Monday, November 19, 2012

Beyond Politics: A Summary, Pt. 3

This post is a continuation of my summary for 'Beyond Politics,' by Hugh Nibley.   Part 1 can be viewed here, part 2 here, and the full article here. I have added section headings for clarity. Continued:

 Above Politics

When President Harold B. Lee said that the Saints are above politics, he was referring to the brand of politics that prevails in the world today. "The government of heaven, if wickedly administered, would become one of the worst governments upon the face of the earth. No matter how good a government is, unless it is administered by righteous men, an evil government will be made of it."

No Intention of Repenting

 Men caught red-handed, charged, tried, confessed, and convicted, now come forth to plead innocent: they were merely carrying out orders, they were doing what everyone does, they have done no wrong. The winningest of slogans when the national conscience became burdened with the guilt of relentless shedding of innocent blood day after day, month after month, and year after year, could only be the slogan We have done no wrong! Any politician foolish enough to so much as hint at a need for repentance certainly was asking for the drubbing he would get. King Claudius and Macbeth were bloody villains, and they knew it, and even in their darkest hours speculated with a wild surmise on the possibility, however remote, of repentance and forgiveness. The fatal symptom of our day is not that men do wrong—they always have—and commit crimes, and even recognize their wrongdoing as foolish and unfortunate, but that they have no intention of repenting, while God has told us that the first rule that he has given the human race is that all men everywhere must repent.

Joseph Smith tells us that there are crimes and sins which are wrong no matter who does them or under what condition: they are wrong in and of themselves, at all times and at all places. You cannot deceive one party to be loyal to another. "Any man who will betray the Catholics will betray you; and if he will betray me, he will betray you."

Superficial Dialogue

The dialogue between men has always been remarkably superficial, devoid of any substance and depth, since men must always be on the go and only make brief contact, like jet planes passing in the night as each goes about his business, looking out first of all for his own interests, with little time left over for the common interest. Busy modern men and women feel they are too busy for the rigors of serious discussion necessary for genuine politics. Senator Proxmire deplored the fact, as all public-spirited people always have, that very few people take a real and active part in the political process. How could it be otherwise? Politics by its very nature is superficial . . .

The Tricky Lawyer

Politics is often a forlorn and hopeless affair, because it is not really a dialogue unless it is strictly honest, and the ulterior motives of power and gain always vitiate it in the end. It is then the tricky lawyer who takes over. Eventually someone seeks a stronger tool than mere talk—we start talking and end up condemning and smiting. "Man shall not smite, neither shall he judge" (Mormon 8:20) is the final wisdom of the Book of Mormon. "Man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh" (D&C 1:19) is the initial wisdom of the Doctrine and Covenants. What was to be a meeting of the minds often degenerates into a trial of arms. Politics gravitate in the direction of an ever stronger clout, inevitably leading to the trial of arms. Someone seeks a stronger tool than mere talk. Consider again Clausewitz's famous dictum that war is the natural end of politics—and also that war lies beyond politics. It is the arena that smells of death—and we are trapped in the arena.

Opinions of Straw

Nothing is easier than to identify one's own favorite political, economic, historical, and moral convictions with the gospel. That gives one a neat, convenient, but altogether too easy advantage over one's fellows. ... You can search through the scriptures and find support for any theory you want, and it is your privilege to attempt to convince yourself of any position you choose to take—but not to impose that opinion on others as the gospel. God certainly does not subscribe to our political creeds. The first issue of the Times and Seasons contained a lead editorial to the elders: "Be careful that you teach not for the word of God, the commandments of men, nor the doctrines of men nor the ordinances of men; . . . study the word of God and preach it, and not your opinions, for no man's opinion is worth a straw."52

Accordingly, among the Saints, "party feelings, separate interests, exclusive designs should be lost sight of in the one common cause, in the interest of the whole."54If the world cannot accept such a proposition, we are still committed to it—wholly and irrevocably—whether we like it or not. "The government of the Almighty has always been very dissimilar to the governments of men. . . . [It] has always tended to promote peace, unity, harmony, strength, and happiness," while on the other hand "the greatest acts of the mighty men have been to depopulate nations and to overthrow kingdoms. . . . Before them the earth was a paradise, and behind them a desolate wilderness. . . . The designs of God, on the other hand, [are that] . . . 'the earth shall yield its increase, resume its paradisean glory, and become as the garden of the Lord.'"

