March 28, 2012

I’ve been meaning to write this for over a month. I read a collection of short opinion pieces at the New York Times about the church, and one of them talked about how when the church leaders speak most members follow “like sheep.” Not only is that not true, it’s not even possible.

As background, here’s something Elder Bednar said about doctrines, principles, and applications:

“It’s fine, don’t worry, Elder. A doctrine is not something bizarre or rarely spoken of. A doctrine is a simple, revealed truth from our Heavenly Father concerning our salvation. Doctrines answer the why questions of the soul.

“A principle,” he continued,”is based on a doctrine and answers the what questions. A doctrine, then, is the Atonement. It answers why we need a Savior. A principle based on the Atonement is repentance–it is what we need to do because of the Atonement.

“Understanding both the doctrine and the principle leads to application. Application is the how. An application of the principle of repentance are those 5 R’s we all learned in seminary. Now, is it possible to observe the application without following the doctrine? Yes. When I was president of BYU-I, there was a student who committed a grievous, heinous sexual sin on Friday night. On Sunday morning, he went to the bishop and said, ‘Bishop, you’re the last thing on my list. I’ve done all the other steps, and now I feel great. Thanks.’ This young man had no understanding of the doctrine of the Atonement or the principle of repentance.”

So here’s the thing: when the church leaders speak, it’s mostly on the level of doctrines and principles, and we have to work out the applications for ourselves. This requires thinking about the doctrines and principles and prayerfully considering how to apply them in our particular situation. A “sheeplike” response simply doesn’t exist.

What about the cases where a leader actually does give more explicit instructions? Even then, we are constantly admonished to not depend on the light of others, but to seek our own witness that what has been taught is true. If you’ve prayed about what was said and felt the Spirit confirm its truth, you’re not following like a sheep.

Now, it certainly happens that sometimes you pray about something and you don’t get an answer. Then you say, ”Well, I don’t know for sure about this, but I do have a testimony that the church is true and that this leader was called by God, so until I get the answer I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and obey.”

The last possibility is that the church leader is wrong. It happens: they’re human beings; they’re not infallible. But even if you’ve prayed and felt that the Spirit told you the leader was wrong, you need to approach this with humility and with respect and with the realization that you may have made a mistake in interpreting what you heard or felt.

People rant about ”blind obedience” all the time, and while it does happen it’s relatively rare: blind, unthinking disobedience is much more common, and usually has more serious consequences. Usually when we think about and study what we’re taught, we realize its truth.

This weekend is General Conference. Every time I hear the Apostles and Prophets and other General Authorities speak, it’s clear to my mind and heart that they speak through divine inspiration. With that kind of a witness, it’s hardly sheeplike to follow their teachings.

Getting to be a habit

March 21, 2012

This post is a lot like the next-to-last one.

Beyond Blue 7: From Levittown to Superburb?

Meanwhile, many Millennials are thrown for a loop by misleading new urbanist buzz. As Joel Kotkin writes in a recent op-ed, too often an odd couple of property developers and élites in the legacy media promote values about housing to young Americans that are totally out of step with the emerging – and optimistic – reality. You’d think from watching shows like The Hills or reading urban planning propaganda that America’s housing future is in dense, urban, apartment living on top of light rail lines — and connected to other yuppie hubs by super duper high speed rail.
It’s an intoxicating vision, especially for real estate developers and construction unions. Everybody wins: real estate developers make a killing convincing Blue state and local government to build rail lines near their buildings … while a cadre of sexy young professionals ferries back and forth from fashionable bachelor(ette) pads to jobs in design, green NGOs, and democracy promotion outfits in even more dense urban cores. Who could argue with that — other than the growing numbers of Millennials who can’t afford to live that way and don’t especially want to?

Beyond Blue 8: Even the Dems Can’t Hack It Anymore

Look for this perception to spread among the advocates of government power. Clumsy, inefficient and expensive government doesn’t work for anybody; the old style of organizing and managing government with 1950s style bureaucratic structures and post office-style staffing patterns of a large but inefficiently deployed unionized staff is a Democratic dream-killer as well as a Republican nightmare. Progressive-era lifetime bureaucracies using midcentury administrative and management procedures can’t address the issues of our times.

I should state again that I don’t agree with everything in these articles, but it is clear that what he calls the “blue social model” is collapsing and we need to move on to something else.

Meanwhile, the idea that we need to get rid of a bunch of existing laws continues to gain momentum: Complex Societies Need Simple Laws.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, sometimes called the first libertarian thinker, said, “The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished….The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be.” He complained that there were “laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox.” What would he have thought of our world?

