Archive for March, 2012

Why Does Health Care Cost So Much in the US?

March 26, 2012

One of the complaints people have about health care in the US is the price. It seems even the most trivial thing costs a ton of money.

It’s really easy to blame the free market economy for the costs. However, it’s grossly inaccurate. 50 years ago when medical care was free of government control, people didn’t need insurance because they could easily pay for any treatment they needed. Nowadays, government regulates every aspect of health care. It is hardly a free market. The high prices, in fact, are because health care is not a free market and will not be until Obamacare and a number of other regulations are eliminated.

Let us consider the costs of health care.

First, let’s start with the cost of materials. In order to deliver health care, we need trained personnel. What does it cost to train someone to work in the health care industry? Ask your doctor or nurse how much they spent to get educated. Why does it cost so much money? It’s rather easy: the government is artificially inflating the price of education because they pay for the education of a large number of people. Because people do not pay their own way through school, they are buying something they didn’t pay for. You might say that they are paying because they are taking out loans. This is true, somewhat. The education loan industry is heavily subsidized by the federal government, and heavily regulated. This means that people who take out student loans aren’t even bearing the true cost of their loan even if they do pay it all back.

What about medicine: drugs, machines, procedures, that kind of stuff? These cost billions of dollars to develop. The health care you receive in the US is the most advanced in the world. When you hear about a medical discovery, you automatically assume it is from the US because that is largely true. This is not cheap. However, why are we spending billions and billions on medical research and development if our system is overpriced to begin with? Quite simply, it’s because of two reasons.

One, there is a giant hurdle called the FDA that all medical treatments must overcome before experimentation can even begin in humans. Even treatments for people in life-threatening conditions must wait until the FDA feels good and ready to give a thumbs up to experimentation, regardless of what the researchers or patients have to say on the matter.

Two, medical researchers know that they are not dealing with private individuals but the federal government, particularly with elderly care. That is, they have deep pockets they can exploit.

Let me help you understand. There’s a number of really, really good ideas in my industry that nobody pursues because there is no market for it, or at least, no market that could recoup the costs of research and development. Because of this, investors don’t throw their money into it, and people leave it alone. If the market ever changes to the point where it does make financial sense to pursue the research, then it has to compete with every other really good idea out there. In the end, only the best ideas are financed, and only because they make the most sense financially.

In the medical industry, if you develop a treatment that will get covered by Medicare or Medicaid, you can tap a “market” that is the American taxpayer. No old person is going to balance the cost of treatment with their needs. No price is too high. Also, you have a really high threshold to cross with the FDA certification. These two burdens completely distort the market. If you want to do medical research, it not only has to be financially viable, but it has to also include the cost for arbitrary FDA certification and it has to be more profitable than the medical research for treatments to Medicare/Medicaid patients would be. Any research that does get done is going to be extremely expensive, because cheap treatments are simply not even considered.

Add in to this the cost of doing business in America. You need facilities and other staff beyond the medical experts. With taxes high and our economy otherwise unfree of government control, the cost of simply building a hospital is enormous, way beyond what it would cost if government would let us be. In addition, there are boards across the country that artificially limit the construction of health care facilities to artificially keep prices high. This is no different than the hair salons which control the hair industry by requiring licenses and so drive up the cost of cutting hair and artificially limit the number of hair cutters competing in the market.

Now, let’s talk about the insurance companies. Why do we even have them? A long time ago, businesses had to find a way to reward good employees to keep them from leaving. Because FDR’s socialist policies forbade anyone from giving their workers raises, they had to reward them with goods and services rather than cash. Health care was one of those things. Before this, health insurance didn’t even really exist. Everyone paid out of pocket.

Insurance companies really weren’t that bad, at least not until the government decide to control the costs of their insurance programs (Medicare/Medicaid) by strictly regulating treatments. The insurance companies conformed to the government standards, and now everyone is royally screwed. Our medical treatments are not determined by our doctors, but by boards and bureaucrats we will never even know the name of.

If the insurance industry were free, then people wouldn’t participate unless it was in their own self-interest. As it is, states across the union have made it all but impossible to buy private insurance, and have made it all but impossible to have individuals negotiate health care treatment and costs with their doctors. Thanks to government interference, good luck having a truly free market interaction in anything remotely related to health care, even if you pay out of pocket with real money.