Invisible Money
That Which is of No Worth

How you play the game of politics is important, but the game you are playing is also important. It is important to work, but what you work for is all-important. The Nephites, "by their industry" (Alma 4:6), obtained riches—which then destroyed them; "[for] the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish" (2 Nephi 26:31)—work does not satisfy wealth, as we try to make ourselves believe. The zeal and intelligence that our political commitments demand—to what should they be directed? At present we have a positive obsession with the economy—the economy is all. But the Lord told Samuel the Lamanite that when a people "have set their heart upon riches, . . . cursed be they and also their treasures" (Helaman 13:20).

Lehi's Dream, by Greg Olsen (detail)
Babylon Shall Fall

Wisdom greater than man tells me that we are not playing the right game: "The world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one.56 The game is not going to last much longer. "They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall" (D&C 1:16; cf. 2 Nephi 9:30). According to Joseph Smith,
Ourselves, . . . our wives and children . . . have been made to bow down under . . . the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppressions, supported and urged on and upheld by . . . that spirit which has so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very main-spring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.
This is our heritage.

Prolonging Sickly Days

The news of the world today reminds me of nothing so much as those bulletins which a short while ago were being issued by the doctors attending the late King Gustave of Sweden and by those treating Pablo Casals. The king was in his nineties, Casals, ninety-six; and both were very ill—what really good news could come out of the sickroom? That the patient had rested well? That he had had some lucid moments? That he had taken nourishment? Could any of that be called good news, hopeful news—in view of the inevitable news the world was waiting for? What is your own idea of an encouraging and cheering item in the news today? That the next Middle Eastern war has been postponed? That a new oil field has been discovered? "This physic but prolongs thy sickly days." 

Not By Sword or Gun

We shall achieve lasting peace when we achieve eternal life. Politics has the same goal as the gospel: complete happiness. But to achieve that requires eternal life. The most painful thing in the world, says Joseph Smith, is the thought of annihilation; until that gnawing pain is relieved, all the rest is a forlorn and wistful game of make-believe.

The solution of all our problems is the resurrection: only God knows the solution. Why not follow his advice? And only the gospel can remove that pain. The final relief of all our woes lies beyond all worldly politics. So when Joseph Smith says, "My feelings revolt at the idea of having anything to do with politics," he is not being high and mighty but putting his priorities in order. "I wish to be let alone," he says, "that I may attend strictly to the spiritual welfare of the church." Specifically, "The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do." . . . "For one truth revealed from heaven is worth all the sectarian notions in existence."  And so he pursues his way: "It matters not to me if all hell boils over; I regard it only as I would the crackling of the thorns under a pot. . . . I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world. . . . It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on."

Remain clean, preach the
gospel.  In the end, only
one government succeeds.
Politics that Engender Strife

How should the Saints behave? Brigham Young believed that "the elders cannot be too particular to enjoin on all the saints to yield obedience to the laws, and respect every man in his office, letting politics wholly, entirely and absolutely alone, and preach the principles of the gospel of salvation; for to this end were they ordained and sent forth. We are for peace, we want no contention with any person or government." . . . "Amid all the revolutions that are taking place among the nations, the elders will ever pursue an undeviating course in being subject to the government wherever they may be, and sustain the same by all their precepts to the Saints, having nothing to do with political questions which engender strife, remembering that the weapons of their warfare are not carnal but spiritual, and that the Gospel which they preach is not of man but from heaven.". . .  "As for politics, we care nothing about them one way or the other, although we are a political people. . . . It is the Kingdom of God or nothing with us." . . . The kingdom is beyond politics—one way or the other—that is, it is beyond partisan party politics.

The New Set, A Different Kind of Politics

On the last night of a play the whole cast and stage crew stay in the theater until the small or not-so-small hours of the morning, striking the old set. If there is to be a new opening soon, as the economy of the theater requires, it is important that the new set should be in place and ready for the opening night; all the while the old set was finishing its usefulness and then being taken down, the new set was rising in splendor to be ready for the drama that would immediately follow. So it is with this world. It is not our business to tear down the old set—the agencies that do that are already hard at work and very efficient; the set is coming down all around us with spectacular effect. Our business is to see to it that the new set is well on the way for what is to come—and that means a different kind of politics, beyond the scope of the tragedy that is now playing its closing night. We are preparing for the establishment of Zion.

