June 21st, 2006

Mitt Romney and Religion in the Presidency

The Bloggernacle Times recently posted a portion of a Wall Street Journal article about Mitt Romney and his potential problems if he seeks the presidential candidacy. Much has already been said on this issue, but I’d like to offer my two cents. From the article:

Mr. Romney said he does not believe that there should be any religious test applied for politicians. While voters will “select individuals who are people of faith,” he says the “brand of faith” should not matter. Political leaders “follow the law of the land” and shouldn’t substitute the Constitution for a religious text.

Our country, since its inception, has always had a public religion based in the Judeo-Christian belief system. Because of this, Americans have always sought out a president who shared similar beliefs and morals. When John F. Kennedy was thick in his campaign, he had to placate the public on the matter of his Catholic religion, and appeal to their acceptance and implementation of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

From the recommended book American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, here is an excerpt talking about JFK’s presidental campaign:

Nearly half a century on, Ted Sorensen could still remember the letters: a flood of them, from all over, attacking John Kennedy’s Catholicism in the 1960 presidential campaign. “The single biggest obstacle to his election was his religion,” said Sorensen, Kennedy’s speechwriter and special counsel. “You should have seen the hate mail that came in, both from rednecks and from liberal intellectuals who should have known better.”

In a time where so many people are eager to speak before they think, it will be interesting to see what slanderous filth is flung in Romney’s face, just as it was in the face of JFK, if he indeed decides to seek the presidential office.

From a Salt Lake Tribune article about the majority of LDS belonging to the GOP:

“I’m thinking Mormons are going to get pretty disgusted with what I believe they’ll do to Romney,” [Democratic State Party Chairman Wayne] Holland says. He predicts some in the party will be “tearing Romney apart because of his faith.”

Ah, I’m sure Jesus would approve of that… Whether the Bible-belt Baptists (after attending their “How to use lies, slander, and deceit to attack the Mormons” classes) and extreme evangelists like to admit it or not, Mormons are Christians. They believe in God. They worship Jesus Christ. They lead good lives. They have families and build homes of love and peace. They volunteer. They serve others. They reach out.

So, it would seem to me that Mitt Romney, being a Mormon, would have more in common with other (alleged) Christians than not. In fact, he probably is one of the few politicians, claiming to be of the Christian faith, who actually practices that faith.

Why, then, are people using this “pro” as a “con”? How is this positive being turned into a negative?

I think it all boils down to flat ignorance. Some people think his being a Mormon means he will turn the USA into a theocracy, force everybody to wear mormon underwear, and re-institute polygamy. If these people would simply inform themselves before freaking out in the public and private arena, they would come to see that Romney is a good man. He’s got a good track record. He loves his wife. He has morals, and he sticks to them. He doesn’t lie, steal, cheat, drink, commit adultery, or do any number of things our current and previous politicians have been caught red-handed doing. I echo Senator Orrin Hatch’s sentiments, when he said “I believe he is everything everyone would want in a political leader.”

So why all the fuss? Do people want to apply some sort of religious litmus test to presidential hopefuls? Of course not.

People fear what they do not know. Being that many people don’t know and understand the simple Christian tenets of the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormons”), it is my opinion that they are attacking Mitt Romney out of fear, out of ignorance, and out of unchristian attitudes and practices.

“Well, I personally believe that Jesus Christ is my savior.”
—Governor Mitt Romney

Go get ’em, Mitt!

[UPDATE: CBN has an interview posted with Gov. Romney that’s worth watching. ]

June 21st, 2006

Brittany McComb, My Hero

In the past two days I’ve watched news blurbs about a recently-graduated Valedictorian named Brittany McComb, from Foothill High School in Clark County, Nevada.

Brittany prepared her speech, which had some references to God, and one reference to Christ. As required, she delivered her speech to school officials for approval. They then forwarded it to the ACLU, who proceeded to scrub the speech of all religious references. They told her that if she did not read the approved version, her microphone would be cut off mid-speech.

But Brittany refused to back down. She memorized her speech. And when it came time to make a decision, she chose to give her original speech, containing references to God, the Bible, and Christ.

And then they cut off the microphone.

Sad. Pathetic. Downright despicable.

Brittany, my hat goes off to you. You are a modern-day hero, boldly facing the goliaths of our day. Good job, good luck, and God speed.

[UPDATE: Brittany is now suing the school district “for having violated Brittany’s constitutional right to free speech and equal protection under the law.”] [2]
[UPDATE x2: I just came across this article about Brittany, a very good read.]
[UPDATE x3: You can view the video clip at this website ]

June 21st, 2006

Illegal Immigration

One of the most hotly-debated items in the USA right now is illegal immigration. There have been good arguments made on both sides of the aisle, which is why we really haven’t gotten anywhere in this problem.

