Category Archives: Reason to Live

10 October 2021, 9:32 AM

Love, true love, is oneness with God and all the other elements and souls that are at one with God.

Love, true love, is forming a bond with another person that transcends time-space: it is to make the connection with that person something that is at one with the force or forces that bound and define the universe as we know it. It is to make a bond that transcends time-space, even though we cannot fully conceive what that very arrangement implies for eternity, other than a state of oneness.

The Prodigal Son and The Book of Alma

In the early middle chapters of The Book of Alma, there is an account of Nephites who, full of grief over how they used to persecute the faithful, have renounced their royal lineage and dedicated themselves to a life of preaching. This life of preaching is directed towards the enemies of the Nephites, the Lamanites. These four repentant missionaries are ridiculed for thinking that they could convert the Lamanites. They record that others said it would be better to kill the Lamanites than to try to talk to them. It is clear that the enmity between the peoples is not a one-sided affair.

The four missionaries, against the expectations of their peers, are successful in converting a substantial number of Lamanites to their belief. Other Lamanites oppose that conversion and threaten to destroy the convert population. The converts in their thousands seek refuge among the Nephites. The Nephite leadership grants them a portion of their lands and welcomes in the fellow-believers. In a sense, the prodigals have returned after many generations.

Like in the parable of The Prodigal Son, there is resentment. While not directly connected in the narrative of The Book of Mormon, it’s just after the arrival of the converts – who are not asked to change or assimilate in any way – that we see records of parts of the Nephite population cracking along tribal and social lines.

Unasked in the narrative are the questions that these groups must have had – why are these enemies suddenly granted lands? What about the rest of the tribal groups that have been loyal all these years? Do we trust these converts? Is it wise to have such people, so recently enemies, given a place of trust in our nation?

Consider a statistic from after the Second World War. The Allies surveyed the German population about their attitudes toward Jews and racism in general. The survey came back with 12% of the population expressing extreme antisemitic attitudes, 18% of the population expressing strong antisemitic attitudes, and another 21% of the population showing as not particularly antisemitic, but generally bigoted in their attitudes towards other ethnic and cultural groups – racists, in a word.

An important key in the narrative of The Book of Mormon is how the convert population, who demonstrated complete pacifism and accepted death rather than lift a weapon, continues to show that pacifism after they have emigrated to Nephite lands. That implies that, among the Nephites, they faced attacks and chose to submit to violence rather than become part of it. And who would those attackers be? The Nephites who refused to shed their hatred – the Nephites who refused to forgive.

This refusal to forgive then goes beyond acts of violence directed at the immigrants. The Nephite confederation itself begins to split. In the hundreds of years of enmity portrayed in The Book of Mormon, given the “kill them all” attitude expressed openly among the Nephites, it should not be a surprise that a sudden embrace of these Lamanite converts should lead to rifts in the Nephite population. One group, the Zoramites, portray themselves as victims and defect to the Lamanite tribes. Another group, the king-men, refuse to accept the legitimate government of the people and seek to create their own political structure with them at the top. Both the king-men and the Zoramites are hostile to individuals portrayed as loyal and faithful to the Nephite church, so it stands to reason that they are just as hostile, if not more so, to the Lamanite converts. If their attitudes were as hardened as those of the postwar Germans, this is no stretch of the imagination.

The parable of The Prodigal Son is as much about groups of people as it is about individuals. When enemies reconcile, we cannot allow ourselves to refuse to join in the reconciliation, at risk of becoming enemies ourselves. A prosperous group that paints itself as a group of victims when a less-fortunate population is taken in is a group that itself is making an enmity towards God, for God is Love.

The risk of any period of extremism and rivalry is that the feelings run so deep that reconciliation is impossible. Both sides of the rivalry are then doomed to destruction as they make mutual war on their common enemies, those who have shed the rivalry and who have found a way to forgive.