This talk was given on 26 October 1973 to the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society in the Political Science Department at BYU. It first appeared in BYU Studies 15/1 (1974): 3–28; and was reprinted in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beyond Politics: A Summary, Pt. 2

This post is a continuation of my summary for 'Beyond Politics,' by Hugh Nibley.  Part 1 can be viewed here.  The article in full can be viewed here.  I have added section headings for clarity.  Continued:

Satan's "Discussion"

God discusses things with men "in all humility" for the sake of our enlightenment. Satan too loves to "discuss," but what a different type of discussion! He is not teaching but laying traps; his whole line is a sales pitch with his own advantage as the end. He is not enlightening but manipulating. He does not reason, but bargains: his proposition as put before Adam, Cain, Abraham, Moses, Enoch, and the Lord himself is the same one he puts to Faust and Jabez Stone: "For if you will worship me I will give you unlimited power and wealth—everything this world has to offer—all you have to do is sign away your rather dubious expectations for the other world." If his proposition is refused outright, he has no other resort but to have a tantrum, falling down, rending upon the earth, screaming madly, "I am the Son of God! Worship me!" (cf. Moses 1:19), for his sole objective from the beginning has been to be Number One.
There are men who . . . wish to destroy every power in Heaven and on earth that they do not hold themselves. This is the spirit of Satan that was made so visibly manifest in Heaven and which proved his overthrow, and he now afflicts this people with it; he wants to dictate and rule every principle and power that leads to exaltation and eternal life.
To be Number One is to be beyond politics. It is his command of the ultimate weapon that places Satan—like God—beyond politics.

Man's Invention 'Wholly Inadequate'

We do not have time here to review Satan's brilliant career in business and law ... [but] largely because of this dominion, the human dialogue has a tendency, as many ancient writers observed, to deteriorate unless there is divine intervention; and since men normally insist on rejecting such intervention, the end result is periodic catastrophe. This is the standard message found in the apocalyptic literature. "Every system of civil polity invented by men, like their religious creeds, has been proved by experiment wholly inadequate to check the downward tendency of the human race."

When this downward tendency passes the point of no return, the process accelerates beyond control, ending in general catastrophe, to be followed by God's intervention and a new dispensation.

Japan Tsunami, 2011
The Last Days

These are the last days—the last days of what? . . . The last days are the last days of everything as we know it. "The Lord declared to His servants, some eighteen months since [1833], that He was then withdrawing His Spirit from the earth; . . . the governments of the earth are thrown into confusion and division; and Destruction, to the eye of the spiritual beholder, seems to be written by the finger of an invisible hand, in large capitals, upon almost every thing we behold." ... "God hath set His hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds, that they may not understand His marvelous workings." . . . "While upon one hand I behold the manifest withdrawal of God's Holy Spirit, and the veil of stupidity which seems to be drawn over the hearts of the people; upon the other hand, I behold the judgments of God . . . sweeping hundreds and thousands of our race, and I fear unprepared, down to the shades of death."

The Death of Dialogue

At the present time [note: this was 1973] the political dialogue throughout the world has deteriorated catastrophically. In most countries it has degenerated into such mechanical and stereotyped forms that it is no longer profitable or meaningful—it is no longer a dialogue at all. If you are a private citizen you just do not "discuss" things with colonels, commissars, or corporations—you do what they tell you to do or at best manipulate you into doing. Has it ever been different? Not much .. . [a] fateful development has recently come to the fore in our midst, indicating beyond question that we have at last reached that point of no return which heralds the last of the last days.

No Man Knoweth the Hour, by Liz Lemon Swindle
Unmistakable Signs of the Times

God has never given us a time schedule for the developments of the last days. There are a number of reasons for this; for example, if we knew the time and the hour, we would gauge our behavior accordingly and conveniently postpone repentance—whereas God wants us to live as if we were expecting his coming at any moment. He comes as a thief in the night: "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour" (Matthew 24:42). But though he does not give us dates and figures, he does give us unmistakable signs of the times and urges us to pay the closest possible attention to them. Simply by looking at a fig tree, for example, one can estimate quite closely about how far away the harvest is. The word historia was borrowed by Hecateus from the medical profession, the historia being progressive symptoms of a disease or illness; just as there are signs by which the doctor can tell how far along the patient is and how long he has to go, so there are such signs in the body politic of any society.