As I see it, the debacle of illegal immigration is somewhat of a catch-22.

First, our capitalistic society has long since taken advantage of cheap, illegal labor. While here in my hotel in San Francisco, it’s been interesting to note all of the (most likely) illegal immigrants doing the menial jobs that middle class white America would rather not do. Housekeeping, cooks, janitors… I’d be willing to bet that a great majority of them are not legal.

So let’s say we have a mass deportation of all illegal immigrants. Now, corporate America will have to offer higher wages for the same jobs so that people will take them, they’ll have to pay insurance, taxes, worker’s compensation… and every other associated cost will be passed onto us, the consumers.

I am absolutely in favor of obeying the law, and since illegal immigration is against the law, there is no room or tolerance for amnesty for people breaking the law. So, we deport them. And then prices go up. Is there a solution?

While watching Hannity and Colmes last month, I heard an interesting statistic. It was calculated that the average tax-paying, American family pays nearly $3,000 per year to support costs incurred by illegal immigrants. Medicare, education, school meals, law enforcement, etc., it all gets throw into the mix. You pay (roughly) $3,000 every year because of illegal immigrants.

So if we deport all the illegal immigrants, that means we can reduce taxes, right? The federal government won’t be burdened by all these extraneous expenses!

Think again. Given the government’s shining track record for insane spending, I’m sure they’d welcome the extra cash flow so they can upgrade the $640 toilet seats to bidets.

Then again, the cost and effort of deporting all illegal immigrants isn’t feasible, so that will never happen. Besides, no politican wants to upset that many people, because they would lose the latino block of constituents for the next election. The main reason, I think, that Bush sent the National Guard to the border is to save face and satisy the conservatives. That’s all politics has boiled down to these days.

So is amnesty the solution? Heck no. Is mass deportation the solution? No.

What, then, is the solution? Your guess is as good as mine.

June 20th, 2006

Homeschool—An Enticing Option

In a recent post I talked about the benefit and blessing of intertwined spiritual and secular study.

And yet in our public school system, just the opposite is occuring, and the polarity is increasing at a logarithmic rate. Three things I can think of in recent news trouble me greatly, and give me the desire to homeschool my future children.

First, a bill passed by the California Senate, and likely to be passed by the Assembly, “removes sex-specific terms such as ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ from textbooks and requires students to learn about the contributions homosexuals have made to society.” So, instead of telling stories of mommy and daddy, schools would be required to also teach about mommy and mommy, and daddy and daddy. And let’s not even venture to guess what sex-ed and health classes would be like… Under this proposed law, there would be no tolerated “discimination” based on gender or sexual orientation, and to do so would disqualify that school for state funding.

Second, there has been a relenteless war waged by left-winged nutjobs to destroy any teaching of creationsim, and establish evolution as the de facto standard and established truth. For any Christian, this should be found as appalling and unacceptable.

Lastly, I just received an email from the American Family Association saying that the National Education Association will soon be proposing that “schools should support and actively promote homosexual marriage and other forms of marriage in their local schools.” The following is an excerpt from the proposal.

The Association… believes in the importance of observances, programs and curricula that accurately portray and recognize the roles, contributions, cultures, and history of these diverse groups and individuals.

The Association believes that legal rights and responsibilities with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, legal immigration, domestic partnerships, and civil unions and/or marriage belong to all these diverse groups and individuals.

Children are like sponges, soaking up everything they come in contact with. When I have children of my own, I don’t want their sponges soaking up poisonous vile from the fountain of the public school system. I would rather invest the time, money, and energy into seeking an alternative education method, such as homeschooling, so that I can teach my child true and correct principles.

June 19th, 2006

Temple in Tegucigalpa

Great news! My Mission President sent this email:

Elders of Isreal and the Honduras Comayaguela Mission:

Use your ability to spread good news throughout the world. Friday afternoon I received a phone call from “Servicios – Pres Galo”. He read me a letter just received from President Hinckley and his counselors announcing the approval of a temple in Tegucigalpa!

Wonderful news for this region of the world.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear this great news. Each branch/district president I call can’t believe it, but each gets so emotional, that together with me, sheds a few tears.

The Church is true!!!

Pres. Merino

[ UPDATE: The Church has issued a press release. ]

June 19th, 2006

And What Is It We Should Hope For?

This blog post is by far one of the best I’ve read in a long time. It illustrates in well-worded prose why it is so important that Christ is able to succor us, and why everybody needs to learn about and wholeheartedly embrace the gospel.

Read it. Read it now.

June 19th, 2006

Secularism and Spirituality

Fascist organizations like the ACLU are seeking to take God out of our schools, our courtrooms, and the public arena as a whole. They are attempting to smother, and ultimately remove, America’s public religion [2]. I recommend the book American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation to get some added perspective on the role of religion in early American society, the lives of the Founding Fathers, and our nation today.

