Monday, February 18, 2013

I Almost Walked Out of Stake Priesthood Meeting...Twice

This one was quite a trip! It all started out benignly enough. I was mostly enjoying the meeting until one of the speakers (an Elders Quorum president from one of the wards) started his talk. He asked us to think back over the past year and consider some of the events that have taken place in our country. He made reference to the explicit nature of music and other media, which I am inclined to agree is becoming increasingly trashy in some forms. Then he derailed the train. "there are groups who exist to put an end to school prayer; and we saw two states legalize marijuana."

Really!? You're going to lump those in with Ke$ha?

"We cannot allow these evils to penetrate our homes." That's right! The belief that prayer doesn't belong in our schools is as damaging to our spiritual well being as overly sexualized lyrics. Legalized marijuana is as dangerous a threat to our souls as violent imagery and pornography.

To be clear, I don't think that marijuana is a substance to be used recreationally. But the reality is that as a prohibited substance, it is widely used. There is some merit to the argument that legalizing it is a first step to reducing its use through public campaigns like the one we waged against tobacco.  I understand the merits of both sides of the argument, but I have to question the appropriateness of advocating either side from the pulpit1.

Things went even further into the wacky when the stake president chose to speak.  He started off by reading a Church statement from November: "We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgement as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people."

Okay, this could be interesting.

He proceeded to talk about the phrase "difficult and turbulent times," and then followed it up with a few quotes about government excess, big government, and welfare.  (The LDS Church doesn't support any political party or platform...really, it doesn't!  Why doesn't anyone believe us?)  The president's message for the nights boiled down to this: get your houses and your affairs in order for the tough times ahead.  Furthermore, "I predict that in three years, we will look back at February of 2013 as a time of comfort."

I understand and encourage the idea of getting your houses in orders.  I believe in saving up for a rainy day, paying down debts, and having some food stored away for tough times.  I believe doing those things is prudent because life is unpredictable.  I do not, however, believe in doing those things because of the same kind of end-times rhetoric religionists have been spouting off for thousands of years.

And let's not forget that the world today is enjoying a level of wealth and education never before seen in history.  Slavery is at an all time low.  Men and women have more opportunities for education, career, family, and fulfilment than ever available in history.  If you're going to complain how bad things are today, at least take a moment to recognize that things are also better than they've ever been.  Again, I don't question the prudence of the counsel given; only the appropriateness of framing the counsel in terms of politico-religious pseudo-doctrine.

Still, I'm willing to wait this out and see what comes of it.  I have put on my calendar for February 17, 2016 a reminder to check this blog post and compare the state of the world in 2016 to the state of the world in 2013.  Some measures to consider:

  • The United States is withdrawing from a major conflict in Afghanistan, but is otherwised engaged in no major conflicts.
  • On February 18, 2013, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened at 13973.39; the NASDAQ at 3,198.66; and the S&P 500 at 1,521.38.
  • Unemployment was 7.9%
  • Minimum wage was $7.25
  • The median income $50,502 (based on a 2011 report)

In three years, I'll check back and see how things look.  I might be eating my words then.  I might not.  In the meantime, we'll be saying our prayers at home and not smoking marijuana.  I suspect things will be just fine.

For right now, however, I want to thank that Elders Quorum president for sharing the account of Nehemiah. As his enemies tried to prevent the building of the temple, Nehemiah boldly proclaimed, "I am doing a great work."  That's exactly how I feel!  This meeting reaffirmed my belief that I need to say more of what I think (something I failed to do last night.  I'm still working on that part of my courage) lest the work on the temple of my faith be halted.

1 We'll avoid the issue of school prayer for now, since I'd prefer not appear at least moderately kind.


  1. I know you might have meant it rhetorically, but I must correct you regarding your statistic on slavery. While legal slavery, at least de jure slavery in the US, is lower now, actual slavery is higher than it's ever been. Some estimates put the number as high as 27 million globally.

    1. This was an interesting read. While not wanting to compromise the seriousness of the issue or the tragedy of it's prevalence (far, far too high), I'm not yet convinced that it is more widespread now than it has been in history. We have records of slavery in ancient times, including the Israelites in Egypt (and Babylon), and the Mosaic Code lays out guidelines for the appropriate treatment of slaves. Christ himself interacted with slavery without condemning its practice.

      I don't doubt that there are more slaves today than at any time in history, but with a larger population than ever before, I'm not sure this translates to a higher prevalence than ever before. I'm happy to be proven wrong, but I don't think your article really discusses historical prevalence.

      Regardless, you have a point that perhaps slavery is not a valid example of improving world conditions, and we have a lot of work to do on that front. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ah, well Jason beat me to the comment I was preparing to make. Here's another source about slavery.

    Aside from the slavery issue, I'm glad to have found this blog on the book of faces through a mutual friend. You are a great writer and I identify with your thoughts on end of times rhetoric. I was recently reminded of Harold Bloom who, in 'The American Religion' commended Mormons for their preparedness for the turn of the millenium, and wrote that they will most likely be equally prepared at the turn of the next.