Fully Ripe
Fully ripe: when any further ripening would
not mean improvement, but deterioration
Specifically, if we want to know the sure sign of the end, we are instructed to look for ripeness or fullness. The end comes when, and only when, "the time is ripe," when "the harvest is ripe," when the people are "ripe in iniquity." Or, to use the other figure, when "the cup of His wrath is full," which will be when "the cup of their iniquity is full." Or, to combine both terms, when the world is fully ripe in iniquity. Fruit is fully ripe at that moment when further ripening would not mean improvement but only deterioration. ("And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot.")42 And a vessel is full when nothing more can be added to it; when its contents can no longer be improved or damaged by adding any more ingredients. When the fruit is ripe there is no point in letting it remain longer on the tree. And when the cup is full, nothing further remains to be done about its contents. Ripeness and fullness are that state of things, in short, when nothing further remains to be done in the direction of filling or ripening, and the process has reached the end.

The prophet Enos prays for a remission of his sins
and for the salvation of the Lamanites
Days Prolonged for Repentence

A society has reached such a point when it can no longer go in the direction it has been taking, when the only hope of motion lies in a change or a direct reversal of direction, and repentance is that change of direction. It is when men reach the point of refusing to repent that they have reached the point of fullness: "And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full" (D&C 29:17). The moment Adam found himself going in the wrong direction because of the fall, he was to repent and call upon God forevermore—that is, to reverse his course; and ever since then "the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened. . . . For he gave commandment that all men must repent" (2 Nephi 2:21). The reason that our lives are extended as they are beyond the age of reproduction is to allow us the fullest possible opportunity to repent. Therefore, when men have lost the capacity to repent, they forfeit any right to sojourn further upon the earth; the very purpose of this extended span of life being to practice repentance; when men announce that they have no intention of repenting, there is no reason why God should let them stay around longer to corrupt the rising generation. "And now cometh the day of their calamity . . . and their sorrow shall be great unless they speedily repent, yea, very speedily" (D&C 136:35).

The Cup is Full

There is a time limit, then, and I believe that the time limit has now been reached—the cup is full. For we have in our time the terrifying phenomenon of men who refuse to repent. Why should they repent? Because God commands it. "Behold, I command all men everywhere to repent" (D&C 18:9). "And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless" (D&C 19:4). "Therefore, I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth. . . . For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent" (D&C 19:15–16).

Yet throughout the world today, few, it would seem, have any intention anymore of repenting. That is the ominous note! Mormon describes this condition as marking the last stand of the Nephites:
And now behold, my son, I fear lest the Lamanites shall destroy this people; for they do not repent, . . .
. . . and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.
. . . I cannot any longer enforce my commands.
And they have become strong in their perversion, . . . without principle, and past feeling;
. . . and I pray unto God . . . to witness the return [repentance] of his people unto him, or their utter destruction. (Moroni 9:3–4, 18–20, 22)
Their Sorrowing was Not Unto Repentance

They sorrowed at the loss of their wealth, "but behold this . . . was vain," Mormon continues, "for their sorrowing was not unto repentance . . . but . . . because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin" (Mormon 2:13). "And I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually" (Mormon 2:15). When the day of repentance is past, so is the day of grace. They had reached the point of no return. This is what the Greeks called ate, and it is the telling moment of tragedy.

 This talk was given on 26 October 1973 to the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society in the Political Science Department at BYU. It first appeared in BYU Studies 15/1 (1974): 3–28; and was reprinted in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Beyond Politics: A Summary, Pt. 1

While recovering from my post-election hangover (figuratively speaking), I came upon a talk given by Hugh Nibley in autumn, 1973, called "Beyond Politics."  I found it so substantive and profound that I decided to do a summary.  If you'd like to take a look at the entire text, it can be found here.  I have removed footnote links for clarity; all references can be found at the link above.  Headings in bold are mine, also inserted for clarity.

The Blueprint

This world was organized ...  to be the home and dominion of a godlike race who would take good care of it and have joy therein. Being a highly favored breed, much was expected of them, and their qualifications for advancement were to be put to the test by allowing an adversary, a common enemy to God and man, to tempt them and try them. It was decided before even the world was that if man should yield to this temptation and thus lower his defenses and make himself vulnerable to repeated attacks of the adversary, steps would immediately be taken to put into operation a prearranged plan to restore him to his former status.