A List of 100 Beloved Songs, Where 100=164…

  1. Amnesty International – The Price Of Silence (06:58)
  2. AR Rahman, Srinivas & Chorus – Chale Chalo (06:40)
  3. Staple Singers – Freedom Highway (02:55)
  4. Ralph Stanley – O Death (02:30)
  5. Elvis Presley – Peace in the Valley (03:21)
  6. Todd Rundgren – Shine ( 8:13)
  7. Yuzo Kayama and The Launchers – Black Sand Beach (02:20)
  8. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody (03:28)
  9. Alejandra Guzman – Reina de corazones (03:09)
  10. Linda Rondstadt – La Charreada ( 3:45)
  11. Los Lobos – Volver, volver (03:46)
  12. Shakira Mebarak – Estoy Aqui (03:54)
  13. Little Richard – I Don’t Want to Discuss It (02:24)
  14. Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds (04:32)
  15. Johnny Cash – The Ballad of Ira Hayes (04:07)
  16. Johnny Cash – Man in Black (02:52)
  17. Guy Clark – L.A. Freeway (05:18)
  18. Guy Clark – South Coast of Texas (03:46)
  19. Guy Clark – Desperados Waiting for a Train (05:50)
  20. Gary P. Nunn – What I Like About Texas ( 4:28)
  21. Robert Earl Keen – The Front Porch Song ( 6:34)
  22. Rusty Wier – Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance ( 3:46)
  23. Rusty Wier – Agua Dulce ( 3:52)
  24. Patsy Cline – Crazy (02:42)
  25. Aretha Franklin – Old Landmark (02:56)
  26. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – This Train ( 2:48)
  27. Ray Charles – Lift Every Voice and Sing ( 3:19)
  28. Sarah MacLachlan – Silence (DJ Tiesto Mix).mp3 (11:10)
  29. Natalie Merchant – Kind and Generous ( 3:58)
  30. Heather Small – Proud (04:28)
  31. Seal – Crazy (05:56)
  32. Seal – My Vision (04:47)
  33. Angelique Kidjo – Voodoo Child (03:48)
  34. Angélique Kidjo/Joss Stone – Gimme Shelter (04:07)
  35. Amadou & Mariam – Sénégal Fast Food (04:18)
  36. Amadou & Mariam – Masiteladi [feat. M] (03:56)
  37. Fiamma Fumana – 1.0 (04:20)
  38. Kishore Kumar – Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin (05:21)
  39. Devdas – Dhola Re Dhola ( 6:36)
  40. Shankar Ehsaan Loy – Kuch To Hua Hai (05:19)
  41. Shankar Ehsaan Loy – Kal Ho Naa Ho (05:21)
  42. K3G – Bole Chudiya (06:49)
  43. Baghban – Meri Makhna Meri Soniye (07:01)
  44. Faces – Ooh La La (03:31)
  45. Mountain – Nantucket Sleighride (To Owen Coffin) (05:52)
  46. Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar (05:24)
  47. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (05:21)
  48. Tommy Bolin – Wild Dogs (04:40)
  49. Tommy Bolin – Post Toastee (09:00)
  50. Todd Rundgren – Determination ( 3:12)
  51. Deep Purple – Pictures Of Home (05:06)
  52. Deep Purple – Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming (07:31)
  53. Dio – Don’t Talk To Strangers ( 4:53)
  54. LGT – Fiú (03:44)
  55. Jethro Tull – Skating Away ( 3:28)
  56. Jethro Tull – One brown mouse ( 3:20)
  57. Jethro Tull – Life Is a Long Song ( 3:17)
  58. Janis Joplin – Move Over (03:39)
  59. Janis Joplin – Get It While You Can (03:23)
  60. Wishbone Ash – Blowin’ Free (05:19)
  61. Mothers of Invention – Wowie Zowie (02:52)
  62. Three Dog Night – Shambala (03:27)
  63. Slade – How Does It Feel? (05:55)
  64. Steely Dan – Your Gold Teeth (06:59)
  65. Steely Dan – The Royal Scam (06:32)
  66. Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald( 6:39)
  67. Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown ( 3:40)
  68. Cat Stevens – Oh Very Young ( 2:40)
  69. Joe Walsh – The Confessor (07:07)
  70. Black Sabbath – Falling off the edge of the world (05:05)
  71. Mavrin & Kipelov – Vot i vse dela! (06:05)
  72. Uriah Heep – The Wizard ( 3: 2)
  73. Uriah Heep Circle Of Hands Live 1973 ( 8:55)
  74. Jackson Browne – Running on Empty ( 4: 6)
  75. Grateful Dead – Box of Rain (05:18)
  76. Freddy Fender – Corrina, Corrina (02:20)
  77. Grateful Dead – Ripple (04:09)
  78. Grateful Dead – Touch of Grey (05:49)
  79. Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley 1969 (02:37)
  80. Grateful Dead – Throwing Stones (07:21)
  81. Free – Fire And Water (03:57)
  82. Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom (05:23)
  83. The Doobie Brothers – China Grove.mp3 ( 3:15)
  84. David Gilmour – Deafinitely (Album Version) (04:28)
  85. The Beatles – Something.mp3 ( 3: 2)
  86. Ringo Starr – It Don’t Come Easy (Starr, 1971)-251.mp3 ( 3: 2)
