Archive for October, 2011

Mitt Romney and Global Warming

October 28, 2011

It’s no secret that Mitt Romney is accused of being a flip-flopper. I honestly can’t understand why anyone would make the accusation on the issue of Global Warming.

Politico does a reasonable job at fairly portraying Romney’s position on Global Warming. I’m going to try and connect the statements and history into one whole.

This is a short summary of what I understand Romney’s statements to be.

  1. Mitt Romney is not a scientist, and so cannot make statements of scientific fact about Global Warming.
  2. Mitt Romney believes the earth is getting warmer.
  3. Mitt Romney believes that humans contribute to that, although he does not know how much or how little.
  4. Mitt Romney believes that changing human behavior can have an effect on the climate, although how much or how little is not known to him.
  5. Finally, Mitt Romney does not believe that justifies harming the economy in the name of Global Warming.

The conclusions I draw from that are:

  1. Mitt Romney will rely on experts, hopefully from both sides, to find the best solution to everyone’s problems.
  2. Mitt Romney will not ignore the economic impact of his decisions regarding Global Warming, and will, in fact, err, heavily, in the favor of the economy.

Now, let’s examine the statements and the facts.

First, when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he had Massachusetts participate in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Initiative (RGGEI). Note, carefully, that Romney dropped Massachusetts out of the initiative when it was realized that there would be a massive economy cost and that there would be no opt-out. In fact, Mitt Romney ripped into his representative for the initiative because he failed to represent what was happening and failed to represent Romney’s views.

What do we learn? First, Romney is willing to work with coalitions some people would outright reject. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I say it is a good thing, because it means Romney will have a profound influence in those circles. This is one of the reasons why I strongly support Romney: He is an effective leader! Second,we learn that Romney values the economy more than the possible negative effects of Global Warming, and he values, especially strongly, the role of individual choice.

Now, on to his statements.

In No Apology:

“I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore,” he wrote. “I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control.”

No one accused him of flip-flopping when he wrote that.

In June 2011:

“I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he said. “I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer.

“No. 2, I believe that humans contribute to that,” Romney continued. “I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there’s been periods of greater heat and warmth than in the past, but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”

Is there a flip-flop here? No. This is exactly the same position he had when he signed Massachusetts on to RGGEI, and the same position he had when he took Massachusetts out of RGGEI.

Those people who claim Romney flip-flopped when he issued the June statement have no grounds for their claim.

In August 2011:

“Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that, but I think that it is,” Romney said in New Hampshire, according to Reuters. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

No one accused him of flip-flopping between June and August.

Thursday 10/27/2011:

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” the GOP presidential front-runner said Thursday during a fundraiser in Pittsburgh. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Again, no flip-flop, although some, like Climate Depot, claim there is.

If anything, Romney’s position on Global Warming is entirely reasonable. Romney is not a trained scientist. He doesn’t know physics like I do, or weather or anything like that. And he can’t be expected to.

He is deferring his knowledge to others. He doesn’t adopt the Gore ideas wholesale, and in fact, he takes a rather middle-of-the-road view of the issue, where he doesn’t have to reject the claims of either side wholesale. I honestly can’t expect more from any layperson, although I would still try to convince them that the Greenhouse Effect is a lie and that we can’t measure whether temperatures are rising or falling at all.

He is putting the economy, and freedom, ahead of science that is certainly not settled. This is the most important attribute I want in my leaders. Heck, even if you believed Al Gore, as long as you believe individual choice and freedom is still more important than the environment, I would support you.

Finally, he knows that he does not know. If he had to, he could investigate and come to a more complete answer. He tells you, with his statements, that he doesn’t know. He is not shy about that. This is humility, a very important attribute in any leader.

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Notes on Works and Faith

October 18, 2011

I won’t bother with a scripture-intense discussion here. My intent is to help clarify meanings and intent, and sometimes by focusing on individual words we lose the bigger picture.

One of the principle complaints Christians have about my LDS faith is that we, apparently, focus too much on works. The criticism is that members of the LDS church do not believe that Christ’s grace is sufficient, and that we demand works for salvation.

There are a number of ideas conflating, one upon another here, so let me try to clarify them individually.

One, we are sinners, and are not worthy of salvation. By default, because of our natures and our actions, we are condemned to a horrible end.

Two, that Christ was sinless, and had the power to lay down his life and take it up again, and “buy” our souls, thus saving us from our own sin.

