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I’m breaking my rule by posting about something that’s come up in the recent news. I’ve written about immigration before, but with recent events, I feel that I need to write more. A couple of times I’ve tried writing about our foreign policy, but they never seemed to come together enough to post. Anyway, the need feels just too strong.
The US immigration policy is a terrible morass, and for some reason the people seem to think it isn’t strong enough. Xenophobia, being afraid of people who we don’t see as “us”, is settled in deeply, and the policies we’ve had toward immigrants reflect that. I wish the most recent moves were surprising. Unfortunately, it’s just another step in the direction we’ve been heading for some time. It’s not just the fear that “those people are taking our jobs” but also the fear that we may have terrorist attacks against us.
This ties in to our horrible foreign policy, making ourselves into the “policeman of the world”, destabilizing, threatening, and invading countries we believe have either slighted us or interfere with “our business interests”. This is a whole other post unto itself, but the point is that we feel we can do whatever we’d like in the world but are afraid that we’ll get hurt. When we do get hurt, our retaliation is far, far more disproportionate. If we get hurt by the thousand (which is incredibly rare), we retaliate by bombing and displacing by the million. This isn’t being a peacemaker, but a schoolyard bully.
Despite being a nation of immigrants, we’ve never really liked having immigrants. The longer we (or our ancestors) have been in this country, the more we feel like the first laborers in the vineyard who started work at the beginning of the day (from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Matt 20:1-15). We get jealous of the people who seem to have just come in and are getting the same pay.
The US currently admits a million immigrants, legally, each year. It seems like a lot, but compared to the number of citizens (319 million), it barely a drip of a faucet, not a fire hose on full blast. While the numbers are higher than any other nation, as a percentage of the population, we’re only 11th in admitting immigrants.
For illegal immigrants, we have about 11 million. About half of these are border crossings from Mexico, at a rate of about half a million a year. For all of the Presidents’ talk of a wall, we’ve been working on walls and mass deportations for the entirety of the 21st century. The increases in border security and in deportations haven’t made of much a dent in this. Border security has high costs compared to other methods, and is rather easily circumvented.
A better option would be to begin more prosecution of employers who hire illegal immigrants, but there we hit a bit of a snag – we use them for a lot of jobs that we don’t want to pay a good wage. Just like the sweatshops we deride overseas, paying people pennies for repetitive, difficult, or even dangerous work, we’d rather keep these people faceless and nameless, only caring that we get our food, clothes, etc easily and cheaply.
These two forces, xenophobia and use of the faceless, are what drives our attitude toward immigrants. These attitudes transcend political leanings and parties, ages and income levels.
As a people, we need to do better. We should be doing more in helping the refugees we helped create. We should create protections for the people we use. We should be using our riches, our strength, our determination to succeed to help those around us, not squeeze tighter, afraid we’ll lose what we have. We should be sharing what has made this Nation great (and it has always been great, even when we don’t agree, have missteps, or are wandering in the wrong direction). Most of all, we should share our gratitude for the many blessings we have received, even those things we (mistakenly) think God had no hand in, that we achieved by our own “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, and work to make life better for everyone, not just “us”.
These are our brothers and sisters. We can do better than this. We can -be- better than this.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to try and put into words some of my political beliefs and how those beliefs had been shaped by my religion. I’ve never registered for any political party, though I do occasionally wonder if I could try getting into politics to try and help make the world a better place. I usually come to the conclusion that I’m not articulate enough in being able to either express or defend my views, nor am I strongly enough in the camp of any political party that I would have any hope of succeeding in elections, so politics is not likely to happen for me. But I do feel occasionally that I need to get my opinions on these things out somewhere, even to my limited audience, to help me better clarify these things in my own mind.
My beliefs may or may not align with yours, my Country, or my Church, but they are mine and mine alone. I speak for no one but myself and am not an example of “the standard” of any group. I’m glad for discussions on these things, but know that they are not likely to shift my beliefs by much in any direction.
The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution reads simply, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The interpretation of this has been a matter of quite a bit of debate over the centuries since it was written. I don’t believe there is any strong position of the Church on this. Not many people discuss “militias”, as the connotation is crazy people grouping together to wait for society to fall apart or the government to come and force them to do something they don’t want. I’m actually just fine with people having a hobby of training to be soldiers and preparing for the worst. People have all sorts of strange hobbies. The only problem I’d have is when they start to use their training to impose their ideals on others or use those guns to actually break the law. If they are built on hate or prejudice against a particular people, then their own weight will bring them down.