  87. The Beatles – Old Brown Shoe (03:20)
  88. The Beatles – It’s All Too Much.MP3 ( 6:17)
  89. Badfinger – Baby Blue (US Single Mix / Remastered 2010) (03:35)
  90. Bad Company – Seagull.MP3 ( 4: 3)
  91. Isley Brothers – Harvest for the World.mp3 ( 3:34)
  92. The O’Jays – Put Your Hands Together (04:07)
  93. The O’Jays – For the Love of Money (07:19)
  94. Dobie Gray-Out on the floor.mp3 ( 3: 6)
  95. The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You) (02:50)
  96. R. Dean Taylor – There’s A Ghost In My House (02:25)
  97. The Four Tops – Bernadette (Mono) (03:02)
  98. The Contours – Do You Love Me (02:51)
  99. The Dell Vikings – Whispering Bells (02:27)
  100. Bobby Marchan; The Clowns – Don’t You Just Know It (02:33)
  101. Bobby Marchan – There’s Something on Your Mind, Pts. 1-2 (04:50)
  102. The Del Vikings – Come Go with Me (02:41)
  103. Little Richard – Midnight Special (03:59)
  104. Lou Rawls – This Song Will Last Forever (05:05)
  105. Black Sabbath – Spiral Architect (05:29)
  106. Glenn Hughes – Days Of Avalon (05:58)
  107. Deep Purple – The Long Way Round (05:39)
  108. Arthur Rubinstein – Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat (05:06)
  109. Mikael Tariverdiev ~ Seventeen moments of spring (Main theme)-140.mp3 ( 4:22)
  110. Khachaturian – Adagio From Spartacus-140.mp3 ( 8:30)
  111. Concerto in D Major RV. 93, II-Largo, Vivaldi, performed by Eric Larkins-171.mp3 ( 5:25)
  112. Schubert D189 An die Freude.wmv-251.mp3 ( 3:21)
  113. Johann Strauss II – The Blue Danube Waltz-251.mp3 (10:59)
  114. Guqin – Track 1 (05:40) (OK, I have no reference for this, but it’s great…)
  115. Khwaja Mere Khwaja By AR Rahman.mp3 ( 6:58)
  116. John McLaughlin – Joy (18:12)
  117. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Haq Ali Ali Mula Ali Ali.mp3 (27:43)
  118. Pete Seeger – Abiyoyo (05:13)
  119. Harry Belafonte – Turn The World Around.mp3 ( 6:32)
  120. The Specials – Pressure Drop-251.mp3 ( 4:17)
  121. Amar/Cheb Khaled – El Harba Wine (04:33)
  122. Natacha Atlas – Yalla .mp3 ( 5:49)
  123. Simon Shaheen – Bashraf Farahfaza (05:43)
  124. The Erkose Ensemble – Bahriye Ciftetellisi / Rumeli Karsilamasi / Anadolu oyun havasi / Karacali / Kasap havasi (12:58)
  125. Kailash Kher/MIDIval PunditZ – Ali (06:33)
  126. MIDIval PunditZ – Kesariya (07:16)
  127. Monsoon (with Sheila Chandra) – Ever So Lonely [1981 EP Version] (03:42)
  128. Nova June – Another Try (06:24)
  129. Db Boulevard – Another point of view (05:36)
  130. Belanova – Yo Nunca Vi Television (03:36)
  131. Mfsb – Tsop (The Sound Of Philadelphia) (05:46)
  132. Diana Ross & The Supremes – Reflections (02:52)
  133. Diana Ross & The Supremes – Forever Came Today (03:16)
  134. Earth Wind and Fire – Dancing In September.mp3 ( 3:44)
  135. Earth Wind and Fire – Getaway (03:48)
  136. Earth Wind and Fire – Shining Star (02:51)
  137. Gil Scott-Heron – Free Will (03:42)
  138. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Wake Up Everybody (07:32)
  139. Lou Rawls – My Ancestors (Digitally Remastered 00) (03:09)
  140. Lou Rawls – Groovy People (03:18)
  141. The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back (02:58)
  142. The Jackson 5 – I Am Love, Pts. 1-2 (07:25)
  143. Nigel Hall – Gimme a Sign (03:23)
  144. The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself (04:56)
  145. The Staple Singers – Walking In Water Over Our Head (03:52)
  146. The Staple Singers – Heavy Makes You Happy (Alternate) (03:41)
  147. The Staple Singers – This Is a Perfect World (04:22)
  148. Thelma Houston – Dont Leave Me This Way (05:42)
  149. Yvonne Elliman – If I Cant’ Have You (03:00)
  150. Tavares – More Than a Woman ( 3:32)
  151. Gloria Gaynor – Never Can Say Goodbye (06:16)
  152. Cojones – Rocker (03:21)
  153. Sky Valley Mistress – She Is So (06:00)
  154. MOS GENERATOR – Woman Song (04:22)
  155. Wo Fat – Lost Highway (05:25)
  156. Vuelveteloca – La Niebla (06:11)
  157. Strange Majik – Curtain Up (04:03)
  158. Spacegoat – Cosmica (04:32)
  159. Spacegoat – The wooden path (03:39)
  160. Honeymoon Disease – Electric Eel (04:39)
  161. Deaf Radio – Revolving Doors (04:32)
  162. Black Sky Giant – Planet terror (04:04)
  163. 1000mods – Pearl (03:31)
  164. Hawkwind – Master of the Universe (Live).mp3 ( 7:40)