What God tells us in effect is, "Now that you have fallen and forfeited your paradise by deliberately, knowingly disobeying me, I will give you another chance, a chance to get back to that paradise by deliberately and knowingly obeying me. To get back where you were and beyond, you must repent—forever give up doing it your way and decide to live by the law of God, or by the law of obedience, which means doing it my way."... Adam's own children and their posterity, however, chose to achieve salvation their way, not God's way, and ever since then there has been trouble. ... The message of the restored gospel is that one phase of the earth's existence is coming to a close, and another phase, a phase in which God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven, is about to become the order of life on earth.

The Politics of Men

Politics, as practiced on earth, belongs to the ways of men; it is the essential activity of the city—the city of man, not the city of God. As used by the Greek writers, the polisis "the community or body of citizens"—that is, a body of citizens not taking orders from anyone else. ... Even at a superficial view, if it is not God's way, it is still not all bad, and we can understand why God approves of men engaging in politics and even encourages the Saints, at times, to participate.

The Conflict

The problem of conflicting obligations to the city of man and the city of God is basic to every dispensation of the gospel. ... The children of God can work well with the men of the world, and bestow great blessings by their services, but there comes a time when one must draw the line and make a choice between the two governments. Such a choice was forced on the Mormons very early, and a very hard choice it was, but they did not flinch before it. "We will go along with you as far as we can; but where we can't we won't," and no hard feelings.

There is a place for discussion and participation in the government of the kingdom; it is men who love absolute monarchies; it was the Israelites, the Jaredites, the Nephites, who asked God to give them a king, overriding the objections of his prophets who warned them against the step. Leaders of the church have repeatedly taught that earthly rulers exercise their authority illegitimately; that the only legitimate authority upon the earth is that which is founded and recognized by God, whose right it is to rule.

As John Taylor points out, it is the priesthood that should rule: "Some people ask, 'What is Priesthood?' I answer, 'It is the legitimate rule of God, whether in the heavens or on the earth;' and it is the only legitimate power that has a right to rule upon the earth; and when the will of God is done on earth as it is in the heavens, no other power will bear rule."

Politics, at best, is the free discussion of people running their own common affairs. Until men are willing to accept God's way, he is willing that they should do their best on that lower level and even encourages them in such activity.  At the same time, "It is not our intention . . . to place the law of man on a parallel with the law of heaven; because we do not consider that it is formed in the same wisdom and propriety; . . . it is [not] sufficient in itself to bestow anything on man in comparison with the law of heaven, even should it promise it" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.70)

It is precisely because we never for a moment think of the two systems as competing with each other that we can make the most of the one until the other is established. They are in the same game, they are in the same arena, though both have rules and both require qualities of character in their players.

Money and Mayhem

Let us by all means retain the drive and dedication of politics, but do we still need the placards and the bands, the serpentine parades, funny hats, confetti, squabbling committees, canned speeches, shopworn clichés, patriotic exhibitionism, Madison Avenue slogans—to say nothing of bitter invective, the poisonous rhetoric, the dirty tricks and shady deals, payoffs, betrayals, the blighted loyalties, the scheming young men on the make, the Gadianton loyalty, the manipulated ovations and contrived confusion of the last hurrah? The furiously mounting infusion of 'green stuff' into the political carnival in our day is enough to show that the spontaneity is not there, and even if some of it may remain, those running the show know very well from tried and tested statistics that all that sort of thing is to be got with money—lots and lots of money—and with nothing else.

The Political Prize

The best of human laws leaves every man free to engage in his own pursuit of happiness, without presuming for a moment to tell him where that happiness lies; that is the very thing the laws of God can guarantee. At best, the political prize is negative.

The Contest for the Individual

In every age we find the worldly powers hypnotized by the image of the world as a maydan, a great battleground, on which the forces of good and evil are locked in mortal combat.  True, there is a contest, but it is within the individual, not between ignorant armies (that solution is all too easy.)

Recall the statement of Joseph Smith that "every candid man [must] draw a conclusion in his own mind whether this [any political system] is the order of heaven or not."  Banners, trumpets, and dungeons were early devised to help men make up their minds. But God does not fight Satan: a word from him and Satan is silenced and banished. There is no contest there; in fact we are expressly told that all the power which Satan enjoys here on earth is granted him by God. "We will allow Satan, our common enemy, to try man and to tempt him." It is man's strength that is being tested—not God's.