I think everyone agrees with the two points about that considers themselves Christian. I think the above two points are enough in my book to consider someone Christian, and in my mind, demonstrate a very large amount of faith.

But is simply believing enough? No, because Christ commanded baptism and repentance. If we do not repent and do not accept baptism, then Christ has said he will not cover our sins.

So we have a very, very important line here. Christ himself drew the line, and he is quite explicit about what it takes to cross it.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the fun here, but the main argument between the LDS faith and other Christian faiths (who admit that repentance and baptism are necessary for salvation) is that baptism and repentance are not enough! That is, simply giving up your sins and accepting baptism is necessary, but not sufficient, for salvation.

There are, as you might expect, other ordinances that you need to participate in to make your salvation sufficient. But, and I will be explicit here, you need not worry about them, because if you are faithful enough to repent and be baptized, you will be faithful enough to receive those ordinances, when the time comes.

In fact, and this is an important and very critical component of LDS faith, you need not do anything at all to be saved, except believe in Christ and show a willingness to serve him, in certain circumstances.

What are those circumstances? Simply this: you have done all you can do. This is where Christ’s grace steps in and takes over. If you are handicapped, if you die young or early, if you lived in a time or place where the gospel was not available or baptism could not be obtained, and so on and so forth, all you need to do is everything you could have done. That means African tribesman who never heard of Christ, but who treated their villagers with kindness and acted with all the dignity their culture afforded are just as qualified for eternal salvation as you and I, who live in very different circumstances.

In other words, “where much is given, much is required.” If you’re not given a lot, you don’t have to do a lot.

However, this does not contradict the line: you still need to repent, be baptized, and receive those other ordinances that Christ has required. The beautiful part is that you don’t necessarily need to receive these ordinances while you are alive. A proxy can receive them in your behalf, satisfying the requirements. (This is the weird part about baptism for the dead.)

But this is not all! A man or woman who receives these ordinances does not qualify for salvation. Why? Because these ordinances are really covenants, contracts of a sort. “If you do X”, Christ says, “then I will give you Y.” What are the X’s and Y’s? The X’s are faithful obedience to ALL of God’s commandments, and the Y is eternal salvation.

Now your head should be spinning, and rightly so. I just told you that you DON’T need to do things to be saved, but now I am saying you DO?

The catch is this, and it’s important. Salvation is an end goal. The goal is to become LIKE Christ. The goal is to live in His mansions, living the kind of life He lives. A murderer or a rapist cannot do such a thing. We can baptize such a person, we can get Christ to pay for his sins, but if he is still a murderer or a rapist in his heart, he simply cannot live like Christ. He must be changed, some how, some way, into something he is not. In fact, not just the rapist or murderer, but all of us, who have fallen short of God’s glory in one way or another. We need to be reborn as completely new people, with new hearts and new minds identical to Christ’s.

How is this to be done? Some people think that the born-again process is a one time event, that once it’s happened it’s over, and you are done because you’ve been reborn. But that’s not what we see in life. If that were so, then people who have been born again would act exactly like Christ acted on earth. Name one person you know who, in every way, acts exactly like Christ? See, you can’t name anyone, because they don’t exist.

If anything, the idea of being “born again” hints that we start off as an infant and start on a long journey of growth. Sure, it’s a new life, but you can’t say that people who just started off as a newborn in God’s kingdom are going to be like people who’ve been doing this for decades.

Even Paul, wonderful Paul, Paul who gave everything he could to serve Christ, lamented that he was not perfect and still had faults that tormented him. Every true disciple of Christ, every single one of them is intensely aware of what separates them from Christ. Everyone acknowledges they have a long way to go to maturity in God’s house.

Now, we get to the kernel of dispute. After all, receiving ordinances isn’t that big of a deal, compared to what you really need to do to become saved in the eternal sense, and the LDS don’t even believe you have to do the ordinances yourself.

The LDS church teaches that, if you want to be perfected, you have to begin acting, as best as you can, as a perfect being would. Then, bit by bit, as you accept Christ into your life to fix the faults you are aware of (or will soon become aware of as you try to keep all the commandments), bit by bit, like a carpenter fixing a house, Christ will change your very nature.

This process takes time, much more time than we have on earth. Even if we lived a thousand years there would not be enough time to completely change us, I believe. This process requires that we focus on the doing of the commandments, as well as the feeling. It requires a physical body and spirit, united. That’s why you can’t hold off on repentance until the day you die, thinking you can play catch up. This life is the time to prepare and to grow. Those on the other side of the veil are at a severe disadvantage, if they spent their life in opposition to God.