Paracelsus, Galen, and COVID-19

There is a long history of popular opposition to public health measures. Given the old-timey Latin-sounding names in the title, you shouldn’t be surprised that I will reach back 350 years to start this story. During the time surrounding the English Civil War, there was a medical debate between the schools of Paracelsus and the older tradition of Galen. Followers of Paracelsus put forward notions that excrement of various types could heal a range of diseases: followers of Galen were much more restricted in their application of excrement. The conservatives who held to Galen found common cause with the conservatives that supported the king, the Royalists while those who wanted to upend the medical establishment found their allies in those who wanted to upend the monarchy, the Parliamentarians.

After the Parliamentarian victory, Paracelsus was required learning for all English doctors and pharmacists. This included the recipe for “Sheep Nanny Tea”, also known as just “Nanny Tea.” The two key ingredients were fresh sheep manure and wine. Nanny Tea was identified as a cure for smallpox. That’s important, remember that. When the monarchy was restored, however, the Galen school of medicine came back to the fore and the Paracelsians were relegated to the country healers who still resisted royal authority over their beliefs.

Let’s remember that the English Civil War included a religious element – the Puritan faction of the Parliamentarians wanted to remove Catholic influences in The Church of England. The Independent faction of the Parliamentarians wanted permission to practice their faith as they saw fit, even outside The Church of England, which put them in conflict with the Puritans. The Puritans also had a radical sect among their numbers, the Fifth Monarchists, who were preparing England for the return of Christ as King on or about the year 1666. All of these groups were in conflict with the established, traditional Church of England that held itself to be the one and only church for all of England. Even though the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 returned the Church of England to authority in religious matters, disgruntled Puritans and Independents still clung to views that the government should not be so intrusive in people’s lives as to dictate a person’s creed or belief.

This resentment of government influence probably strikes a chord with nearly every American, in one way or another. But, running deeper, is the association of what were disparagingly referred to as “folk remedies” with that anti-establishment view of government, with the rural people being at odds with the urban, royalist establishment.

And before anyone jumps up and shouts, “Oh my gosh! That’s so much like what we’re facing in 2021!”, I will say that we’re not yet ready for 2021. We first need to go to around 1900 in the US state of Utah.

I picked Utah because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and want to better understand how there’s a current split between members of my church along a number of fault lines. Other denominations may also be experiencing similar breaks – maybe the lessons learned from history can help us all. Onward.

In 1900, a smallpox outbreak had occurred in Utah, likely caused by a person who fled a quarantine in Butte, Montana who arrived in Sanpete County. As the smallpox spread, it brought out sharp divisions in Church membership over how best to respond to it.

The smallpox outbreak was not variola major, with a 20-40% fatality rate, but a strain that had emerged in the USA after the Civil War, variola minor, with a 1-2% fatality rate. It was still a rough disease to deal with, but the lower fatality rate had made many people question if quarantine measures that were developed to address the higher-fatality strain were really appropriate for the lower-fatality strain.

Cue concerned debate about the role of government in public health: it should not be surprising that predominantly rural Utahns took up opposition to government involvement and the urban Utahns mostly favored intervention for the sake of public health. It should also not be surprising that the rural groups took government involvement as an affront to their faith and folk remedies and that urban groups took resistance to government involvement as people clinging to unenlightened thinking.

With the Mormon population, there was an added dynamic surrounding declarations of current and former leaders of the Church. The official title of the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And even though members are now advised to avoid the short-hand notation of “Mormon” when denoting the church or its members, we sill all engage in a short-hand reference to our leader as “the Prophet.” Just as calling church members “Mormons” causes people to forget or not realize that the faith is centered around Jesus Christ, calling the leader “the Prophet” causes people to forget or not realize that he serves primarily in an administrative capacity and that prophetic revelation is not part of his day-to-day duties.

I say that because whenever there is a split in the Church, it’s up to The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to work to end the contention and to keep the membership unified as an ecclesiastical body. If there’s revelation for the Prophet, so be it. But most of church history is full of discussion, compromise, changing views, outside pressures, internal rifts, and long, sleepless nights for those at the top as they juggle all these influences as they do their level best to keep things going forward.

It seems as though Presidents of the Church make decisions that either cause a small number of members to leave the faith, or they make decisions that cause a large bloc of members to leave the faith. So it was from the beginning, with Joseph Smith himself constantly faced with attrition of membership over his choices and statements. In a movement striving to bring in all people as one, any loss has a pain associated with it, and the Presidents have striven to bring back anyone who has left or chosen not to associate with the general membership.