One thing that insurance does is it divorces the cost from the treatment. People go to the doctor and expect to get treated, and care nothing about how much it costs. No one ever asks if the treatment is worth it financially. Instead, the insurance companies are left to pick up the tab, and so they end up cutting corners elsewhere or raising premiums or limiting treatments, etc…

It doesn’t help that we have a jackpot system in medical malpractice suits. Rather than try doctors by a jury of their peers, they are tried by ignoramuses who know nothing about medicine and are taught to hate the doctors because they are rich. Is it any wonder that we have lawyers getting rich off of people’s ignorance, and doctors paying a good portion of their paycheck just to keep their practice running?

Our US health care system is broken. There is no doubt about it. The proscription is not to keep doing what we have been doing. Things are getting worse as we do that, not better. We are losing our health care freedoms, not getting free health care in exchange.

A simply, robust plan to fix the health care industry overnight would look something like this:

  1. Eliminate the FDA, allowing people to treat themselves with whatever treatments they feel is appropriate. (If individual states feel like they need an FDA, let them do it on their own. Doing it at the federal level makes no sense whatsoever.)
  2. Eliminate Medicare and Medicaid. (As a consolation, perhaps write a check to refund people for their investment, or provide vouchers.)
  3. Eliminate all tax laws regarding medicine. That is, no tax breaks or special taxes on medicine.
  4. Allow insurance companies to put together their own plans, free from government force and coercion. One way to do this is to force states to accept out-of-state and international insurers, without being subject to state laws.
  5. Reform the tort system, restoring “trial by jury of peers” to its original meaning. Eliminate damages for practicing medicine in good faith and with the consent of the patient.

These 5 reforms would dramatically change the medical industry into a free-market system. Costs would plummet overnight. There would be a lot of crying and gnashing of the teeth by those people who we have been paying money to treat their sickness. However, I believe the philanthropic nature of the American people would find a solution faster than republicans can choose their presidential nominee. With treatments plummeting in cost, it won’t be hard for the same dollars to insure many, many more people.

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It’s All About Religion

March 26, 2012

Hugh Nibley is a sort of philosophical rock star among true blue Mormons. I stumbled across an article he wrote concerning Science Fiction and Mormonism. If you can tolerate reading it, I highly encourage you to do so. 99% of what he talks about is pure speculation and hypothesis, but you can tell he tries to keep it based off of true Mormon doctrine.

One of the interesting things I love about Science Fiction is that the really good stuff is no different than a good thought experiment, also known as Gedanken. Einstein seems to be the one who perfected the art of Gedanken in the physics community, so we allow him the honor of giving it a name from his native German language. Einstein’s most famous paper on special relativity is in fact a thought experiment, different only from good Science Fiction in that he takes some time to calculate some things and he doesn’t worry about the plot at all.

A thought experiment I like to play is to take an idea, allow it to age for several thousand years, and see where it leads us. This thought experiment, as Hugh Nibley explains, is found in many, many works of Science Fiction. Unfortunately for scientists and philosophers, the end result is always bleak.

For instance, let’s say we continue down the path of perfecting the human species, eliminating all war, all hunger, all sickness, disease, even death. We build a perfect society, based on scientific principles, where all the bad things we don’t like are completely gone. What then? There ends up being no purpose to life at all. There are not a few works of science fiction where the immortal race of pure scientists are intent on ending their lives, not because they have turned evil, but because they have become bored.

This pattern is repeated if you take the idea of mechanization to its full potential. With all human activity automated by machines, what purpose do humans have? It’s entirely imaginable that society would carry on without humans, a machine without a soul or purpose or meaning. The society of machines, each fulfilling their role in perfect harmony, would be as dead as the pyramids of Egypt, a monument to a once-great race of men who no longer exist.

Of course, there is the problem of war. If we fight war to protect ourselves, do we extrapolate that to waging an eternal war against all enemies in perpetuity? Is that the purpose of life, to kill and to destroy so that we can continue to live? Many authors have explored this idea, and most have come to the same conclusion: That’s not what we’re all about either.

Hugh Nibley makes the point that all of the stories Science Fiction has invented are not new at all. Replace the names and props, and you can have ancient stories from scripture. The scriptures, of course, answer these questions by introducing the concept of God and a grander purpose.

