Before Political Neutrality

The February issue of the Ensign has an article on Joseph Smith's Campaign for President of the United States. It is a pretty interesting read. After Joseph Smith appealed to President Van Buren and the candidates running against Van Buren for office for redress for the persecutions of the Saints in Missouri (and received little sympathy), he decided to run for President of the United States himself. This is why (in his own words):

I would not have suffered my name to have been used by my friends on anywise as President of the United States, or candidate for that office, if I and my friends could have had the privilege of enjoying our religious and civil rights as American citizens, even those rights which the Constitution guarantees unto all her citizens alike. But this as a people we have been denied from the beginning. Persecution has rolled upon our heads from time to time, from portions of the United States, like peals of thunder, because of our religion; and no portion of the Government as yet has stepped forward for our relief. And in view of these things, I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can, lawfully, in the United States, for the protection of injured innocence.
Do you think it is a call to action?

Joseph Smith, running as an Independent, wrote his platform, titled General Smith's Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States and sent it out. His platform included more power for the President to suppress mobs, eliminating slavery, reducing congressional pay, prison reform, forming a national bank, annexing Oregon and Texas, and extending the United States to the east coast (if Native Americans gave their consent). Many of his proposals eventually came to pass (although expansion of the U.S. obviously occurred without the consent of Native Americans). Elder John A. Widtsoe called Joseph Smith's platform "an intelligent, comprehensive, forward-looking statement of policies, worthy of a trained statesman."

Here is a quote from Joseph Smith's platform:

In the United States the people are the government; and their united voice is the only sovereign that should rule; the only power that should be obeyed; and the only gentleman that should be honored; at home and abroad; on the land and on the sea; Wherefore, were I the president of the United States, by the voice of a virtuous people, I would honor the old paths of the venerated fathers of freedom: I would walk in the tracks of the illustaious patriots, who carried the ark of the government upon their shoulders with an eye single to the glory of the people.

For the campaign, missionaries were called to both "preach the Gospel and electioneer". Yes, you read that right. There were a total of 337 electioneering missionaries, including Brigham Young and 9 other members of the Quorum of the Twelve. They kept their religious sermons and political speeches separate (usually doing the political gathering the night before a church conference), but they did do both.

Some of the enemies of Joseph Smith in Illinois were concerned that Joseph's "views on government were widely circulated and took like wildfire". According to a Dr. Wall Southwick, who attended a meeting where enemies were plotting to assassinate Joseph, they believed that if the Prophet "did not get into the Presidential chair this election, he would be sure to the next time; and if Illinois and Missouri would join together and kill him, they would not be brought to justice for it" (suggesting that Joseph Smith's assassination may have party been due to his Presidential campaign).

Joseph Smith was martyred on June 27, 1844. The electioneering missionaries did not get word until July 9.

The conclusion of the article says

Joseph Smith's presidential campaign had sought to make the United States a better place, not only for the Latter-Day Saints, but for all Americans.

My question is this: What do you think our church leaders today want us to learn from reading this article? Is it just an interesting piece of history, or is there more to it? Although the position on political neutrality is clearly present at the end of the article (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse, promote, or oppose political parties, candidates, or platforms), I personally take it as a call to "obtain what power and influence" we can to "protect innocence" or preserve liberty (particularly religious liberties). I was just wondering what your opinion is.



Implosion - A sudden inward collapse

This is my prediction for Britain. I already commented on the campaign in Britain to "Stop at Two" (when the fertility rate is already below replacement). Now, the benevolent government of Britain, in an effort to curb teen pregnancy, is encouraging parents NOT to share their values with their children.

Beverly Hughes, the children's minister in England, is distributing pamphlets next month to parents (through pharmacies) entitled, "Talking to Your Children About Sex and Relationships". The pamphlet encourages parents to talk to their children about sex. Among the suggestions:

  • Start the "big talk" with children as young as possible, before they get "misinformation" from their peers.
  • The best time to talk is while doing "mundane" tasks like washing the car and watching t.v.
  • Take your daughter to the doctor to learn about birth control options. "Or, if you have a teenage son, suggest he talks to his girlfriend about it and visits a clinic with her."
  • Use the lives of celebrities as a way of introducing the topic

Um, really? Of the above, I am going to say that I only agree with suggestion number 1. I personally am grateful for Family Home Evening and PPI's (that my kids ask their dad for because they enjoy those chats) because they give us time to talk about lots of serious issues, so we don't have to "sneak" them in while washing the car. I'm not even going to begin with how I would feel about encouraging my son to go to a clinic with his girlfriend. And celebrities as role models? Perhaps if I want to teach my children everything NOT to do. But, this last one is really the kicker:

  • Avoid trying to convince your teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex. “Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what’s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.”

Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair explains further, "We do not know what is right and wrong; right and wrong is relative, although your child does need clear guidelines".

Are you kidding me? Are you people for real? Let me fill you "experts" in on a little info: Children want to know what is right and wrong and to try to do what is right. Children want values. They are looking for them. And they will find them - it is just a matter of where they find them at. As a parent, are you really going to leave your children to the wind (the media, their peers, the government) to help them figure out what is right and wrong? And, really, Ms. Blair, right and wrong is relative? No wonder our world is so screwed up. As I commented on another thread: Most people don't even know what is right anymore. I wonder why. Perhaps it is because parents are listening to morons like you.

Ms. Hughes says, "When it comes to sex and relationships, young people tell us that they would prefer advice and information to come from their mum or dad". Um, Ms. Hughes, if young people want advice and information from their parents, what makes you think they don't want to know what their parents think is right and wrong? Further, I agree that we should start teaching our children about sex at a young age so they don't believe misinformation from their friends. But, why would I provide them with information and not values? Is it not possible that they will get misinformation on what is right and wrong from their peers? Do you not see the inconsistency at all?

In the U.S., we seem to have done well with the "Parents are the Anti-Drug" campaign. It is widely acknowledged that parents who spend time with their children and talk to their children about drugs and smoking can curb this behavior. Why not sex? Why not a "Parents are the Anti-Pregnancy" campaign?

Simon Calvert, deputy of the Christian Institute, said this about the pamphlet:

The idea that the government is telling families not to pass on their values is outrageous. Preserving children’s innocence is a worthy goal. We would like to see more of that kind of language rather than this amoral approach where parents are encouraged to present their children with a smorgasbord of sexual activities and leave them to make up their own minds.

About her "role" in curbing teen pregnancy, Hughes said:

[the government] doesn’t bring up children but . . . it does have a role to play in supporting parents and giving them access to advice and information

Uh, you know what? I'm not so sure parents need your help, particularly when you are giving such bad advice. Does the government really understand that its role is not to bring up children? More and more, we see government replacing parents because parents are doing such a "bad" job. And with the British government encouraging parents not to pass on their values, I have to wonder, in the near future, are parents going to have much of a role at all to play in their children's' lives? Or, will we be replaced by those who "know better"?

(One last question - when the church places a HUGE emphasis on parents teaching their children what is right and wrong, who do you think would be behind a movement to get parents NOT to teach their children these things?)


The Best of Both Worlds

So, I was just reading my sister-in-law's blog. She's not politically oriented (in fact, I think reading this blog regularly would take 20 years off her life) but once in awhile she gets fired up about something courtesy of Mr. Glenn Beck.

Now, I'm not familiar with him or his show, because I pretty successfully avoid all talking-head-type of media, but I did go through and read the 9 principles he is touting. And you know what?

I agree with them. All of them.

1. America is good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

I know I'm supposed to get my panties all in a twist like a good Liberal, because this came out of the serpent mouth of a Conservative, who as any leftie knows are always wrong! I must immediately go down this list point by point and refute them, pick them apart until there's nothing left and I can stand alone on my Pedestal of Truth again. After all, if I do not identify myself as Conservative, and these principles are obviously meant to resonate with Conservatives, so I can't agree with them! That would be, like, treasonous or something.

But just hang with me for a minute.

If I were to write these exact same principles myself, I would word some of them differently. That's my personal spin on things, and as Mr. Beck so rightly said, it is not un-American to share my opinion. But I think these 9 statements are much of what is right with the Conservative viewpoint, and I applaud them. I don't know what Mr. Beck plans to do with the results of his campaign (and from the sound of the rest of the article it is not necessarily something that I am going to like), but the way I see it, the foundation is there. People are people, and we pretty much all want the same things.

We want to be respected for who we are and the opinions we hold.

We want to be able to express those opinions, without fear of derision or retribution.

We want to be able to live according to our principles.

We want to be happy. We want our families to be happy.

We want the same things - we just don't always agree on the best way to affect those outcomes. And even Mr. Beck very graciously left room in his club for Godless Atheists, etc, by saying that anyone who agrees with 7 out of the 9 is good enough for him.

Really, can't we all agree on 7 out of 9? Is that so much to ask? Can't we stop nitpicking for a minute, extend each other some grace, and get to the spirit of the law, as it were - to the heart of what is underneath our ballots and our petitions? What would this country - the world! - be like if we all believed that even if someone is advocating something you violently disagree with, that their motivation is probably the very same as yours? That if someone asked you and your opponent why you do what you do, the answers might be identical?