So, in 1900, the Church is faced with a smallpox outbreak and one group of members insisting that the state must be vaccinating one and all and the other group insisting that they will reach for their shotguns before some intrusive statist “injects Babylon into their arms.” The pro-state, pro-vaccine group pointed to current leadership statements in favor of vaccinations. The anti-state, anti-vaccine group in turn pointed to statements by Brigham Young that were hostile to the medical profession and insisted that folk cures and faith-based cures were superior to vaccines. Enter a steamin’ hot cup of Nanny Tea at this point, because that was one of the folk cures being touted to help deal with smallpox instead of a vaccination.

This is not to say that the anti-vaccine faction was a bunch of bumpkin throwbacks to the 17th Century: the editor of The Deseret News was one of the leaders of the anti-vaccine faction, along with other prominent Church leaders, physicians, and educators. There were also those who were very much in favor of vaccinations, just not mandatory ones at the hands of the state. Here, a Libertarian argument for personal freedom joins with those who generally distrust vaccines. Utah had only recently come out from under Federal control that had disenfranchised Mormons wholesale and had disincorporated the Church and seized its assets – is this the same government to be trusted with public health measures? Would it use a vaccination campaign as the thin end of a wedge to reassert itself in persecuting Mormons?

In the cities, Catholics, Episcopalians, and Jews mostly supported state-mandated vaccinations with an option for those who did not want to be vaccinated to ride things out at home. When schools opened in Salt Lake City in January 1900, about 62% of the student population – mostly Mormons – stayed home, their parents in staunch opposition to either vaccinations or to the school forcing their children to be vaccinated in order to attend.

When the President of the Church spoke publicly in favor of vaccinations, members of the anti-vaccine faction responded with an outcry and pled with him to seriously reconsider what he was saying and how that was an affront to their faith.

At the same time, the Church was also going through a gradual strengthening of The Word of Wisdom from a set of recommendations to actual commandment-level requirements. Part of this gradual strengthening was from influence of the larger Prohibition movement in the USA. If we look at the Mormons of the day, we would find those who generally felt that the state should be totally uninvolved both in vaccination and in prohibition, those who wanted state-run vaccinations but no prohibition, those who refused state-run vaccination programs but insisted upon state intervention in prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, and those who felt that a comprehensive state public health system meant both vaccination and prohibition programs. And the President had to do his level best to keep them all united in faith.

And though each group would want to call out the other as having a stance that was inconsistent with the core beliefs of the Church, the fact of the matter was that those who cited a current prophet’s support for their views would find themselves in contention with those who either brought up the views of a former prophet or who questioned if the prophet was himself articulating a formal policy or merely speaking ex cathedra.

As for the non-Mormon faiths that predominantly supported vaccination, it was only the Evangelical Protestants that found common cause with Mormon efforts to tighten up the Word of Wisdom – Episcopalians, Catholics, and Jews did not have strong prohibitionist support in their memberships. On a side note, the state of Utah was considered “one of the wettest states in the nation” in 1907 and was also the state that provided the final ratification needed of the amendment to repeal Prohibition in the USA.

Getting back on track, and I know that this has been a big ramble, and there is more ramble ahead, the same dynamics that colored the factions in the English Civil War provided near-equivalent coloration to the vaccination debate in the smallpox outbreak of 1900. Paracelsians and Libertarians in the country; Galens and Statists in the city, more or less. Out in the mission fields, there were mission presidents who required all missionaries to have smallpox vaccines and those who refused them. Where Mormon missionaries were unvaccinated, local governments often enforced quarantines – vaccination came to be seen as a requirement for sharing the gospel. Even so, there was an Apostle serving as a mission president in Mexico who refused to be vaccinated on principle that it went against the idea of faith healing who then later died of smallpox. Vaccination in the mission field was by no means a uniform decision.

The vaccination debate also broke along political faction lines in Utah. Rather than go into details, let it suffice to say that one party was mostly in favor of requiring vaccinations and another was mostly against that sort of thing. Imagine the tension resulting from a debate that involves both hardline political AND religious stances.

By the early 1920s, however, the man who was a strongly anti-vaccine editor of The Deseret News in 1900 was now a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who officially signed off on a declaration from the President of the Church in support of vaccines. In case we forgot and need reminding, people are capable of change over time. I’m sure the loss of an Apostle to smallpox helped to color that decision. However, the Church statement did not go into areas of public health – that debate remained.

Even in recent official Church statements supporting vaccination programs and the idea of vaccination itself, the statements stop shy of advocating government involvement in such program. In fact, strongly pro-vaccination statements from 1978 and 1985 and 2000 have been watered down with the inclusion of a personal judgment option in the March 2021 update to the General Handbook. That’s not to say that one prophet was better or worse than another: that is to say that one President of the Church faced different pressures and concerns than another had to deal with.

