A Lament About Our Post-Constitutional Politics

 

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The world is full of problems. Serious problems: poverty, crime, injustice, corruption, disease, violence, bigotry, terrorism, and on and on. It always has been. And it is natural for people to want to fix all the problems– or at least all of the problems that affect them personally. But people also disagree about how the problems ought to be fixed.

Society is complex and fixing one problem often causes other, unintended problems. So many of the solutions people want are really just an exchange of one set of problems for another set. And the set of problems you are willing to accept in exchange for fixing your current problems is often not the same set that your neighbor is willing to accept.

The devil you don’t have to deal with yet sometimes seems more bearable than the devil that vexes you now– even if they are both devils. Continue reading

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On Loving Those Who Really Are Your Enemies

Théodule-Augustin-Ribot-The-Good-Samaritan

When Jesus enjoined his followers to love their enemies, he didn’t simply mean that they should stop demonizing those who they wrongly perceived as enemies because they were different; He wasn’t suggesting that conflict is the consequence of misunderstanding, and that if we would just try to understand those who we perceive as enemies we would discover that they are not enemies after all. He actually requires us to love those who really are our enemies; those whose ideas, desires, and actions truly are incompatible and in conflict with our own. Continue reading

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On the Problem of “Black and White Thinking”


The blanket rejection of black and white thinking is itself a form of black and white thinking– black and white thinking about black and white thinking.

And if black and white thinking about black and white thinking is valid then black and white thinking about other things can be valid too.

So we should reject black and white thinking about black and white thinking and adopt a more nuanced approach that acknowledges that sometimes black and white thinking may be valid.

Because the issue of black and white thinking is not always black and white.

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LDS Conference April 1972 – Godless Conspirators & Gentile Partners

This is an entry in the ongoing General Conference Odyssey project. My previous contributions can be found here. Posts by other bloggers writing about the April 1972 General Conference today are linked at the end of this post.  You can also visit the project group on Facebook.

Today we are writing about the Thursday Afternoon Session of the April 1972 Conference.


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Over the years, President Ezra Taft Benson’s political views have been a topic of some controversy, and I believe that many people have developed a distorted, dismissive idea of President Benson that creates an incomplete, oversimplified concept of a more complex man. Our culture has become addicted to out-of-context soundbites and easily consumable memes, and so it is easy to see only quotes from President Benson that reinforce our stereotype. When that happens, there is even a danger of imposing our expectations upon anything he says, so that we see what we expect to see when we read anything from him.

As the United States in 2016 works its way through yet another brutal presidential election year, it is interesting to look back more than four decades and read the political thoughts of apostle Ezra Taft Benson, given in the April 1972 General Conference. There are a number of things that he addressed that could seem outdated and foreign today, and yet there are many ideas and concepts that he taught that seem more relevant now than ever before. Continue reading

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LDS Conference April 1972 – Common Consent, Sustaining vs Non-Opposition

This post is an entry in the ongoing General Conference Odyssey project. My previous contributions can be found here. Posts by other bloggers writing about the April 1972 General Conference today are linked at the end of this post.  You can also visit the project group on Facebook.

Today we are writing about the Thursday Morning Session of the April 1972 Conference.


First, a bit of trivia: As I mentioned in a previous entry,  in the recorded conferences of 1971 through 1976 there were more sessions of conference than the Saturday and Sunday sessions we are accustomed to now. But before today I did not understand why sometimes they held sessions on various weekdays instead of on Friday.

Prior to 1977, the church held three-day conferences. In April conferences,  one of the three days was April 6th (the anniversary of the organization of the church). In 1971 April 6th fell on Tuesday, 1972 on Thursday, 1973 Friday, 1974 Saturday, 1975 Sunday, and 1976 Tuesday. So October Conferences were always Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as were April Conferences in years where April 6th fell on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (1973-1975). But in 1971, 1972, and 1976 the conference was held on April 6th plus Saturday and Sunday. That is why we sometimes have Tuesday or Thursday sessions, like we do in this week’s reading.

The conference report of April 1977 makes particular mention of the move from three-day to two-day conferences under the direction of President Kimball. So there you go.

I’d like to draw particular attention to the talk given during this Thursday Morning Session titled “We Are Called of God” given by Elder Loren C. Dunn, who at the time was a member of the First Council of the Seventy.

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Throughout the church, from individual congregations to the church-wide conferences, it is common for members to be asked to “sustain” individuals who have been called to serve in the church. Members indicate their sustaining vote by raising their hand. They are also given a chance to oppose.

In recent general conferences, we have seen instances of individuals who have expressed opposition to the leadership of the church when given the option to do so.

Elder Dunn provides a reminder that the church does not operate by democratic vote:

Sustaining, however, should not be confused with voting into office.

Joseph Smith made it clear how a person is called to a position in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the fifth Article of Faith he says: ‘We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.’

When we sustain officers, we are given the opportunity of sustaining those whom the Lord has already called by revelation.

[…]

To sustain is to make the action binding on ourselves and to commit ourselves to support those people whom we have sustained. When a person goes through the sacred act of raising his arm to the square, he should remember, with soberness, that which he has done and commence to act in harmony with his sustaining vote both in public and in private.Continue reading

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