Now, will our good works save us? No, because no matter what good we do we cannot erase even a small bit of our sins. And no matter how good we do, there are certain things we simply cannot do for ourselves. It is only in and through Christ’s grace that we can ultimately be saved. He has all the power and ability to do what needs to be done, provided we simply allow him into our lives to do so.

And that means we do what he asks us to do.

Note, however, that good works are evidence of someone who is undergoing this process. If you are a Christian, you had better believe that you will tame your tongue, treat others kindly, share your substance with the poor. If you’re not, then you’re not doing it right, and you’ve likely not even got on the path yet.

This is not a simple concept. It escapes many of the LDS members. I grew up thinking I could just get through life by obeying the commandments, and repentance was for those other people who commit sin (not I!) It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized how far off I had drifted from the ideal, and how incapable I was as a human being. I had seriously considered giving up on it, because I discovered it was impossible. No amount of willpower would fix the problems I had.

However, and this is the key, this is exactly the state of mind Christ wanted me to be in. He wanted me to acknowledge my faults, but desire to be something more, so that he can enter my life and begin the long journey of perfection. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve grown prideful from time to time, at which point Christ couldn’t work with me anymore. I’ve woken up to find myself backwards a few steps as well, at which point Christ had to redo work previously done. But that’s part of everyone’s life, and as long as we get back on track as quickly as we can, all will be well.

We need to be perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. An impossible task, to be sure, save for Christ’s ability to fix us until we become perfect.

Defending the Latter-day Saint Faith

October 13, 2011

I am a somewhat different stripe of Mormon. I don’t mind talking about the “weird” doctrinal points, and I don’t mind pointing out why believing anything less than what the LDS believe is absurd.

Let me take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and boldly convince you, the reader, why the LDS picture of Christ and salvation is the more correct one, and why the run-of-the-mill picture of Christ and salvation is a pale shadow of what it truly is.

The average non-LDS Christian (save for a few sects, namely the Jehovah’s Witnesses) are woefully uneducated when it comes to the Bible. Those who do know the Bible have bent its meaning so far beyond its original context that appealing to scripture is all but pointless. I won’t do it, although I can defend these doctrines with the Bible as well as you can defend yours, probably much better.

Instead, I will appeal to common sense.

First, let’s talk about who Christ was.

The Christian world generally teaches that Christ is God incarnate, that they and the Holy Ghost are one person which manifests itself in 3 distinct ways. I claim that this is balderdash, an invention only a Greek philosopher could appreciate. Christ, God, and the Holy Ghost are three separate entities, united in purpose, but different in body.

The single instance I will appeal to is Christ’s baptism. At that sacred event, the voice of God was heard from heaven, declaring “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus was in the water, being baptized by John the Baptist. The Holy Ghost descended as a dove. All three beings were present at that location, each doing their own thing. The Christian world would have you believe that Jesus spoke to himself that day, and descended at the same time. None of this makes sense, not to a child and not to an adult.

Other instances exist which clarify the simple doctrine that the Godhead is three individuals, including the stoning of Stephen.

What kind of being was Christ? He was the literal child of God and Mary. I know people get disgusted or surprised by this, but if he was the literal child of God, then that means, scientifically speaking, there had to be a union of sperm and egg. I will not speculate on how that happened, but the Bible is clear that Jesus was conceived of God and Mary. If this is a strange doctrine, then the doctrine that Jesus was part deity and part man is a strange doctrine. You cannot have one or the other. You must have both or neither.

What kinds of power does Christ have? Simply put, all power, which he inherited from God. He was not born this way, but had to grow, line upon line, precept upon precept. Baby Jesus did not have the power to command the elements, but that came as he learned more about God and the scriptures. Is this a strange doctrine? I hope not.

What did Jesus do? He did exactly what the Father commanded him to do. In fact, Jesus did exactly what he saw the Father do. This implies that Jesus saw his Father do the things he did, which means that the Father once lived on some planet, as a mortal being (Jesus was mortal, for he died), and he served his fellow beings in like manner. Is this a strange doctrine, that the Father and the Son are identical species, that the Father grew as the Son grew? This implies, of course, that the Father had a Father, who had a Father and so on. But isn’t that what we know to be true in our world? Name one person who doesn’t have a father and a grandfather and so on.

If the Father were not such a being, why did he create the world the way it is, with families? Why did he choose for himself the name of Father, if he were not a Father as we know it?