When I look at the decisions made around The Word of Wisdom over time, I see more of the concerns in the top leadership regarding taking something from a strong recommendation or sincere urging to the level of an out-and-out commandment. More often than not, this is a matter of debate in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It is a gradual move in one direction or another, frequently because of outside pressures manifesting themselves in factions among the membership. A too-sudden move risks a major rift in the membership. Even a change accompanied with revelation, such as the 1978 Official Declaration on the Priesthood, is an example of work in progress, not a sudden direction change.

So now I come to the promise of the title: the current COVID-19 pandemic. The divisions of old have been preserved through the centuries. We saw them again in the smallpox epidemic, we will see them again in the next epidemic. So it shall be. I may side with one or the other, but it does not mean that I have a right to force my view on anyone else. I can strongly encourage, I can urge, but if I become combative with another, am I able to encourage or urge? No, I am not. Nonviolent principles, in my view, have to extend to language as much as they do for physical actions. I am going to be in church services with people who disagree or agree with me, but not in a binary sense. There will be degrees of agreement and disagreement, and when we add another issue, we add another dimension to the tracking of said agreements and disagreements. Rather than complicate things and track all the issues I have a strong view on, maybe it is better for me to look instead for a way to sit next to my brothers and sisters in faith and allow time and positive spiritual influences to improve us all in the long run. It is a difficult choice to accept, but it is the one chosen by The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For further reading, I strongly recommend “The Religious Politics of Smallpox Vaccination, 1899-1901” from the Utah Historical Quarterly. https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/uhq_volume84_2016_number1/s/166487

I also recommend “Mormons and Compulsory Vaccination” from MormonPress. https://www.mormonpress.com/mormon_vaccination

Both of these articles were written pre-COVID-19 and, as such, exist outside the charged atmosphere that emerged as a consequence of the latest pandemic.

If you are interested in the history of the Word of Wisdom, “The Word of Wisdom from Principle to Requirement” offers an interesting read. https://www.jstor.org/stable/45224999?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

In the New Testament, there is the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. The story is simple: 10 young women go to await a wedding reception. The women are all virgins – their morality and spirituality is not in question here. These are not sinners and saints, these are all good people, ready to enter into the reception – a symbol equating with the kingdom of God.

But there’s a delay. The delay is long enough that all 10 go to sleep. Again, no fault on any of those who await – they are all fine up to this point.

And then the bridegroom arrives. It is time to go to meet him. All the lamps have run low on oil. Five of the virgins have brought extra oil with them – they trim their lamps. The other five ask for oil, but the first five decline. They cannot give of their oil, the other five, the foolish five, have to go out and find their own oil.

If we take a view that the oil is personal preparation, it’s clear to see how it cannot be shared. Can I share my obedience with the disobedient? Can I share my love with the hateful? Can I share my charity with the ungiving? Whatever fictions are made to stretch my virtues, the underlying fact is that these characteristics cannot truly be shared. We must attain them for ourselves.

There is no miracle that awaits the five foolish ones, to provide them with additional oil. They were righteous and without fault in many ways, yes, but they lacked yet that final bit of preparation, that final extension of faith needed to understand what is required of us to enter into the kingdom of God.

The miracle was that the bridegroom arrived. We do not know the hour or the time in which we will be called to meet Him, but we know that the hour or time will arrive. We must have the faith to endure waiting longer than we thought initially necessary. We must have the faith to accept circumstances outside our control – and the humility to accept that our ideas about God may be partially or substantially incorrect, even though we trust and believe in Him enough to make the initial preparations to meet him, as did the foolish virgins. We must be prepared to admit that our initial thoughts are incorrect and that we have much more ahead of us than simply showing up and expecting a short wait before we head on in to Heaven.

Is There One Among You?

“And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!” – Alma 5:20-21

We often think that if we do not personally mock or persecute that we are innocent of such accusations. We think that if we are constantly and consistently polite and careful with our personal interactions, we are free of the charges of mocking and heaping persecutions on others. But we must look beyond the personal experience if we wish to be judged correctly.

The first place to look is in the minds of the persons we interact with – we cannot read those minds, but we know that they are not our own. How do we know that what we think of as polite and proper is interpreted to be the same way in the minds of our neighbors, the people we meet and work with directly? How often did politeness give an appearance of kindness as it papered over apartheid, segregation, and antisemitism? Even as I speak of those things as national policies, they had impacts on the personal level to where the persecutors were unaware of how hurtful they were because, in their minds, they were always polite and proper.

When we use words that are pointed out to us as having a negative implication to an audience, we should seek to stop using those words. Accusing the audience of overreacting or taking us the wrong way is not a defense – it is not a rethinking, a repentance. When we rethink, we repent. When we repent, we not only become aware of how to keep peace on earth, but also how better to approach God.