Now, I'm not quite ready to send my picture in to Mr. Beck, because I'm not sure what he means by his promise to "pull back the curtain". I'm a little suspicious that he intends to unite us so he can once again pit us against each other once he's got us all in the same room. And I will say that it strikes me as premature at best to be complaining so bitterly about the "opposing" party in power only a month into (at least) a four year term. The pendulum has swung, as it always does, and will again, and that's how it is supposed to be (see Prinicple #1).

The fact is, "we" do not surround "them". We are them. They are us. We are all in this together, and the sooner we realize that, the more we can learn from each other.

Together we stand, divided we fall.


My Bi-Annual WOW Guilt Trip.

LDS folk are so motivated by guilt. Its like....marrow in our bones, you know? That's why I'm back with my bi-annual guilt trip.

Its amazing how often someone asks you, "why did you become vegetarian?" when you actually have become vegetarian. In all honesty, I'm starting to become confused about why I initially took the plunge. There are basically three reasons to become vegetarian.

1) Diet - Doctor says I should cut back on my cholesterol, risk for heart disease, etc.
2) Extreme Pacifism - In a true Tolstoyian fassion, someone becomes passionate about not causing harm to any living thing.
3) Environmentalism - this one is often over looked, and will, obviously, be the subject of this post.

The first two reasons are easily comprehended by most folks - "I get it - you don't want to hurt anything.." or, "I get it, you can't eat meat or you will die." Stuff like that - but how is eating meat hurting the environment? After all, people have been eating meat for....ever, basically, and the world hasn't crashed down yet.

This is true. The world hasn't crashed down, and human beings, by definition, are omnivorous. What we are failing to take into consideration is that:
a) There is a whole lot more people on the earth to be eating meat now than ever before - and the population is continually rising dramatically.
b) There is a whole lot more affluent people on the earth to buy way more than their fair share of meat. People like meat, and they will eat as much of it as they can logically afford.
c) The earth has never had this unprecidented demand for meat to have to try and satiate.

The stats are easy to find. Any Google search will bring you, basically, the same information that I'm posting here:
- in the USA, people consume some where between 170- 270lbs (depending on who you ask) of meat (not including fish) per year.
- Americans are spending, on average, $550 per person per year on red meat purchases.
- 1 in 6 people go hungry each day.
- The U.S,China(25% of total world pop) plus Brazil and the EU consumes over 60 percent of the world's beef, over 70 percent of the world's poultry, and over 80 percent of the world's pork.
- Deforestation
- The world's range land covers nearly twice the area as the world's cropland.
- As the Beef consumption increases, the current rangelands are being pushed to their production limits, causing intense slash and burn policies, especially in places such as South America
- Beef production drives 60-80% of the Amazon's deforestation.
- Roughly 80% (in 2003) of Brazil's cattle production was for exports (to Europe and US)
- Amazon produces 20% of the world's oxygen.
- Between 1990-2005, Brazil lost 8.1% of its forest (15 years.) at that rate of deforestation, the Amazon will largely be gone in about 100 years.
- The very land threatened by deforestation (due to beef production) is the same land that is home to most of the world's biodiversity (plant and animal species) (in Brazil and other tropic countries.)- many of which are projected to be pushed through to extinction within the next hundred years.
- Cattle account for 28% of the methane emissions in the world (according to EPA - 20% of US methane emissions).
- pound for pound, Methane is 30 times more damaging for environment than CO2
- internationally, livestock accounts for 18% of all greenhouse gas emitions - and that is not including emmisions produced in the transportation of livestock or grain.
- In order to produce 1 lb of meat, livestock must eat around 10lbs of grain - which could go to feed all those starving folks mentioned earlier.
- One third of the world's cereal harvest is fed to farm animals.
- 95% of US soya production (nearly 100 million tons per year) is used as feed
- 73% of maize, 95% of oilmeals and 93% of fishmeal is fed to animals - all of this "feed" could be used for human consumption.
- More that 1/3 of all fossil fuels produced in the United States go towards animal agriculture. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein. - Vegitarianism would help more than a hybrid car.

I've left out facts and statistics about overfishing, ocean polutants, and algae endangerment (which accounts for up to 80% of the world's oxygen) - keep in mind, some stats are deflated, and some are inflated - I tried to go with the middle ground in what I've collected here.

