Update about this blog

Just so everyone is clear, this blog is retired. I don’t have the time to keep up with it and I got tired of doing so. It was a good run while it lasted. I’m leaving up all the posts, and people can still comment if they want.

Protesting President Packer

I suppose I ought to weigh in on this matter. But given the silence that has characterized this blog of late, I suppose I won’t say too much.

I must have been quite distracted when President Packer gave his talk last weekend. No disrespect meant to him, but I think I was waking up from a nap. I found I had missed out on something Monday, though, when I received an email denigrating President Packer for being both a homophobe and a pedophile, accusations that are just mean-spirited and do nothing to advance anyone’s “cause.” But the lack of care, compassion, and sophistication didn’t stop there. Apparently there was also a protest in Salt Lake City yesterday. Good for them. Here are just a couple of words about the lack of sophistication which has characterized the discussion so far:

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Marriage is more than a “right”

Something is wrong, here. It’s suddenly become very normal to talk about marriage as a “right” and a “freedom” and that seems to me a rather impoverished way of talking about marriage. And yet, though one side (those opposed to gay marriage) often disagrees on marriage being a “right”, neither side can seem to get past this issue.

The “right” to be self-fulfilled

Let me try to articulate what I’m talking about: by talking about marriage as a freedom and a right, people are essentially drawing on a narrative like the very one I grew up with: when I marry, I want someone to whom I am physically and sexually attracted; I want someone who treats me well (in part because of their attraction to me) and who helps me reach my full potential as a person (can take me to the temple, etc); I want someone who cares for me like I care for them, who I can keep secrets with and who will share my life with me. I want… I want… I want…

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The Fourth Mission of the Church: Why Absent from Conference?

At this last General Conference, I was anxiously awaiting someone–particularly President Monson or the Presiding Bishopric–to discuss details about the Church’s new mission: helping the poor and needy. This mission will be added to the the Church’s existing three missions, which will be called four purposes: perfecting the saints, proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead, and helping the poor and needy.

I assumed that it would at least be mentioned. Which would have been nice, as most members I’ve talked with, including priesthood leaders, are unaware of the announced addition to the church’s mission.

To my surprise, there was no mention of it (unless I missed something). This post is not a complaint; I imagine the Brethren know what they’re doing in terms of implementing the new mission. Perhaps they just want to take the time to develop a systematic program before they make a big deal out of it.

So why did the Church make the announcement several months ago? Perhaps it was more a message to the world than to the Saints. Perhaps they didn’t want to wait to let others know that we are really serious about helping the poor and the needy.

I’m curious if anyone has information about the rolling out of the fourth mission. Has the Church communicated anything about this to stake or ward leaders? Has anyone’s ward, stake, or quorum began any kind of organization or new callings associated with helping the poor? For example, has anyone’s Elders Quorum called a Helping the Poor and Needy chair? And would it be OK to do something like this, absent specific instructions from Salt Lake?

Highlights from General Conference, April 2010

This was kind of a rough General Conference for me — because of the little one — but it was still inspiring as always. Dominant themes included the Resurrection of Christ, teaching children the gospel, and having hope and faith in the midst of turmoil and adversity.

Because this post is late and synthesis requires more effort than chronology, I’m just going to list the Top 10 “moments” that stood out to me (in chronological order), and include some of my own thoughts:

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On the Impossibility of Genuine Self-interest

The philosophy of Objectivism (created by the philosopher and author Ayn Rand) includes the idea that all actions and choices are ultimately motivated by self-interest; people do things for their own benefit, whether they realize it or not. One problem I have with this idea is that it rules out the possibility of any actions that are altruistic (selfless, or purely for another’s benefit).

I recently attended a conference where the presenter, C. Bradley Thompson, defended the philosophy of Objectivism. During a question and answer session, someone asked him, “What single philosophical idea do you believe has caused the most damage to human society?” He responded immediately and confidently, “Altruism.” He argues that human beings consistently forgo actions that are in their best individual and collective interests for the sake of an unobtainable ideal that usually does more harm than good. Mutual exchange, based upon mutual self-interest, does for more good in the world than encouraging free-loaders and laziness by giving valuable time and resources to those unwilling or unable to reciprocate. Continue reading

Responding to the Call of the Other

For a while, I rode the city transit bus to the university. One day, I was sitting next to an empty seat on the bus, and reading a chapter out of my physics textbook. A man got on the bus, and was looking for a seat. I shifted my legs onto the seat next to me, and buried myself in the book. The man found another seat, and I enjoyed sitting next to an empty seat for the rest of the trip.

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