Ultimately, their attempts will be futile. In the meantime, however, we have to deal with their constant barrage of litigation and protests.

Having just graduated from BYU, I have fresh in my mind the experience of mixing secular studies with a spiritual setting. Having gone to a community college in San Diego for a semester, I also had the experience of just the opposite. The one I prefer should hardly be shocking to those reading this. I highly value the opportunity I had to start classes with a prayer, put biology in a religious context, and draw scriptural comparisons from web development methodologies.

When we have in our society today those who are vehemently opposing conservative lifestyles, trying to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency, and seeking to eradicate public prayer (among many, many other things), I am grateful for the opportunity and blessing of attending a university that understands the importance and benefit of infusing temporal learning with spiritual underpinnings.

June 18th, 2006

Joy in the Journey

Me and the Golden Gate Bridge

Today was interesting. After checking in at the hotel in the afternoon, I walked down to a bus stop and caught a bus down to the Golden Gate Park, a few miles away. After spending some time there, I planned to go up to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Before leaving Utah, I used Google Earth to figure out how far it is from the park to the bridge. Well, as the crow flies it was about three miles, but as it turns out, the roads go all over the place, and it turned out to be a longer distance through very hilly terrain.

A couple hours later I found myself at the bridge. I walked across, taking some pictures, thinking that when I got to the other side I would catch a bus back across and to my hotel, now about 7 miles away. To my surprise, there were no bus stops, no cabs, no nothing on the other side. I was already very weary from speedwalking several miles, and I hadn’t eaten in ten hours. Grudgingly, I walked back across the long bridge, my legs very sore from walking so far so quickly.

And then I thought about the pioneers. While they probably didn’t speedwalk like I had been doing, they walked long distances each day. They pulled handcarts, children, and all their belongings. I had a camera and a tripod. They went long periods without fresh water and food. So too, I hadn’t eaten for ten hours.

But they found joy in their journey. As I walked back across the bridge, I wondered why. My conclusion is that they had an end goal to look forward to, to serve as their impetus, their drive, their focus.

Their end goal: Zion, freedom from persecution, and settling in the West in peace. My end goal: a cab back to my hotel, and then room service.

Yeah… let’s just say that my life isn’t that hard…

June 18th, 2006

Anti-Mormon Literature, Infallibility, and High Standards

As I entered the plane for my flight to San Francisco, I sat down in my assigned seat next to a middle-aged woman who didn’t seem too pleased to get out of her seat to let me pass by and sit next to her. As I got settled, I opened the book I have been reading, American Gospel. A few minutes of reading went by, when I curiously glanced over at the woman’s book to see what she was reading. The book: Under the Banner of Heaven..

My first feeling was one of disappointment. “Anti” literature seems to be ever more abundant these days, by dissenters and self-proclaimed intellectuals, supposedly “shedding some light” on the Church, its doctrine, and history.

I have only a few comments to make on this matter. First, I find it intriguing that people are interested in and supportive of those who would destroy the faith of another. Conversely, I find quite inspiring the words of President Hinckley, when he said “you bring all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it”. Some might argue that in their zeal, LDS missionaries inadvertantly do the same thing, pointing out the fallacies and shortcomings of somebody’s faith in order to better drive home their own doctrinal point. In actuality, missionaries and members alike (in most all circumstances) seek only to share their faith with those they love and care about, rather than ridicule, demean, and scorn their precious faith and belief.

Second, it is sad to me that so many people are gullible. They take what they read (both in print and on the internet, or even worse, hearsay from a friend) to be the factual truth, not questioning it, asking for a documented reference, or, heaven forbid, finding out from the actual source. That is why I applaud the More Good Foundation, a group seeking to counter the abundance of anti-mormon literature and internet sites and provide factual, uplifting information for those who who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. As a missionary in Honduras, I heard some pretty crazy things that people “heard from a friend”, “read in a pamphlet”, or worse, “heard from their pastor” about the Mormons. And once somebody gets a certain perception in their head about somebody, it’s easier to poop golden eggs than it is to correct them of their errant notion.

In a society of inherently curious people seeking for information, why do some lounge in laziness and not investigate the matter at the source? (On a side note, this most recently happened with the release of Ann Coulter‘s new book. She debated many angry people who attacked statements she made in the book, when none of these people had read it, but instead had read the taken-out-of-context excerpts the media had pounced on.)

Finally, I sometimes wonder about people’s high expectations. I would always tell my investigators that “the Church is perfect, but its members are not”. Just as Alma rebuked his son for negatively influencing would-be investigators, so today we have members of our faith that don’t live the gospel fully, and hence have a negative impact upon it.