What’s interesting is that Science Fiction is no longer as exciting as it used to be. We used to enjoy stories of man’s conquest of nature and man’s struggle against evil, but nowadays I think most Science Fiction authors have realized that there has to be some greater purpose to it all, otherwise, it’s pointless and boring.

What’s happened is Science Fiction is simply fiction without religion. Religion is the purpose, it is the point. Religion is what truly excites men’s souls and gives us meaning and direction.

Hugh Nibley then goes on to read some ancient stories, whether true or not we simply don’t know at this time, but changing the language so that it is more modern and could easily pass as a good piece of Science Fiction. Abraham, for instance, is said to have been taken through time and space to meet God himself. The majesty and power of God is so overwhelming that neither his companion nor him want to enter even the outermost portion of God’s dwelling place, which to them is so full of power and energy that it would appear to be suicide even to begin the journey towards the center. Once they do enter God’s realm, they are overwhelmed with emotion to worship the Creator and Father of time and space.

Another story hints at how the earth was created, and what role it plays. It talks about angels moving matter from one part of space to another, separating the wanted from the unwanted using gravity, heat and pressure. The earth itself is a crucible, a sort of proving ground, and we are no different from the matter the angels continually shovel down or bring out.

Another story talks about a devil who hijacked a convoy of plant and animal life destined for their intended worlds. An angel, armed with God’s wrath and glory, is able to reclaim the plants and animals, and put them in their correct sphere.

Another story tells of the devils and his angels sitting outside of the conversation, unable to understand God’s will and purpose. To them, it appears random, but to God’s angels, there is order and purpose. Their short-lived victories are all vanity compared to God’s overwhelming purpose.

Hugh Nibley hints at the materialism that Mormonism embraces. Spirits are made of the same matter stuff as the mortal realm in which we live. (I should talk about the rumors of super symmetry and it’s probable direct link to this spirit realm one day.) God is made out of matter, just like we are, and so there is no parallel, spiritual realm. Things are merely hidden from us because of God’s plan. The heavens are really full of angels moving to and fro, each on assignment from God himself.

He also talks about what it takes to make God’s kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He talks about some ancient tales (again, true or no we cannot tell today) describing how God’s organization works, and how every culture on earth which has lasted more than a few years has tried to recreate the same on earth.

I think the Atheists have it all backward; God is not absent, he is there. When you rule God out, then all purpose and meaning vanishes.

Ultimately, what we believe is what we will be. If we put our trust in our intellects and write off the revelations God has given us, are we surprised when we end up no better than the material world around us—without purpose? If we put our trust into God’s hands, doesn’t that take that same, lifeless material and make it into something with grand design and purpose, even giving it the attributes of life itself?

The best Science Fiction is a Gedanken. And the best Gedanken of all is to ponder on the meaning of life, the attributes and nature of God, and the true nature of the world around us. Perhaps one day Science Fiction will be married to Religion in the same way Religion is married to so many other aspects of our lives, and enriches them with color and beauty and purpose.

Report from WA 27th LD Republican Caucus

March 26, 2012

We met Saturday to vote in delegates to the state convention. From the 27th, there was a near-majority of Romney delegates, quite a few Ron Paul and Santorum supporters, and a handful of Gingrich supporters.

Before breaking into districts, the convention entertained an amendment that would allow each district to elect a chair, a secretary, a teller, etc… That was roundly and soundly defeated. Why? Because the Paul campaign put it forward, and the other three campaigns opposed it. We didn’t want to waste time choosing a chair and such, when the district leaders were already there.

One rule change that might have been adopted, would it not have contradicted state party rules, was the option to vote by slate. Some proposes a slate, people vote yea or nay. With 50% + 1 for a slate, that slate would win, and we’d be done. A simple hand count could be taken to see if the slate would get close to winning 50%+1, and if so, we could make it official with a simple ballot, Athens style. “Put a white stone in the can for a yes, a black stone for no.”

The people who showed up in our district gave a Romney-Gingrich combo a majority vote.

Previously, the national chair of the Romney campaign, the state chair of the Santorum campaign, and a few of the Gingrich supporters (since there is no official Gingrich campaign in WA) met to put together a “Unity” slate. “Unity” here meant “everyone but Paul.

(If people wonder why Paul cannot and would never win, this is why. He has no friends outside of his campaign.)