For guns themselves I don’t believe we need much regulation at all. The only place I’d put regulations are in banning automatic weapons, autonomous weapons, and explosives. For all the various shootings, the attempts at any other regulations seem to be poor attempts at being seen to do something to stop such things happening. The rhetoric on both sides of the issue, unrestricted freedom to carry any kind of gun anywhere and removing all guns from everyone, seem to be rooted in trying to make sure “they” don’t hurt “us”. We may not be able to articulate who “they” are, but we are going to use guns to stop “them”. This is building nothing but fear and division, and will accomplish nothing but making our problems worse.
They problem is that “they” are part of “us”. The shooters, the victims, the hobbyists, the bystanders, the gun makers, the gun sellers, are all part of “us”. Every time something happens we quickly try to place people into a group that is part of “them”, but they are always “us”, our neighbors, our friends, our family. This is probably the core of all my political and religious views – what can we do to help “us” be better? Not looking at what we can do to make “them” be better, like taking away all guns or proudly carrying loaded guns to discourage “them” from wanting to shoot someone, but helping people to learn and grow and not want to shoot others (or themselves).
I’m not a hunter and am quite glad I don’t need to be to feed my family. I see guns as a potentially dangerous tool that should be used and cared for properly just like any other tool I might have in my home. I believe anyone who handles a gun should be trained on how to care for and use it properly, but I do not believe we should force anyone to take such care. I believe we can keep ourselves mindful of the dangers without needing laws to enforce compliance to good usage and care. Additional attention to and making available help for mental health issues would be of much greater effect in reducing death and pain from shooting than any gun control or open carry demonstration could ever have.
But that would be looking at “us”.
As my health permits, I am one of the teachers for a class of 10 year olds each Sunday. We tend to have only 3-4 students, all boys, almost all with some sort of disability that makes it difficult for them to sit and learn. I can sympathize with them, as my own uniqueness makes it difficult to either sit still or pay attention to things around me. Anyway, last weeks lesson was on the people in the Book of Mormon called the “Anti-Nephi-Lehis”. It’s a mouthful of a name, but the people wanted a name that reflected their commitment to the gospel and their forefathers who came out of Jerusalem several hundred years earlier.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were Lamanites who had converted to Christ and wanted to disavow themselves of all of the violence and sin that had previously been a part of their culture. They went so far as to bury their weapons of war. When the Lamanites came to kill them, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis simply bowed down and let themselves be slaughtered. (In this instance, the attackers stopped the slaughter and were also converted, more joining the Anti-Nephi-Lehis than were killed.) To stop further potential massacres, the Nephites offered the land of Jershon, well within the borders of the Nephite lands, and vowed to protect these people with their armies.
This got me to wondering. Would this be a possible way to help at least a portion of the many refugees we have created in the world? Could we find a place somewhere in our vast country to put these people and let them build a community of their own? If they would be willing to be subject to the State and National laws, why could we not give them a place where they could govern and build themselves up? I’m not saying they would need to convert to some form of Christianity, as it should be the Spirit that guides them, not compulsion by support. I am also not saying there wouldn’t be many, many logistical and political issues that would need to be dealt with, as there will be many.
What I’m asking is, what would it take to give up a small portion of our vast lands and resources to help some hundred thousand people escape from a war torn land, a place where they face starvation, death, and many other privations through no fault of their own? I know it goes against the very American idea that the people should just buckle down and fix the place where they are, but that is nearly impossible when your children are starving and there are no safe places to work, much less start a business, if there were any money to do so.
What do you think? Can we take this example of charity in the Book of Mormon and apply it to our own times?
My dad passed away three weeks ago. It was relatively fast, being about two weeks after learning he had stage four cancer, but dying can be one of those things that takes both too long and not long enough at the same time. The times he got to play with my kids on the floor certainly weren’t long enough, and the times watching him be in so much pain felt like they would go on forever.