The Fall of Rome, by Thomas Cole
Progressive Deterioration

As in every other dispensation, the world will continue to go its way, which is one of progressive deterioration:
The great and wise of ancient days have failed in all their attempts to promote eternal power, peace and happiness. . . . They proclaim as with a voice of thunder . . . that man's strength is weakness, his wisdom is folly, his glory is his shame.
. . . Nation has succeeded nation. . . . History records their puerile plans, their short-lived glory, their feeble intellect and their ignoble deeds.
Have we increased in knowledge or intelligence? . . . Our nation, which possesses greater resources than any other, is rent, from center to circumference, with party strife, political intrigues, and sectional interest; . . . our tradesmen are disheartened, our mechanics out of employ, our farmers distressed, and our poor crying for bread, our banks are broken, our credit ruined. . . .
What is the matter? Are we alone in this thing? Verily no. With all our evils we are better situated than any other nation. . . . The world itself presents one great theater of misery, woe, and "distress of nations with perplexity." All, all, speak with a voice of thunder, that man is not able to govern himself, to legislate for himself, to protect himself, to promote his own good, nor the good of the world. [After all is said, there is nothing for it but to accept God's way—nothing else will work.]
It has been the design of Jehovah, from the commencement of the world, and is His purpose now, to regulate the affairs of the world in His own time, to stand as a head of the universe, and take the reins of government in His own hand. When that is done . . . "nations will learn war no more."  (Joseph Smith)
One Nation Under God, John McNaughton
God, Our Only Confidence

Here the Prophet lays it on the line:
The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand Himself. . . . To bring about this state of things, there must of necessity be great confusion among the nations of the earth. . . .
. . . God is coming out of His hiding place . . . to vex the nations of the earth. . . . It is for us to be righteous, that we may be wise and understand; for none of the wicked shall understand. . . .
As a Church and a people it behooves us to be wise, and to seek to know the will of God, and then be willing to do it. . . . Our only confidence can be in God. . . .
. . . we have treated lightly His commands, and departed from His ordinances, and the Lord has chastened us sore. . . .
In regard to the building up of Zion, it has to be done by the counsel of Jehovah, by the revelations of heaven.
The 'Government of God' is Necessary

From these sayings of the Prophet one would hardly expect the world to have improved since his day, and the words of Brigham Young are eloquent in describing the steady deterioration that has continued unabated up to the present moment. No wonder "thinking men, inquiring minds, ask whether it is really necessary for the Government of God to be on the earth at the present day; I answer, most assuredly; there never was a time when it was more needed than it is now. Why? Because men do not know how to govern themselves without it. ... I acknowledged to him [Colonel Thomas Kane] that we have the best system of government in existence, but queried if the people of this nation were righteous enough to sustain its institutions. I say they are not, but will trample them under their feet."

Contention is the End of Discussion

But is not Satan a politician with his love of confusion and controversy? Isn't the adversary an arch-politician? "There shall be no disputations among you," said the Lord to the Nephites, "for . . . he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another" (3 Nephi 11:28–29). Let us make one thing clear: contention is not discussion, but the opposite; contention puts an end to all discussion, as does war. ... In reality a declaration of war is an announcement that the discussion is over. War is beyond politics, and God has said: "I . . . will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion". That is the end of politics for now.
Continued in parts 2 and 3.

This talk was given on 26 October 1973 to the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society in the Political Science Department at BYU. It first appeared in BYU Studies 15/1 (1974): 3–28; and was reprinted in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Merry Drunkmas! (or, Who Will Be your God?)

Merry Thanksgivoween, and God bless us, every one!  I hope you're enjoying your holiday.  I am, and I'm looking forward to Ramahanukwanzmas with great anticipation.  As the (rest) of the holiday season approaches, I thought it would be nice (and politically correct) to highlight a few of the holidays celebrated around the world, to illustrate that despite our diverse backgrounds, we really do have more racially in common (as members of the human race *little teardrop*) than we have that separates us.