Big-government advocates will say that as society grows more complex, laws must multiply to keep up. The opposite is true. It is precisely because society is unfathomably complex that laws must be kept simple. No legislature can possibly prescribe rules for the complex network of uncountable transactions and acts of cooperation that take place every day. Not only is the knowledge that would be required to make such a regulatory regime work unavailable to the planners, it doesn’t actually exist, because people don’t know what they will want or do until they confront alternatives in the real world. Any attempt to manage a modern society is more like a bull in a darkened china shop than a finely tuned machine. No wonder the schemes of politicians go awry.

Good old Lao Tzu, my favorite political philosopher. More people should read him.

Sam’s latest

March 15, 2012

Here you go:

Howdy y’all

How’s it going? I will write to the ward again soon. I plan on writing arround every transfer, so next week. Plus a card for David.

As long as you’re sending stuff could you send a UT shirt?

This week has been intense. On Monday one of our investigators called us in tears. He was in despair over some personal issues so we rushed over and gave him a blessing of comfort. Tuesday we dropped in on a less active member who had a powerful testimony, he had fallen pretty far and we gave him a blessing of comfort and healing. Wednesday I was on splits in my area and we dropped by a lady who, well basically had been horribly betrayed my a member. We gave her a blessing of comfort. Then Friday in the middle of weekly planning we get a call from the girlfriend of our investigator who we blessed on Monday. She was worried (understatement) because she heard him screaming in the bathroom at God. We rushed over, but he rushed out. We came by later and counseled with him for a couple of hours and he was back on track. Until his girlfriend came back and they got in a huge argument. A note, never tell your girlfriend when she’s really angry that you will never marry her. We found him a place to stay the night since it was now arround 9:30 when we broke them up. Before we left we gave her a blessing of comfort. Isn’t missionary life glamourous?

Anyways, the other missionarys are glaring at me so I gotta go.
Love y’all
Elder Pew

More links

March 11, 2012

I’ve been meaning to post these links for several days.

Beyond Blue 5: Jobs, jobs, jobs

In the 19th century, government promoted the rise of the family farm, selling cheaply and ultimately giving away millions of acres of farmland, and promoting the rise of railroads (which could carry the produce of western farms to world markets). In the 20th century the government promoted the rise of large, stable corporate employers that offered armies of white and blue collar employees lifetime employment and a bevy of benefits.

Those 20th century policies won’t produce the same results in the new era. In many ways, the old jobs policies will now get in the way.  The new economy needs a different framework to encourage new kinds of jobs and new industries; the faster we get to these the faster we will emerge from the death throes of the blue model into a new and much brighter world.

Beyond Blue 6: The Great Divorce

One of the realizations that helped me accept the need to move on was the corrosive effect of one of blue model America’s most unattractive features: the emphasis on consumption rather than production as the defining characteristic of the good life. As I reflected on the corrosive consequences of this shift, and also began to see that a post-blue society might reverse this priority, I began to think more positively about what could come next. Frank Fukuyama wrote about the appearance of Nietzsche’s Last Man at the end of history; that Last Man is more or less Homer Simpson come to life, a mostly passive, consumption-focused individual whose life is all episode with no plot. But if the blue model isn’t the end of history, and if we are moving to something new — there is hope. Bart and Lisa just might grow up into a bigger world that would stretch their capacities and make them something more than Homer and Marge.

Under the blue model, Americans increasingly defined themselves by what they bought rather than what they did, and this shift of emphasis proved deeply damaging over time. The transformation to a new and higher kind of political economy will require us to put production and accomplishment back at the center of our value system. Both on the left and on the right this is something that should be welcome to a lot of thoughtful people.

It’s Time to Clean House

America is mired in a tarpit of accumulated law. Reformers propose new laws to fix health care, schools, and the regulatory system, but almost never suggest cleaning out the legal swamp these institutions operate in. These complex legal tangles not only set goals but allocate resources and dictate the minutest details of how to meet those goals. Most are obsolete in whole or part.

If I were to ever run for Congress, this would be my platform: to go through every law on the books and evaluate it. What was it intended to accomplish? Did it actually accomplish it? Is it still needed? What were the unintended consequences? Then repeal, rewrite, redo all of them until we have a simpler, slimmer code of laws.

Sam times three

March 7, 2012

I’m really behind on posting Sam’s emails, but here are the three most recent. As you’ll see, I’ve removed most personal names. The first was sent Feb 20.

Hey, Fam
I am sending another letter today. I found the last one which is the one I wrote to y’all and the ward. Turns out I never wrote the return address. It was snail mail by the way and I don’t have the bishop’s email.