By the time Saturday morning rolled around, Greg Woodard, who claimed to be a Santorum supporter, was passing out slates he had created in conspiracy with the Ron Paul people that duplicated the layout, font, and even icons of the official Unity slate. Alex Hayes from the Romney campaign furiously denounced this fraud. Greg Woodard tried to defend it, as well as a Paul supporter, but the people were not entertained.

Unfortunately, Alex Hayes didn’t come forward to play the role of the whip. Had he taken some time during the initial ballot to correct the slate, removing Greg Woodard, we might have been done in 1 ballot. Instead, we suffered all four ballots. Halfway through, the Santorum people and the Paul people formed a coalition. I believe the Santorum people were being manipulated by Woodard.

Regardless, at the end of the day, I believe 12 Romney supporters were elected, along with 1 Paul, 3 Gingrich, and 6 Santorum. The original Unity slate had 11 Romney, 0 Paul, 2 Gingrich, and 8 Santorum. The Santorum people lost 2 seats, giving one to a Gingrich supporter and 1 to a Paul supporter. If you count Greg Woodard as a Paul supporter, then Santorum lost 3 seats they could have had. I think the reason why Paul and Santorum got any more seats was a slight confusion on how to vote down the ticket. Many Romney and Gingrich supporters were running the show, and missed out all the shenanigans happening during the counts.

It’s now on to state. The impetus is mostly to stop Paul. The Paul people act like they are innocent lambs in the whole affair, but I think people see through their deception too easily. Why they do not behave as republicans, why they do not simply accept the fact that they are not going to win, is beyond me.

Hopefully, a lot of lessons were learned that day. The Paul supporters suffered from the conceit that they were working harder than anyone else, they had more devotion than anyone else, and at the end of the day, it was clear that they didn’t. It’s a tough lesson for 20-some-odd year olds to learn, but it’s an important one.

Santorum is Done

March 26, 2012

Based on Santorum’s recent behavior, it’s apparent he has given up on being president, let alone nominee of the Republican Party. He’s acting in a way no president ever would. He’s acting in a way someone who wants to seize the headlines and make a career out of giving speeches (like Huckabee and Gingrich).

Paul was never a contender. It’s pathetic, really, to see the efforts of the Paul supporters wasted. It’s sad to see that look on a Ron Paul supporter’s face when they realize that they are in the minority, and the majority will not change their mind. The only good that is going to come out of the Paul campaign is that a lot more people who tend to have conservative viewpoints truly understand the work involved in politics. Perhaps they are also going to mature, politically speaking, and are no longer going to play the game of “my candidate or no one!”

With the nomination wrapped up, Romney is shifting gears. He’s been shifting gears for the past few months, if you haven’t noticed. This is the “Etch-a-Sketch” component of his campaign. What you say and do in trying to get the republican nomination is different than what you say and do to win the election. We’ve already heard most of what Romney’s core principles for the general election are, and it’s making a lot of conservatives very, very happy.

The primary process did a number of things to the American political landscape. I’ll try to name the most obvious things.

  1. We are all agreed now that repeal of Obamacare is the only prudent course of action. The Republican Party has completely bought into this, from the top to the bottom, no matter what they used to think of centralized health care.
  2. The Evangelical vote has successfully isolated itself from American politics. No one dares to win by courting them, because the cost is too high in terms of other groups they could court. In other words, it’s better to try and get the Mormon vote than the Evangelical vote (even though Mormons are grossly outnumbered by Evangelicals.)
  3. Religion will not be an issue in this race, or any race for the foreseeable future. If you are scared of Evangelicals forcing their religion down your threat, you need not worry, because they have effectively 0 voice today.
  4. However, social conservatism (opposition to abortion, support of marriage, etc…) are winning issues. There is only a handful of candidates across the political spectrum that dare say they support abortion.
  5. It’s now painfully clear that Obama is a racist running to get votes from racists.
  6. It’s also painfully clear that Obama is completely incompetent as he bleeds votes and voters and cash and supporters to the Romney campaign.
  7. It’s also painfully clear that there is a double-standard. It’s ok to say nasty things if you are a liberal. But if you are a conservative, you dare not say the truth for fear of reprisal from the politically correct.

Constrained vs. Unconstrained

March 23, 2012

Some people object to me calling them Marxist, communist, socialist, progressive, liberal, statist, or whatever, when I consider their ideas to be completely interchangeable with any of the above. They simply don’t get that conservatism isn’t yet another -ism, but the anti-ism, the ultimate -ism, or the only true -ism, depending on how you see things.