And when we look at the larger picture, we must be sure and certain in not supporting legal regimes that “heapeth persecutions” on one or more groups. Mockery may or may not be in the legal wording: older American laws specifically stated that Blacks, Latinx, Asians, First Nations, and other cultural minorities were to be restricted vis-a-vis their White counterparts – mockery and persecution, combined. Modern American laws may remove the direct mockery, but preserve the persecution by creating use cases defined by factors common to those cultural minorities.

Gender and sexual preference are also targets of laws that create persecution. Again, they can be directly called out with mockery directly included with the persecution; or, they can be indirectly implied, with the mockery buried under cleaned-up words. But, with or without the mockery, the persecution remains as an indictment against the godliness of the people that put it into place.

“And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yeah, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting you hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
“Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God… and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?” – Alma 5:53-55

Alma makes it very clear that he is speaking to a society, not each person as an individual. This is a collective sermon that targets inequality in the society. As above, the supposition of being better than another person can be masked by politeness and protocol. If I say I am the same as everyone else but then expect to be treated differently due to my status, wealth, profession, or some other irrational criteria, then I am quite likely a hypocrite. I should strongly note that differentiated treatment to overcome disability or poverty is justice, not discrimination. Preserving one’s power through denial of justice is discrimination, is persecution, is mockery of one’s own brother in the most ungodlike way possible – the building up of a kingdom rooted in cruelty, injustice, and the violence necessary to support such a thing.

The door is not yet closed on those who persecute – as long as we have thoughts, we can rethink them. We can repent and choose instead to treat one another as equals not only in our personal relations, but in how we frame the laws of our nations. It means we must think harder and produce solutions that may not seem intuitive, but if we wish to attain the pearl of great price, those efforts are part of the price we pay for the treasure of Eternal Life.

The Implication of “Skins”

Racism is any thought, law, action, custom, or practice that provides treatment or outcomes that are different based upon race. Nationalism is the same, but for culture. Sexism for gender, and so on. All of these can be gathered under the umbrella of “irrationally discriminatory treatments and/or outcomes.” And while it is very easy to say “I am not a racist” as a smokescreen that exempts one from deep self-examination, it is much harder to say “I am an antiracist” and then work the difficult work of removing one’s own prejudices – conscious and unconscious – that result in irrationally discriminatory treatments and/or outcomes. These treatments and outcomes are not only as a result of one’s own personal interactions, but also because of the public policies one supports or opposes, based on these lurking biases.

To say, “I am an antiracist” means that we are actively re-thinking our thoughts and changing our ways – in a word, repenting. We do not just ask for forgiveness, but we must make real and meaningful changes in coming to accept all people as equals. The word of God has in the past been used to justify irrationally discriminatory treatments and/or outcomes – but such usage is the word of God, perverted. When I read the scriptures, I read that God provides a path of salvation to all humanity. Male and female, black and white, bond and free, young and old, warm and cold, wet and dry – make up your opposite pair and God provides a path of salvation to the extremes and the folks in the middle. All of them.

To be an antiracist, therefore, is to accept the equality mandated by God and to unravel it from toxic ideas of people who created misleading and damnably incorrect ideas to rationalize their own unjust concentrations of wealth and power, relative to other groups. To be an antiracist is to accept that one’s own mind has been infected with any number of these ideas and that removing those ideas is going to be a lifelong process.

And that brings me to Chapter 4 of Alma in the Book of Mormon.

“And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them…” – Alma 4:6

Even with context, it’s a harsh assessment. While modern readers are frequently quick to assume that the skins in question are the human epidermis, it’s more likely that the author was referring to how the Lamanites “were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins”. Animal skins, in other words. And that this is in a discussion about how their allies the Amlicites marked themselves with red paint in their foreheads indicates that the markings are elective, not markings from birth.

Even so, this is a discrimination: the verses that follow talk about the incorrect traditions of the Lamanites and how those who intermarry with them joins with them in their curse. Those who leave the Lamanites to join with the Nephites are noted by their change in dress style, are numbered among the Nephites, share in their customs, and are otherwise indistinguishable from the Lamanites. So if this is not racism, it is still nationalism or tribalism, is it not?

The proscription on mingling with the “other” in this case is a religious one. The idea being that the children of such unions will have divergent guidance, at best, and will not be able to grow up with the proper knowledge and faith necessary for salvation. Given that the Nephites themselves were constantly dealing with rebellion, apostasy, and general unrighteousness, however, one cannot consider that being among the Nephites was a sufficient condition for living a good life, dedicated to God. The Nephites may not have dressed in dark animal pelts as the Lamanites did, but when they put on costly apparel, they generally embark upon the road to perdition.