My dad was born in 1931, into a family that was pretty much broken already. When he later got a stepfather, they got on so poorly that dad ended up in an orphanage, which evidently people did at the time. He wandered most of his life, tallying up two failed marriages and five kids in his travels back and forth across the country. He met a girl who introduced him to the Church, but it he wasn’t really interested in religion. The young missionaries didn’t impress him, and he was used to his life doing whatever he felt like doing. Eventually he was befriended by an older couple, who taught and fellowshipped him. He quit smoking and drinking cold turkey, got baptized, and wholeheartedly turned his life to God.
He eventually met and married my mother, 20 years his junior, and they’d been married for 45 years. He could never seem to figure out how to do the whole “parenthood” thing, but one of the biggest lessons I got from him was how to be a Dad. Nothing tangible or easily explained, it just is. Though I don’t recall ever hearing how he personally felt about his faith (aside from various testimony meetings), he did every calling ever requested of him as completely as possible, no matter what the challenge. He was scrupulous in his Home Teaching and often looked for other ways he could serve people around him. His last assignment was managing to get through speaking in Sacrament Meeting the day before he died. He could barely move and had a hard time concentrating on the talk he wrote, but he did it. I have no doubts he knew (and knows) the Church is true, and is now enjoying the time with his parents and deceased children, looking for what work he can be doing.
Mourning has been a bit different in our family. It was sad when he died, but it was also a bit of a relief because of the pain he was in. I think I did most of my mourning when we found out about the cancer in the first place. When my older brother died from cancer 25 or so years ago, all of us in the family kind of mourned on our own, breaking away from each other as if it would be better to not have that connection so we couldn’t hurt so much ever again. This time, it’s been much different.
My living brother and sister were able to be here before he died, and mom and dad lived right across the street from us, so we got to band together in those hard days. Afterward, we were sad, certainly, but we spent a lot more time falling into our old habits of being together as a family. We made really bad jokes. We played cards. Even jokes about death and dying were interspersed through brief times of introspection. I had to go through the mass of genealogical work he’d collected over the years. It was more a wake than weeping and wailing, though without the drinking. We knew he was gone but part of our family forever, and we got to come together like we’d not since before my brother died.
That’s one of the great things about the LDS Church. We can be sealed together forever. Marriage does not end with death. Children can be sealed to their parents in part of a chain back to the beginnings of the world. We can return home to our Heavenly Parents, together, as a family. Death isn’t the end. It’s just a temporary and unexpected journey. The time apart may be hard, but we know it won’t last.
My dad got to live two lives. Most people will never get such a second chance, but he certainly made the most of his. Our family has a long history of fathers who had a hard time staying with their families. I hope that I can take what I’ve learned from my dad and do even more to break that history and make something new.
Many years ago, in the time between the end of my first marriage and meeting my second wife, I had a dream. I was feeling particularly down and had asked in my prayers for a dream of the future. I wanted to know there was hope when I’d not been able to see it. The dream I had I have rarely shared, but what bothered me most is in being unable to interpret what the dream might mean.
You see, in the LDS Church, we believe in many “gifts of the Spirit”. These are mentioned in the New Testament(1 Corinthians 12) and Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:8-18), and are more specifically listed in the Doctrine and Covenants (Section 46). They include many different types of miracles, including healing, the gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues, wisdom, discerning of spirits, knowledge, and prophecy. These had been much more evident in the early Church than appear now, likely because we tend not to talk about such sacred things. How does one gain such things? The scriptures say it is by the Spirit of God. We’re also told in scripture that we should seek after these good gifts and to use them for the benefit of the children of God in the name of Christ.
We don’t seem to pursue them much anymore, perhaps from unbelief. We have a hard time believing that such miracles could be for us, even when we see or hear of them in the lives of others. But still, we are told to pursue them to help build the kingdom of God. I’ve always wanted “interpretation of tongues” myself, though I have a hard time learning languages. Others would be amazing to have, but how do you prepare or practice such things?
In any case, back to my dream. In my dream, I was returning home after attempting to catch someone at the bus station who was returning to us. I opened the door and to my left were my parents, easily recognizable but obviously much older. On a couch to the left was a young looking woman (perhaps a teen) excitedly jumping and two young boys. The excitement of everyone was electric. Then the woman who I’d gone to pick up entered.
At the time, I’d believed this would take place in the millennial era, when Christ would reign and the dead would be resurrected. The people there could be fit to those I knew of at the time; my parents, my younger sister and her then two sons, my older sister who had died before I was even born. As time has gone on (being 16 years ago now), I realized the roles could be different; my parents, my younger daughter and two sons, my wife.