Some people see my proposals to government as opposite to theirs, when in fact, it is a completely separate idea. They say one group of people should be in charge, I say no one should be in charge.

The fundamental difference between my political ideas and the ideas of the leftist is simply described by Bill Whittle in the video below. I believe that mankind is fundamentally flawed. I believe that only through the appropriate application of godly laws, ie, the Natural Law that governs all things, can we hope to achieve peace and prosperity. I believe the Natural Law dictates that all men have a right to life, liberty, and property, but those rights are finite. For instance, we will protect your right to life up until you start murdering others, in which case, we will end your life, etc…

Bill Whittle catalogs the history of this debate in modern times. (By modern, I mean since the 1700’s.) Note carefully how important it is that the people believe in the Christian God of justice and mercy, otherwise, they are lead away into the ultimate conceit that man is god.

If you’re one of those people who believes science is correct, then you should take a close look at the history of political thought, and choose the one which hasn’t been responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of millions of innocent people. Meaning, you should be a conservative.

Tax the RICH!

March 22, 2012

Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch

March 22, 2012

By now you may have heard of Etch-a-Sketch-a-gate. One of Romney’s campaign advisors, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that the Romney campaign will “reboot”, like an Etch-a-Sketch, come the Autumn, to appeal to a larger base of voters.

Your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “That’s terrible! Romney’s a flip-flopper!”

But before you do that, let me ask a question: Which presidential campaign will NOT change their message once they win the nomination?

I welcome the new-found honesty in politics that the Romney campaign brings. What other campaign would be comfortable saying the truth with such boldness and audacity?

Does anyone doubt that campaigns do change their marketing pitch when they approach election time? Is Romney going to be talking about the same things in October that he has been talking about up til now?

If you think he will, you are a fool, and you should not vote for Romney, because he would be a terrible candidate.

You have to adapt your marketing message to the crowd you are targeting. The same message that works with republicans does not work with independents or conservative democrats. The same message that works with the old does not work with the young.

As Jim Gerarghty summarized:

Indeed, what Fehrnstrom did was say explicitly what every campaign does quietly when a primary ends. The goal stops being to win a majority of support among members of the candidate’s party to winning a majority of support within the electorate at large. Very, very rarely does a campaign not have to change its sales pitch as the target audience changes.

And as John Schroeder writes:

I find this true for so many of Team Romney’s “gaffes.”  They are based not in an effort to deceive, but in an incapability to be deceptive.  They don’t want to fool or manipulate the American people.  They expect the American people to understand things and enter the discussion with frankness and a desire to resolve issues.  Conventional political wisdom is that such thought grossly overestimates the average American – perhaps.

But this I do know – you tend to get what you expect from people.  The expectation of Team Romney that people are smart and reasonable will in fact lead at least some to be smart and reasonable.  Is that a bad thing?

Romney is no politician. It’s not in his blood, and it shows. He is a businessman. In business, honesty gets you places you wouldn’t otherwise be, truth is something you’re willing to pay big bucks for, and those who make the wrong choices end up paying with their career.

If only politics and government worked the same way! If you want to get places in government, you have to be so deceptive that you appear to be honest, truth is the thing that you’re willing to pay big bucks to hide or pervert, and those who make the wrong choices get promoted.

Paul Stone’s Startup: PanelSawsRUs.com

March 20, 2012

A good friend of mine has taken the leap of faith and started a new company. He is manufacturing parts that are used to make panel saws. Check out his product at PanelSawsRUs.com.

It doesn’t take a million dollars to start a business and take on an entire industry. All it takes is some sweat, blood and tears.

If Paul Stone makes it big, he’ll become very rich from his idea. That’s the way it should be.

If not, then we’re better off because we will know that his idea isn’t necessarily better than the other products out there.

Unfortunately, Lady Luck doesn’t favor everyone who has a big idea. But I think in this case, Paul Stone has the right idea, and he’s executing it in the right way.

If you are thinking of getting a panel saw, but don’t want to drop thousands on it, then take a look at putting together his panel saw kit. At $300, it’s likely going to pay for itself in a matter of weeks.