We may as well address the first and most prominent (despite all earthly efforts) holiday, and get that out of the way as quickly as possible.  Christmas.    I'll breeze past that one by cutting and pasting the Wikipedia definition so we can move on to more pertinent celebrations:

Christmas (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ[5][6] and a widely observed holiday, celebrated generally on December 25[2][3][4] by billions of people around the world. The term "Mass" is derived from the Late Latin word missa (dismissal), a word used in the concluding formula of Mass in Latin: "Ite, missa est" ("Go; it is the dismissal").[ The word 'dismissal' has come to imply a 'mission'. These few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the Church". (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 51) A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, [Christmas] closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide.[7] Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world's nations,[8][9][10] is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians,[1][11][12] and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

Done.  There are a few other holidays deemed important around this time of year which I should mention.  Thanksgiving-- American, Hannukah--Jewish, Kwanzaa--Pan-African, Yalda-- Iranian, Chinese New Year-- uh... Chinese.  There.  On to the more important holidays, the ones shared by just about all humanity the world over.

Presentmas is a seasonal, universal favorite, though its charm can be felt all year round.  This celebration culminates in a day referred to in North America as Black Friday, that ethereal day of the year when every soul turns black just long enough to jump into a commercial pit of vipers and procure all the holiday cheer that money can buy, most often with money that exists only in the spirited imagination of the buyer.  Oh yes, crumudgeons may try to convince celebrators of Presentmas that the money truly does not exist, but faithful worshippers will always believe in it.  Holidays of regional similarity include Walmartmas, Toys-R-Usmas, BestBuymas, the new hybrid Cyber Monday, and Mallmas (or Mission to Mall).

There are a few winter holidays that were once confined to a smaller percentage of the earth's population, but which, through widespread popularity, have come to flourish in every ethnic, economic, and social clime.  Bickermas was historically celebrated in conjunction with other holidays, and then only on the occasion when all family dysfunction came together into the perfect magical winter storm.  In some homes today, it is found as an enduring family tradition, and in others a holiday in itself.
Other such holidays that have blossomed everywhere are Drunkmas, Discontentmas, Anticlimaxmas, Selfdestructmas, and Indifferentmas.

The following holidays were once mentioned as offshoots of the root celebration Christmas, but have been found to actually have a root system all their own, having sprung up from an entirely separate intention.  Romancemas, Partymas, Glutmas, Santamas, Grinchmas, and TMZmas are occasions wherein all the external traditions of Christmas are employed, but the god of worship has been replaced to accomodate respective religious differences. 

Merry Glutmas!

Many cultures, most especially in the American and European regions, participate in the cumpulsory Twelve Days of Cousin Eddie.  This period of time is a proving ground wherein one entertains and endures the company of all those whom he is expected to love but secretly despises, from the most aggravating relative to the most irritating coworker.  Participants in this symbolic test of man- or womanhood are thereafter rewarded with the lavish celebration of Glutmas, Drunkmas, or a fusion of the two.

Though data has never been collected, it is generally accepted that a majority of people on earth today celebrate one or all of these holidays in lieu of the traditional 'Christ Mass' of the more ancient societies.  Which of these 'missions' is right for you depends entirely upon the diety you choose to worship, whether consciously or subconsciously.  Individuals often find their perfect celebratory match merely by falling in wherever the social tide carries them, necessitating no forethought whatsoever. 

But there remain a stubborn few willing to fight that tide and make a deliberate swim in the direction of a real 'mission,' a real and discernible God, a celebration founded in relevant, absolute, eternal, immutable truths.  The products of such an effort are inevitably love instead of lust, faith instead of fear, companionship instead of loneliness, nourishment instead of satiation, clarity instead of confusion, order instead of chaos, peace instead of conflict, joy instead of novelty, wholeness instead of fragmentation, bounty instead of poverty, completeness instead of want.

Woman at the Well, Liz Lemon Swindle

Such a 'mass' is not widely recognized in modern civilization.  Popular culture does not promote it, as there is no economic, political, or secular gain to me made in its advancement.  But in the quieter corners of society, in homes built upon the foundation of Christ, in individuals and families grounded in tangibly true principles, these aforementioned rare qualities can still be found. 

So what will your 'mission' be this year?  Who will be your God?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Activate the Phone Tree!

In honor of the upcoming Presidential election, please enjoy this facebook conversation. Names may have been changed to protect the innocent. Or not.
And remember-- Mormons don't let Mormons light candles inside the ward building. 

Stephanie:  I'm really concerned about the Mormon riots if Romney loses on Tuesday.