It could also be that it was all “just a dream”, and I’ve been projecting my hopes on it. My father, who is in his mid eighties and has now been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, may soon die. I know of no one who has the gift of interpreting dreams like those of the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel. If it was the future, could I not even know the people in the dream in present time?
Prophecy is a tricky thing. We could be shown things we have no words adequate to describe, like John in the book of Revelations, we can have no idea of the time frames involved, yet still for some reason they are given. There must be something about them that is needed at the time they are given, possibly even for times afterward. For me, my dream has given me hope, even when I’ve not been able to see a way for it to happen. It confirms my knowledge that our family will be together forever someday, no matter what separates us.
And that day will be gloriously happy for us all.
Today I went to the temple to do some of the work for my grandfather who passed away last year. And, during the presentation of the Endowment, it came to me that I missed some things I really should have put into that last post. So here they are, in no order of importance.
It could be from my belief that he is completely unnecessary in the beginnings of a world, but I managed to all together forget this character existed in the presentation when I wrote the last post. We’ve had all kinds, from almost operatic to smarmy to truly icky. The method of acting doesn’t bother me too much (though the icky one just seems wrong), but this was a really difficult decision on how to cast from a nationality. How to you pick one without feeding into stereotypical views on how “evil” a particular nationality can be? This would matter less as more versions are made, but for the first, this is my choice.
Heavenly Mother: Ukraine
Yes, I know this is not a part in the current endowment presentation. The Church has recently affirmed Her as part of our doctrine, and in making use of the word Elohim (meaning Gods, not necessarily a single person) I think we should add this role, giving her half of the lines given for Heavenly Father. Which lines would not matter as they would all be coming from God. There could even be given different lines from presentation to presentation. It would be important in teaching that the Two are truly One, as we believe out Heavenly Parents to be.
Music: China, Kenya, and Ireland
People rarely think of the music used as background in these films. Part of it I think has to do with the rut we’ve gotten ourselves into with regards to music that conveys “spirituality”. It really hasn’t changed much since the media used in the 1980’s. A lot of chords in high strings with some keening solo by an oboe or french horn. A lot of suspensions resolving into major chords. It’s become practically Pavlovian, giving the signal that what is being shown is something spiritual. Surely we can add to the presentation without overwhelming it using music from other traditions.
The Temple is such an important part of our religion. We have heard many time about how we should learn something every time we go. I think one of the best ways to do this is to increase the diversity in the presentation made. Let’s wake up those who can go through it just marking time and give better opportunities for the Spirit to teach what they need to know.
For those who do not know, “The Endowment” is one of the rituals LDS have in the Temple where we make covenants with God. It involves ritual clothing (which the Church has make a handy video about) and a depiction of the creation of the world (which I’ve written about before). In some Temples, this depiction is done by live performers who are rarely trained actors and not “cast” in their parts as actors would be. These are simply volunteer workers in the Temple who have been assigned to this particular task, with no regard to age or physical appearance.
In most temples a film is used. There have been five versions of this film made thus far, each using the actors and film technologies of their time, the creators of it bringing their best to the Temple. In every version, the actors (and single actress) have been Americans of distinctly Northern European descent. I think that we, being a worldwide Church, should have films distributed that show the wide variety of people in the world. This would help us imagine themselves in those positions (as we are instructed to), but would also help us to see that these varieties aren’t an aberration but part of the wondrous palette used by God in His creation.
We do not have a standard belief of how everyone will look in the afterlife. We do, however, have a lot of folk doctrine floating around that everyone will automatically be Anglo, insinuating that other forms are lesser or undesirable. This would be a way to help abolish that folk doctrine. There are, of course, many iterations that can be used, but this is one I’d like to see:
God, the Father: Mexico
Jesus, the Christ: India
Eve: The Democratic Republic of the Congo
John: United States
There is so much variety to choose from, and so few parts. Even in these particular Countries, there is so much variety. Why not take advantage of that variety and look beyond what we’ve limited ourselves to in the expediency of using films rather than live actors? Technologies and talents have come such a long way from the days of the first films, where talent and locations were limited to what was local to Salt Lake City.
Why not go even further than this and let some actors use their own language, which would have to be dubbed into English?
The possibilities are just amazing.