Just as the Amlicites painted their foreheads red, just as the Lamanites wore the pelts of dark animals, the Nephites that chose to wear costly apparel marked themselves in their rebellion to God. So what is the solution for these problems? Is it Kurtz’ rage to “Exterminate the brutes”? While there are Nephites who believe that very thing, the righteous among the Nephites reject that solution.

When God provides a path to salvation for us all, it is not at the edge of a blade or the barrel of a gun. It is through kind invitation and patient teaching. The solution is not to curse the enemy, but to pray for them and to show them kindness and mercy. Here, therefore, is a rational discrimination. There are differences, yes, but they do not prevent a person from accepting God’s invitation to salvation. They may add interesting twists and turns in that path, but so it is with all of us and our personal journeys.

The rational discrimination is to not assume that they know everything that you know and that you do not know everything that they know. The rational discrimination is to await the learning opportunities for yourself as avidly as you do for them. Once the learning is underway, we are all prepared to be a “we” and not an “us and them”. And it is as a “we” that we approach God. An unconditional, loving, equal “we”.

That is not to say that the Nephites as a people were ready to drop their prejudices at this point in the narrative. There were two bodies of people in attendance at King Mosiah II’s farewell address and reform of the government. The Amlicites emerged as a rebellious faction from within the Nephites. Class divisions appear as the people choose to wear costly apparel – are any of these groups ready to see the Lamanites, the generationally-established “others” as anything but different?

I would say that the more righteous a person is, the easier it is to see beyond the differences defined by human thought and see the eternal equality that God sees. I would say that the more righteous a person is, the easier it is to ask for that equality before God to be made evident in law and society and church.

Prosperity Through Charity

The first chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon covers two rival approaches to prosperity: individualism and communalism. Those who follow God go with communalism – giving to those in need, without regard for race, gender, or whether or not the person in need is a fellow-believer. These are specified in the text, so the above are not inferences from context.

The wicked do not do as the righteous. They follow a path of individual, personal aggrandizement. They are called out on their “costly apparel” along with pride, persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, whoredoms, and murdering.

As a group, it is the righteous who are collectively more prosperous. When we choose not to indulge ourselves in excesses, we have plenty of resources to support other people who are in need. When we do not insist “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours” – or variations on that – we can instead teach that what we have here is all God’s and we have no ownership, but stewardship. And, as stewards, we must follow our Lord’s instructions in handling those resources – and our Lord has told us to share freely one with another, that we all might prosper and live in peace.

What’s mine isn’t really mine, if I want to prosper. What’s God’s is for all of us to share equally and fairly. We cannot inherit His kingdom if we are not prepared to share it.

A Land of Liberty

“And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land, yea, even as long as any of our posterity remains upon the face of the land.” – Mosiah 29:32

With those words, King Mosiah began to dismantle the monarchy of his people and convert their rulership over to a system of judges, that his people be equals. While there were still social divisions as I noted previously, removing distinctions of wealth and nobility was a major step in the direction of become one with God, for one must first be one with other humans before being one with God – we don’t hop over each other on our eternal progression.

Now, the question arises, is this a land of liberty if not everyone enjoys rights and privileges alike? If there is nothing being done to change that situation, then no, this is not a land of liberty. If there are changes being made, but they are so slow or so small as to be of little impact relative to the remainder of injustices, then also no, this is not a land of liberty. But if the changes are such that we see a complete change for the better, where we as a people do not stand for having disproportionate impacts on any group that has been long oppressed, and we push together for changes so that laws are equal both in their writing and in their application, then and only then can we answer that, yes, we are a land of liberty.

If God does not yet walk amongst us, then we are not yet one with God. If we want to be one with God, we must be one with each other first. If we want to be one with each other, then we need to make changes in how there are rights and privileges that are not enjoyed alike among all the people.

Social Division in Mosiah 25

“And now all the people of Nephi were assembled together, and also all the people of Zarahemla, and they were gathered together in two bodies.” – Mosiah 25:4

This is a problem waiting to happen. Why could the people not be gathered together in one body? What social restrictions or divisions prevented the people from being one?

For those not familiar with the Book of Mormon, the following is a spoiler: there are going to be severe social rifts among the Nephites because they’re actually the Nephites and Zarahemlites, and not all Nephites. If the people cannot be as one, the risk is that the lines of social division become more well-defined and rigid over time, leading to clashes when a subservient group chooses not to “stay in its lane.”

God asks of us that we become as one. Therefore, God asks of us that we obliterate those conventions of humanity that keep us apart. God asks us that we erase the lines of social division, so that nobody has to stay in a lane to keep society running smoothly. There should be no statistical over- or under-representations based on race or class in any statistics. There should be no “wrong side of the tracks” or “bad part of town” in a truly Godlike society. The motto of the USA is “e pluribus unum”: “from many, one”. The more that are in the many, the stronger is that one.