

However, I think I will always struggle with the tension between "knowing" the right answer and "doing" it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Of Puritans and Parallelograms

I know what you're thinking - what do religious movements of the 16th and 17th century have in common with geometric shapes?  Hopefully I can explain what's going on in my head on this topic.
(Puritans.  Duh!)

Here's what I remember from my 11th grade US History class about Puritan theology (and apologies to my teacher, who probably taught me to know better).  Puritans were believers in predestination and election.  There were certain signs whereby you would know if you were destined to be saved or not.  So, if you were blessed by God, that was a sign you were called to be saved.  None of your actions could affect your eternal destination.  The example I remember is that if your house caught fire, puritans believed that was a sign you were not predestined to be saved.  In my mind, this is taking true principles and turning them on its head - we do believe that blessings come from God, but if blessings are withheld you can't then condemn that individual as unrighteous.  Likewise, if something unfortunate happens to a person, that does not necessarily mean they deserve it.

Christ taught this principle in John Chapter 9 when he and his disciples saw a blind man and the disciples asked "...who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"  Christ answered that neither had sinned!  Just because sometimes misfortune is the consequence of sin, does not mean that all misfortune is the consequence of sin.  This can be aptly expressed in the phrase: "all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares."  Thus, bad choices never really lead to lasting happiness, but sometimes even good choices can lead to unhappiness in life.
(and yes, I am enough of a dork to love this chart)

I've been noticing recently how we tend to ascribe the worst characteristics of humanity to those people we don't value.  This is easier to do if you assume that they deserve their fate - it's much easier to dismiss people as worthless if they are lazy shiftless bums. This has been most noticeable recently in the effort to require drug screening of welfare recipients in several states. This seems to assume that maybe, because some welfare recipients have used drugs, they all must use drugs. So this becomes an excuse to invade their privacy and assume the worst about the most needy people in our society.

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Frankly, this assumes that those who are unfortunate deserve to be unfortunate, and we shouldn't help them. It's antithetical to one of my favorite scriptures in Mosiah 4: "Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God."

Now, I'm adult enough to realize that we don't live a theocracy, and I can't impose my religious will on the people (also, I am trying not to assume that there is only one right answer here, and leave room for dissent).  But I think a little charity could go a long way in politics - don't assume that because some poor people are poor because of bad decisions, that all poor people deserve to be poor.  Let's remember the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grammar Nazi

One of my least favorite grammar mistakes is when someone says "Me and Joe" when they should say "Joe and I."  Yet, somehow I really LOVE this song.  Enjoy, even if it should be "Paul Revere and I"!