Granted, there is a marked distinction between a “normal” member of the Church and a leader of the Church, be he the Prophet, an Apostle, or another General Authority. But just because God has chosen and called somebody to a high calling, that does not invest the person with infallibility and instantaneous perfection. Men of God can, and do, make mistakes. While others seemingly cannot, I can live with the knowledge and understanding that these men, while closer to perfection than the rest of us, are not quite there themselves. In the history of the Church, I’m sure there have been errors, mistakes, and slip-ups. Good heavens, look at how many of the original 12 apostles in the restored Church disaffected and aspostatized. I think our leaders today, in a much more established Church, are of a higher caliber than some previous leaders. But they are not perfect, and to ascribe them as such is mistaken.

In conclusion, let us all humbly heed the words of Christ, when he said:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

June 18th, 2006

Family Ward Pandemonium

I’ve been going to a singles ward for a total of four years now. I think I have come to take for granted the reverence and peace during the meetings.

I mention this only because today I wasn’t able to experience that reverence. I went to a nearby family ward this morning because I had to leave shortly thereafter to get to the airport to catch my flight to San Francisco.

There is only one word to describe a sacrament meeting service in a family ward: pandemonium. I think today’s experience was worsened because the ward I attended was composed of mostly young families in my condo complex. There were screaming babies abound, kids throwing tantrums, and parents constantly trying to keep their kids quiet. It was definitely harder to concentrate on the speaker, feel the spirit, and keep focused.

As much as I’m looking forward to eventually having a family of my own, let’s just say I’m not looking forward to the chaos of family ward church meetings.

June 17th, 2006

Crackpot Celebrityism

“Celebrityism, stated simply, is the worship of celebrities as some sort of demigods, watching their every move and looking up to them as if they are something more than humans.” (source)

Celebrityism really irks me. Turn on the TV, and you’re bombarded with celebrities in commercials, on EXTRA, Entertainment Tonight, Leno/Letterman, or reality TV (barf). Our society has become consumed with an interest in and worship of these hollywood actors.

People monitor their daily activities, where they go, who they hang out with. Tabloids make a fortune off of slandering them. Paparazzi make a living off of stalking them and taking pictures of them doing normal, every day things. Who cares who kissed whom? Who cares who said what to whom? Who cares who ate at some normal restaurant? They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. Why don’t people come watch my every move? Perhaps somebody can make a fortune by reporting that I use Charmin 2-ply.

I just don’t understand what is so special about “celebrities” that give them an elevated status in society, to the point where it becomes an obsession with “normal” people everywhere. They’re just people, for heaven’s sake!!!

I think that those who idolize these celebrities are naive, incompetent, and bored. Get a life, people. Create lasting, meaning relationships with those around you, not some distant actor who would never give you the time of day. Pop your bubble, stop your fantasy, and get on with life.

June 16th, 2006

Harry Reid and First Presidency Opposition

Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also a democrat. Some would argue that being an LDS Democrat is like trying to mix oil and water. It just doesn’t work.

A few weeks ago, the First Presidency of the Church issued a statement urging all members to contact their elected representatives and make their voices heard regarding this divisive, important topic.

However, Harry Reid, while supporting marriage being between a man and a woman, stands in opposition to a federal-level, constitutional amendment:

“This is another one of the President’s efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract, and to confuse America. It is this Administration’s way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day.” (source)

Frankly, I don’t care much for Harry Reid. What I did find interesting, however, was a recent blog post [at time of post, site was down. try google cache] by somebody who is not a member of the LDS church, calling for Reid’s excommunication. This blogger’s stance was that Reid is in direct opposition to the policy of the LDS church, and therefore should be excommunicated.

An interesting idea (well, a new one anyways, since I’ve yet to hear people demanding that Reid be excommunicated), but I see no reason. Excommunication is reserved for the most serious of sins, since it strips the person of their rights to fully commune with the Saints, participate in meetings, attend the temple, and so on. It is not a threat tool to quell potential naysayers and all those whos views differ from the General Authorities of the Church.

As General Authorities, we sustain these men and believe that what they preach is the mind and will of the Lord. While spiritual and doctrinal conformity is expected, political conformity is not. The leaders of the church only become involved in politics (e.g. issuing their recent letter) when it is a moral issue. Just as Captain Moroni of old, we too should be involved politically when moral issues are on the line.

That is why I loathe Senator Reid, and admire and respect Governor Mitt Romney (also LDS), who issued a letter to Senators, affirming his stance on the same-sex marriage issue (and heeding counsel of the First Presidency).

So, in summary, we are not to blindly follow our church leaders… But when it comes to issues of morality and fundamental doctrine, you’ve got a pretty weak testimony if you disagree with them.