Carrie:   That's been on my mind. There'll be Jell-O everywhere. The casseroles will fly, my friend. And cover your ears, because you're going to hear the F-word like never before. You know, flip. :o

Maggie:   If only Facebook had a sarcasm font so I could be sure you were kidding and not privy to some knowledge of actual Mormon riots!

Carrie:  I don't know, I've been hearing rumblings on twitter that Mormons everywhere are collecting water balloons and tucking football flags into their orange vests.

Stephanie:  I'm serious, Maggie. It could be almost as bad as that time they didn't play Alphaville at the stake dance. I'm sure we'd all just like to pretend that that night never happened.

Maggie:  Let us die young or let us live for-ev-er, We don't have the pow-er but we nev-er say nev-er!

Carrie:  I think for the riots, I'll put that on my angry placard. I don't have a torch, so I guess I'll just have to raid my emergency flashlights.

Kerri:  Riot? Shall I bring refreshments?

Stephanie:  Kerri, I heard the Enrichment Committee in Mitt's ward already has that covered.

Carrie:  Okay, A through M brings a side, N through Z brings dessert.  But no torches-- I just remembered, no open flames allowed in the ward buildings.

Maggie:  N O P Q R S... I get dessert!  I call Jell-O mold!

Stephanie:  Hold up, I just checked the Stake calendar and it looks like stake YM basketball has the cultural hall reserved for every Tuesday between now and 2037. We'll have to riot some other time.

Carrie:  Dangit! Okay, who has the biggest house in the ward? Stake? Region? Everybody to Romney's, I know where he keeps the extra key.
Kerri:  What is an appropriate hymn to open with? Come, Come Ye Saints?
Stephanie:  Choose the Right.
Carrie:  Master, the Tempest is Raging?
Kerri:  Even better!

Carrie:  I have some leftover t-shirts from that service project. Maybe we can write 'Heck no, we won't go!' on them. ...  Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. Maybe, 'I'd rather not go, please allow me to stay, I'll help clean up.'

Stephanie:  Yeah, Carrie, no cuss words!

Carrie:  I am ashamed. Sigh. Brothers and sisters, I'm grateful for this opportunity to stand before you and apologize....

Maggie:  I'm thankful for Kit Kats.

Stephanie:  This is all very stressful. I'm going to need a Coke.

Maggie:  Oops. That was from someone's thankful post. (nothing to see here)

Stephanie:  I know, Maggie, what the stuff! Try to keep up!

Maggie:  Mmmmmmm... I'm also thankful for double stuff Oreos.

Carrie:  RIOT! I love Kit Kats. Should I bring some to the riot?

Maggie:  YES!

Stephanie:  I know it's a riot and all, but it'd be nice to still wrap the basketball hoops in tulle, since we have yards of that stuff.

Yvonne:  If the cultural hall is booked - be wild - I say parking lot & headlights!

Stephanie:  Gasp!  Sister Johnson!  We could NEVER!

Carrie:  Ooo... perhaps an off-season trunk-or-treat?  I don't know, that sounds a little wild.  Maybe if we play primary songs it'd be okay.

Yvonne:  Yeah, parking lot, headlights & a full size commiseration Kit Kat for everyone! (next campaign promise)

Carrie:  There are about sixty thousand styrofoam cups under the sink in the kitchen. Let's make a giant statue of the Angel Moroni and leave it in front of the capitol building. We'll have to come back for it in the morning of course, it's a no-litter zone.

Stephanie:  No, I think the Cub Scouts used those for the Pinewood Derby. Call the Relief Society President, she'll know what to do.

Carrie:  HOLY HECK, did we just hold a MEETING without even realizing it?! We are definitely Mormons.  There I go with the curse words again. Forgive me.

Maggie:  Can't we all just get along? We can have a dance. (parking lot and headlights sounds sweet) A little REM, OMD and Psychedelic Furs will get everyone grooving to the same tune. (literally and figuratively)

Stephanie:  Just so everyone is clear, this is not an official "meeting". This conversation has been going on for approximately 55 minutes. This is just opening exercises.
Maggie:  Stand in the place where you live be-cause if you leave, don't leave now, there's an ar-my on the dance floor! ... Amen.  Meeting over!

Carrie:  That means half of us can leave. The other half still have stuff to work out. BYE!!!

In conclusion, get out there and vote on Tuesday!  If you must riot, don't forget to clean up before you leave, we have church in the morning.