I just don' think that people realize the environmental impact meat consumption has. If we lived in small communites and every community had one or two cows - if we were like our neolithic ancestors, meat consumption wouldn't be so bad - but with the grand levels of mass consumerism we are living today, we simply can't afford to eat meat. If The world produced enough meat for every human to consume as much meat as the average american, something like 90% of habitable land would need to be used simply for meat production - it simply couldn't happen. There isn't enough room on this planet to feed cows to the point that everyone can eat like Americans. So maybe Americans should keep that in mind next time they get the craving.

Our beloved Ensign to the Nations,...the Word of Wisdom, reads as follows: "Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." Nothing new there - but, We should remember, the US, Brazil, much of China, and the EU are emphatically NOT experiencing famine. However, much of the world is, and guess what? They are the ones that don't have access to meat at all. Why is that? Well, because we are eating it all. Compare these stats - US is number 1 meat consumer with around 150kg of meat per year, vs. India - #35 highest poultry consumer (.7kg) and #49 highest beef consuming country (1.5kg) ANd that's not the end of the story, because there are 195 countries in the world. Beef, its whats for dinner.


A Case for Better Border Control

A rancher on the Arizona border has been defending his property for years. Immigrants using his property to cross illegally into the U.S. have done significant damage:

He said the immigrants tore up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks and broke into his home.

Some of his cattle died from ingesting the plastic bottles left behind by the immigrants, he said, adding that he installed a faucet on an 8,000-gallon water tank so the immigrants would stop damaging the tank to get water.

Mr. Barnett said some of the ranch´s established immigrant trails were littered with trash 10 inches deep, including human waste, used toilet paper, soiled diapers, cigarette packs, clothes, backpacks, empty 1-gallon water bottles, chewing-gum wrappers and aluminum foil - which supposedly is used to pack the drugs the immigrant smugglers give their "clients" to keep them running.

His government has not done much to protect him or his property. Now, let's think about this. What would you do if your property, your business, your home was being run over with vandalism and trash? Let your property (and livelihood) be ruined with trash and destruction? Consider it your God-given duty to spend time and money to clean it up because, after all, these people are just looking for a better life? Do you believe that you would have the right to protect yourself? Do you believe in private property (you know - one of those rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights)?

This is what he did: For the past 10 years, he has been driving his truck and his dog around his ranch, looking for illegal immigrants. He carries a pistol and keeps a rifle in his truck for protection (remember, many armed drug smugglers are among the immigrants he encounters). When he finds a group, he rounds them up at gunpoint and calls the Border Patrol to come and pick them up. Since the Border Patrol has been more successful in shutting down other border crossings, his ranch has become the "avenue of choice" for illegal immigrants.

How do you feel about that? Are you as outraged as I am that this man has to physically defend his property on a daily basis because his government is failing him? But wait - it gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). Now he is being SUED by 16 illegal immigrants (Mexican nationals) who tried to cross his property and were detained. Here is exactly what he did:

Attorneys for the immigrants - five women and 11 men who were trying to cross illegally into the United States - have accused Mr. Barnett of holding the group captive at gunpoint, threatening to turn his dog loose on them and saying he would shoot anyone who tried to escape.

The immigrants are represented at trial by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which also charged that Sheriff Dever did nothing to prevent Mr. Barnett from holding their clients at "gunpoint, yelling obscenities at them and kicking one of the women." In the lawsuit, MALDEF said Mr. Barnett approached the group as the immigrants moved through his property, and that he was carrying a pistol and threatening them in English and Spanish. At one point, it said, Mr. Barnett's dog barked at several of the women and he yelled at them in Spanish, "My dog is hungry and he's hungry for buttocks."

The lawsuit said he then called his wife and two Border Patrol agents arrived at the site. It also said Mr. Barnett acknowledged that he had turned over 12,000 illegal immigrants to the Border Patrol since 1998.

The illegal immigrants are suing for 32 MILLION DOLLARS for violating their "civil rights" and for "emotional distress". Okay, I'm not going to say he acted in the classiest of manners here, but give me a break. I can say that anyone caught breaking and entering onto my property would not be treated much better (particularly since I live in Texas where it is still legal to shoot those who enter your property illegally). What about his rights? Which of his rights are being protected here? He is a citizen of the United States, protecting his own property from violators because his government is not doing their #1 responsibility of protecting him and his property, and he gets sued? The part that really blows my mind is that the judge proclaimed there was "sufficient evidence" to continue the trial. Sufficient evidence of what?

If the government won't protect us, aren't we guaranteed the right to protect ourselves? This trial needs to be dismissed. Our government (including the judicial system) needs to start protecting the people it is supposed to protect - its own citizens - and end this insanity.