Opportunity and Regulation

March 19, 2012

One of the ideas that economists came up with that lay people tend to poo-poo is that of opportunity value. When you think about opportunity and regulations, it becomes very clear why regulations are generally a very bad idea.

Opportunity value is the inherent value of having an opportunity available, whether or not you choose to take it. For instance, it is better for me to have numerous options available for lunch, even though I can only choose one. The more good choices I have to pursue, the more value there is for me.

This isn’t unknown to people who play games. In chess, one general strategy is to try and free up as many pieces as possible, and paint the board with as many possible moves as possible. By maximizing opportunity to move, you are actually improving your likelihood of winning.

If you’re still having trouble understanding why opportunity is so important, then think of the difference it would make to live in a day and age where cancer treatment did not exist, versus today, when it does. Even though we are not likely to get cancer, we would certainly prefer to live in a time and place where cancer treatment options were available for us, because we know that there is a small chance we could get cancer and we’d like to minimize the risk of that possibility.

Regulations are a net drain on the economy. Except for the rare regulation that actually increases the liberty of the individual, they are generally harming us and our economy. To understand why, think of the opportunities that vanish with the stroke of the pen of the regulator.

Imagine you are living in a poor part of the city, as a poor person without a lot of education or money. If the society you lived in was largely unregulated, then you would be free to pursue any number of ideas to make money and improve your life. However, with regulations, your options are diminished. At some point, you aren’t able to understand what is legal and what is not and you begin to believe that everything is illegal and regulated against by default. What a poor trap you would live in at that point! The only options were to commit crime and hope that either it wasn’t really illegal, or you won’t run into the authorities. Doesn’t this sound like the lifestyle that too many children of poverty are subjected to in our society?

It’s time we re-thought how we regulate our society. It’s time we dramatically cut the regulations on the books, and reinstilled in the minds of the people the idea that by default, all activities are legal. By doing this, we instantly create opportunities that didn’t exist, and we instantly create value and wealth where there was none before.

How to Attack the LDS Church

March 17, 2012

A lot of non-members across the country are trying desperately to attack the LDS church. Unfortunately, they are using the worst methods possible to do so, methods which will expose people to the doctrines of the church and may lead to an increase in the number of baptisms into our church.

Let me help my readers see which arguments are going to explode in their face.