Jesus is our example. He said, “Come, Follow Me.” That means, we walk in Jesus’ footsteps. He served the poor and the sick, we serve the poor and the sick. He obeyed God’s commandments perfectly, we obey God’s commandments perfectly. He preached the gospel, we preach the gospel. He died for the sins of others, we die to save others. He ascended into heaven to the right hand of God, so to may we, if we follow in his path. He became an heir to God’s kingdom, so we too can become joint-heirs.

Who did Jesus follow? God. So what is in Jesus’s future? Worlds without end. Worlds like ours, but in some distant part of the universe, separated by both time and space. If we are to follow Jesus, who follows God, then that implies we are to become like Jesus who became like God, and so we become like God too.

Is this hard to understand? What do you think it means to return to our Father? What do you think he expects us to do? Ask yourself this question. If your father was an auto mechanic, and that’s what he did all day, and you went to return to him, would you simply sit in his auto shop, or would you join him in his work? Eventually, would you not learn to do everything he does, the same way he does? Would you not be able to open you own auto mechanic shop like he did? Again, why would He choose the name Father if he didn’t intend us to follow him like we would our own fathers?

Now, on to more critical things. Oftentimes, people criticize my faith because we are different and weird. They say, “That is not how you are supposed to build a religion or a church.” They say this because they think they are smarter than us, or rather, smarter than God. God declared that his ways are not our ways, neither are his thoughts our thoughts. The very fact that we do not do what you think should be done is evidence that we are not of this world.

If the LDS church looked like every other church, built by men, then how could we claim to come from God? If the LDS church came from God, wouldn’t we be just as weird to you as Jesus was to the people of his time?

So we have sacred ordinances in the temple, with strange vows and rituals. Guess what? We didn’t make these things up. They were given to us by God. We scratch our own heads, sometimes, saying, “I certainly wouldn’t do things this way.” But you know what? If you do things God’s way, you learn what God knows, and you can know for yourself whether it is of God or the devil. I testify to you, that there is joy and peace and happiness in these ordinances that sound strange to you. They are not from Joseph Smith or anyone else in the world. They certainly don’t come from the masons.

Finally, this is the last thought I want you to ponder on. Let’s suppose that the LDS church is of the devil, that Joseph Smith didn’t see God but he saw the devil. Jesus clearly taught that the devil would not cast out the devil from people, since a kingdom divided cannot stand. So, ask yourself, if the work of the work of the LDS church is of the devil, why do we cast out the devil and the evil of the world? Why do our missionaries and teachers bring joy, happiness, peace, and prosperity wherever they go? Why are our members so full of life and vigor, and why do you see us serving the poor and building communities and expanding learning and knowledge in the world?

Here’s another simple test. We teach men to pray to God, from day one, all day, every day. That is our #1 teaching. It’s the first thing the missionaries will ask you to do if they meet you. Why would the devil teach you to pray to God in the name of Jesus? Why would the devil teach you to pray constantly, often, frequently? The spirit of the devil teaches men not to pray, but the spirit of God teaches men to call upon God constantly. If your preacher says, “Do not pray!”you can know whom he is serving.

If the LDS church is of God, do you think when you pray to God about the church, the Book of Mormon, or Joseph Smith that he will remain silent? If I were God, and there was an imposter who pretended to be a prophet of mine, I would make plenty sure that everyone who asked would know he is a charlatan. If, on the other hand, he is a true prophet of God, I would confirm everything he taught that was true, and confirm his role to everyone who asked. I certainly wouldn’t remain silent and watch as people try, helplessly, to figure out truth from error, especially on such an important topic.

So I ask you, no matter what your background, to entreat God sincerely and with real intent, and pray to him in the name of Christ to know if the LDS church is the true church or something else. If it is true, he will tell you. If it is something else, he will tell you. No church that makes as bold a claim to truth as the LDS will stand long before God, unless it is truly God’s church.

As the anti-mormons come out of the woodwork to show their true selves as Romney wraps up the nomination, keep the thing I said in mind. Every false teaching they preach will be overturned, and you will see them for who they really are: hateful servants of the devil, trying to convince you not to turn to God and to keep you down in your own misery, bound by your sins. When they say, “Don’t pray”, or when they say, “don’t even listen”, you know, for a fact, that they are not of God.

The Ideal Society

October 3, 2011

Listening to W. Cleon Skousen’s The Cleansing of America, particularly the later chapters, I am struck by how unique the LDS vision of the ideal society is.