I can’t send pictures today because of the computer I’m on, so I’ll have to try again another time. I got bigger envelopes today so I’m mailing some pictures. I’ll probably write back to MeMaw next week too.
I wish there was much to report. Not a whole lot changed since transfers last week. A new Elder came into our zone from Round Rock Texas, Elder Bragg. He’s from the Welsh branch there apparently. In my district an elder and a sister moved out. As for my comp and I we went out and worked our hardest. That’s certain. We went by every name we had and every little lead we had. We’ve been asked to keep negativity out of our emails and letters so, yeah.

Have you seen those cards? They came out recently and when Elder Evens came by he told us we’ll be getting even better stuff soon. A card with one of those smart phone bar codes on the back. Sounds cool.

In spite of current area concerns, Salt Lake is an interesting town. Whenever we go down town I have my testimony of patience tested. The lights here are ridiculous. Totally make no sense. Oh, well. I got to take [redacted] to temple square last night. We’re trying to either help them get married or move out so we went through the family presentation that was under construction the last time we went together as a family. Elder Shapcott thinks the temple square sisters should have been bolder and I think they definitely could have been more direct.

Next week will be better! We’ve almost recycled our whole teaching pool, so we’re open to new blood. All distractions gone. That’s not to say don’t email a lot next time. We just need to find what’s stopping our success and change it! That’s my goal.
Love Elder Pew

Ps It sounds hilarious having everyone learn line dancing for FHE. We’re teaching FHE here tomorrow at a members home. Hmm.

We did get some snail mail with photos last week. The next was sent Feb 27.

Howdy, Family

You gotta tell me as soon as you find out where Bishop Beckstrom is going to be up here. I can coordinate with the missionaries and send him messages. (Evil laugh)

So Cameron’s ready to leave the MTC is he? We’ll see. I know I thought I was ready. I didn’t really know what to expect even after hearing from my brothers.

Levi too. That’s awesome. I really wish I had Jacob’s and Noor’s emails. Maybe you can get them from Levi. I know Noor said he’d write if he could. Did you ever call them?

To set the record strait again, it’s 3 Stakes (Hillside, Bonneville, and Monument Park North) with 17 wards. Yeah, the wards are tiny over here, although they may change that soon. Here’s why.

These days the percentage of LDS members is around 40 something and of that 40ish only 50% of them are active. To our advantage really because less actives are way more likely to know people who aren’t members yet. Reactivation turns pretty quickly to new members. Who needs tracting? Granted, Elder Shapcott did his best work, westward in a fascinating little part of town called Glendale. I want to be sent there. The people sound way more receptive.

I really liked those scriptures you talked about Satan’s tactics. I see that so much here. Just last night in fact.

Anyways, eastward in my area. I don’t know if I told you already, but we started teaching this lady who has been attending church every week that the bishop asked us not to go by. Before you get uneasy, this happened on a night where we didn’t know where to go. We prayed and felt impressed to meet her (and her member husband). She was overjoyed to see us. Anyway that bishop was released yesterday (which may have been in answer to Elder Shapcotts prayers) so maybe we’ll meet the other two ladies who aren’t members yet, but attend church every week.

Things have gotten nervous with [Redacted] and [Redacted]. I think I mentioned we went to temple square. Well, we took a couple who are becoming good friends with them, the [Redacted]. [Redacted] and Bro [Redacted] left [Redacted] and Sister [Redacted] to bring the car around and apparently [Redacted] told him he doesn’t want to marry [Redacted]. Awkward. He’s on date to be baptized, but he can’t until he either moves out or marries and he doesn’t have any money to move.

So, that’s our week. Oh, except we had dinner with John Schmit’s parents and Sis. Cannon who used to be on the relief society general board. And I talked in sacrament twice again yesterday.

I love y’all and love to hear what’s up. I hope Jonathan is loving his new soccer team. I think Amanda should get over herself. Really, Preach My Gospel says Genealogy is a great way to introduce people to the church. If you remember [Redacted], now he’s a member he’s really getting into his family history. Dad, please be careful with my car. Mom whatever school you and dad decide will probably be great as long as you’re seeking the Lord’s advice. Daniel, I think I have 3 favorite apostles so don’t worry about it.

Wow, did I just do that to my family? Weird.

Love y’all
Elder Pew

Not much to this one, but here goes. It was sent Mar 5.

So much to type home so little time.

Darn it I just typed up most of it and the computer glitched.

Oh well. First: My Mission is splitting. Out of us is coming the Salt Lake City West Mission. We’re getting part of the Ogden Mission to our north. Part of SLC South Mission is forming the SLC Central Mission. If I stay I could serve in Bountiful.

Second: My backpack with my camera in it was stolen.

Argh! I lost two huge paragraphs again!

We’re still working hard. I’ll write today because I’m a little fed up with having my info lost.

I still love y’all
Elder Pew