  1. The Bible. If you’re going to attack the LDS church with Bible doctrine, you’re not going to win. The only way you can convince someone that the LDS church is wrong is to pervert basic Bible doctrines so horribly that the Bible comes to mean something it is not. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to belong to a church which threw out every doctrine which could prove the LDS church true. Besides, LDS members don’t like arguing about doctrines in the Bible. They’d rather persuade people by the Spirit, which is the biblical way people are converted. So while you’re busy beating people across the head with the Bible (intellectually speaking, hopefully), we’re going to be quietly inviting people to “Come and see”. Why do you think it is your church isn’t doing so well while ours is continually growing in every corner of the globe?
  2. The Book of Mormon. Any honest assessment of the Book of Mormon will reveal that not only did Joseph Smith not write it, but nobody else in Western Civilization did either. Simply by examining the text, it is clear that it was written by a race of men who spoke Hebrew and who were intimately familiar with the Law of Moses, exactly as it claims. The doctrines contained within not only do not contradict one word of the Bible, but support it and clarify it such that the Bible becomes much more valuable than it otherwise would be. Reading the book does change lives for the better, universally. If you bring attention to this sacred record, your listeners might be interested in reading it for themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who have read the book and have not joined the LDS church, so you would be wise to leave it alone altogether.
  3. Maligning Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, outside of the records created by anti-Mormons of Joseph Smith’s time, Joseph Smith’s legacy is not only flawless, but saintly. I’d be glad to talk about Joseph Smith. I am sure you don’t want to hear what I have to say, but people who are wondering what all the fuss is about do. When they realize who Joseph Smith really was, and why people even today call him a “fraud” or worse, they’ll come to realize what a powerful personality and force for good Joseph Smith was in the 1800’s. Hint: There was a real possibility he would have been elected president, had he not been assassinated. Yes, assassinated, since he was a political leader.
  4. Maligning any LDS Prophet. You may find faults with one or two prophets, but once again, good luck carrying your attack on the church on the backs of those faults. Our prophets stand second to none in their charitable work and contributions to the world. I’ll gladly stand up any one of our latter-day prophets against any contemporary religious leader. The fact that you can only find fault with them when you compare them to perfection is testimony to their righteousness.
  5. LDS practices and doctrines, past or present. The two “worst” examples of Mormon doctrine can be seen in polygamy and our policy of blacks and the priesthood. Even then, these are easily defended by scripture and by virtue of those engaging in the practice. You don’t have to look very hard to LDS adherents who were black and forbidden from the priesthood yet who defended the doctrine. If you feel like this is your best attack vector, then at the heart of the attack you will stumble upon the one key element of Mormon doctrine: our reliance on God’s word and revelation. If you want to attack that, you have to overturn religion completely.
  6. The sacred ceremonies in the temple. I think some people find it easy to mock what we do in the temple or the sacred temple garments we wear under our clothing. However, once again, the curiosity of your listener will eventually drive them to learn more about these sacred doctrines and practices, and will likely lead to their ultimate conversion. I can’t tell you how many people joined the church simply because of our doctrine regarding salvation for the dead. If you want to make that the subject of your attack, you’re actually attacking one of our most powerful doctrines, and unwittingly furthering our missionary work in the process.
  7. Our code of health. We don’t smoke or chew tobacco, drink alcohol, or drink coffee or tea. Many of us choose not to drink even caffeine. We abstain from drugs, unless there is a medical reason. We knew about these things back in the 1820’s. We knew what the cigarette companies are hiding long before anyone else grew suspicious. We also know about the conspiracies to overthrow the free will of men through alcohol, coffee and tea. In a matter of time, you’ll come to realize what a great waste these things have been to our society, and wonder why nobody else paid attention when the Lord’s chosen prophet condemned these things so long ago.
  8. Our financial standing. The LDS church is not poor. 10% of our income goes to the church in the form of tithing, in addition to charitable contributions such as fast offering. The LDS church is miserly with its money, because the Lord told us to be. However, we are also building up and establishing the physical things necessary to do the work of God in these days. The fact that the church is financially successful is a testament to the truthfulness of the work. Or would you expect the Lord would create an impoverished church to prepare for his Second Coming, and provide relief for the impending disasters that will prelude his coming? If we really didn’t believe in the church, the financial statements of the church would reflect this.

Now that I’ve outlined how not to attack us, allow me to share with you how you can convince someone to not join the church.

  1. Attack the weaknesses of individual members of the church. It isn’t hard to find less-than-perfect individuals in the church. Identify their weaknesses, and magnify them. When people see how mortal and imperfect members of the church are, they will not want to be a part of it. That is, unless they have truly adopted the Savior’s edict to forgive others.
  2. Point out how much work you have to do if you join the church. You can do this with backhanded complements, such as “Mormons devote up to 40 hours a week in service to the church, in addition to their family and community.” Regardless, people are genuinely scared of the amount of work we ask people to do and how much they will actually do. We are not a lazy church, and the lay members don’t do much laying about.
  3. Deny God and the Power of God. If you cut out spiritual manifestations of the Holy Ghost, then what ground have we got to stand on? Enough said.
  4. Lie about the church and its members.You can always invent things. You don’t have to be particularly smart to do so. Try to come up with something that isn’t completely outrageous. For instance, accusing Joseph Smith of committing adultery is pretty far-fetched, and most people just ignore the claim outright. However, accusing members of lying about what they claim to be true is pretty straightforward, and makes us look like we are crazy.

I should caution you: The Lord is real, and he is going to weigh your every thought, word, and deed. I believe he will be particularly less generous to those who purposefully step forward to thwart his work. So you had better be dang sure that we don’t represent the Lord or that he really, really doesn’t exist before going on the attack in these ways.

I should also caution you: When people discover your deceit, you will lose all credibility altogether. Quick, can you name anyone famous who published lies and falsehoods about Joseph Smith? Can you even name the president of the United States who refused to give redress for the saints under the persecution via the Extermination Order? Can you name the presidential candidate who was promised by Joseph Smith to become president, if he should simply stand up for the saints, but who instead decided to abandon the church in the hour of need? If you can remember these people, tell me what defining characteristic they possessed which would be considered good?

You’re free to chose your path. If you want to join the ranks of nay-sayers and finger-waggers against the church, then you’re free to do so. Or you can find out for yourself what the church really stands for and what we truly believe by meeting with the missionaries of the church. While you’re free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.