One of the most striking features is that LDS doctrine is that after the Second Coming, after all the wicked people have been swept off the earth, there will be people from many different faiths. The way that future scenario is prophesied in our church suggests that LDS members will still not be a minority, even after that great and dreadful day. This is the fundamental aspect of LDS religion: choice. The church operates at all levels by consent and persuasion, the same way God operates his world. No one, no one will be compelled to join the church, or stay, if they do not desire.

The city of Zion, according to LDS doctrine, is not a single “city” as we know it, but a network of towns living the highest laws of the gospel, including the Law of Consecration. The Law of Consecration is the farthest thing from Communism (the most anti-freedom philosophy I can imagine.)

The way the Law of Consecration works is individuals consent, through contract, to give all they own to join the society. They are given, by the bishop and by mutual consent, property that is their own. Rather than think themselves as the owners of the property, they will be trusted as stewards, while the Lord maintains ownership. However, should the individual decide to leaver the order, the property he is currently steward of becomes his own.

The society functions in the following manner. All surplus, that is, all property that the individual accumulates that is beyond the immediate needs of himself and his family and his business is turned over to the bishop. The bishop uses this property to take care of the needs of the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Additionally, this property is given as a stewardship to those joining the order.

From time to time, as the individuals ability and economic circumstances change, the individual may want to approach the bishop to ask for more property or to exchange his own stewardship for something else. The bishop and the individual come to a new agreement for their stewardship.

Everyone within the system is driven to do the best they can with what they have, exactly in line with the Parable of the Five Talents. Any profit they make, above and beyond their own needs, is directly used to benefit the people around them. If there are people who have less than they need, those who are capable are driven to produce more wealth to secure their economic wants. Individuals are not supposed to completely suppress their desires for physical goods; instead, they are to temper their needs with the needs of the people around them. For instance, we might desire to have a big-screen TV, but we would also see to it that everyone around us who wanted one could afford one as well.

In the drive to produce, the same economic principles we live by today will be used then. We will need a currency, which is most likely going to be based on precious metals. We will need contracts and tort laws, most likely the same laws that Moses gave the children of Israel (restore the victim to his original state, as much as possible.) Education and science will continue to be a high priority, just as it is among the members of the LDS church today. The costs that any society needs to bear, those costs which do not have obvious economic benefit and tend to be neglected, like education and scientific research, will likely be financed by individual societies or by pooling the resources of several smaller societies.

I do not foresee a society where 90% of the people are working the land. I see a future where, like today, the farmers are so productive that a few farmers can feed thousands. Those thousands are able to pursue higher education and build companies and businesses like we see today. The economy of this future, ideal society will be very advanced, perhaps even more advanced than today. Perhaps the earth will be changed into its original paradisaical glory, and human disease completely eliminated not by miraculous means (humans simply standing by), but by humanity achieving such a greater understanding of how things work and such surplus wealth that all of these things can be achieved. In other words, the same ideas and ideals that eliminated polio could be used to eliminate cancer and turn deserts into watered plains.

Underlying this advanced society is incredible self-control. This comes from a sincere and lasting devotion to the highest ideals. One who completely focuses on God’s glory and bringing that to the earth would hardly be tempted to diverge from the path of righteousness. Individuals alone, however, are incapable of achieving or maintaining this highest state of mind. We require entire families and communities focused on these lofty goals. When a family sets its sight on the glory of God, and when they apply the correct principles in achieving this, they experience a higher level of living, a level that is almost unimaginable to those who either do not know the principles or who do not focus on these higher goals. When neighborhoods and entire communities do the same, the effect is multiplied.

Imagine living in such a society, where everyone is focused on achieving God’s glory, and everyone operates almost completely synchronous with Christ’s teachings. There would be no crime, there would be no envying, there would be no fighting. Disagreements would be resolved or left open without animosity. If any individual fell from this highest state, those around him would quickly identify the fall, and quickly surround the individual with such love and compassion that he could hardly stay fallen for long.

I think it is important to note the effects such a teaching and doctrine has had among the people of the LDS church. We freely admit that, as members of the church, we do not live up to the highest standards we have set for ourselves. However, you can see, bit by bit, that we are coming closer and closer, growing more full with love and compassion for those among us and those without our group. I imagine that if we continue down this path, we will one day achieve ever higher states of society and living, states that make us today seem vastly inferior to what we may one day become.