State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

Critical Thinker, Or Just A Critic?

When I get that craving for a really great burger, I know just where to go.  It may seem sacreligious or profane in some way that it isn’t some ma and pop shop or dive restaurant made in a 100 year old house, but I prefer to go to Carl’s Jr. and get the jalapeno burger (yes, they still make it even though it’s not on the menu anymore).  I will try anyone’s burger, but I have always ended up right back at Carl’s.  I guess this feels like a confession because I’m not giving some sort of grand revelation or telling you of some unknown or expensive option.  Nothing feels cheaper than an unpaid endorsement of an established fast food chain that just about anyone could go to.

This being the case, and my tastes being as they are, I have very little need of food critics.  Whenever I watch a show or read an article on restaurants or food, it seems that the critics are concerned with every detail except the bottom line–Does it simply taste good?  Perhaps I am too un-fancy, or don’t properly appreciate the “dive” atmosphere of a newly remodeled building that had “put hole in sheetrock here” on the blueprints to make it look neglected.  Nor do I conceive how this makes the food taste better or worse.  I guess I’m just a bottom line type person.

This brings me to the thesis of the day:  I believe the difference between a critical thinker and a critic is found in the relevency of their argument.  Being a critical burger eater, I am willing to give up on Carl’s, if I find a better tasting option.  I’m not willing to write it off because there is a playground of sorts attached to the establishment.  The critical thinker, in my mind, is a truth seeker.  It is someone who focuses on those things that will truly affect their lives and tries hard to view them from every possible angle to understand truth the best that can be done, and then tries to make positive and meaningful changes to his or her life based on this understanding.  The critic, on the other hand, seems to get carried away with details, often negative ones, and commonly misses the chance to truly enjoy truths and understanding that have been given.  How many professional food critics prefer, or even give a chance to Carls?

Shifting gears from restaurants, I find it is very “in-vogue” these days to be a critic of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, especially for many members of the church.  This writing is my response to their criticisms as well as the reason that I find it highly unnecessary to join their ranks.  To accomplish this, I will take as a basic presupposition that the reader accepts the Book of Mormon as true.  In order to best communicate my ideas, I will use much of the framework given by William James in his address The Will To Believe (published in the New World, June, 1896).  Keep in mind that being over 100 years old, his examples may be somewhat dated, but the basic logic is very applicable.

James lays a basic foundation of why we seek knowledge of any sort:

Let us give the name of hypothesis to anything  that may be proposed to our belief; and just as the electricians speak of live and dead wires, let us speak of any hypothesis as either live or dead.  A live hypothesis is one which appeals as a real possibility to him to whom it is proposed.  If I ask you to believe in the Mahdi, the notion makes no electric connection with your nature,–it refuses to scintillate with any credibility at all.  As an hypothesis it is completely dead.  To an Arab, however (even if he be not one of the Madhi’s followers), the hypothesis is among the mind’s possibilities:  it is alive.  This shows that deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the individual thinker.  They are measured by his willingness to act.  The maximum of liveness in hypothesis means willingness to act irrevocably.  Practically, that means belief, but there is some believing tendancy wherever there is willingness to act at all.

To become knowledge, it is more important for a truth to appeal to the seeker, than to actually be true.  A truth that no one wants to seek will not become knowledge, it is dead.  This may be a sad reflection on human kind, but his observation is absolutely correct.  Something that may or may not be true, but inspires great amounts of seeking and thought, may well become accepted as truth, where it is actually only a very live hypothesis.  We see this commonly in scientific theories that are accepted as fact.  Perhaps I find his essay “live” only because he is the only academic I have read who refers to electricians (us electricians aren’t used to any attention from thinkers).

James goes on to explain the choices we make between hypotheses:

Next, let us call the decision between two hypotheses an option.  Options may be of several kinds.  They may be:

1. living or dead;

2. forced or avoidable;

3. momentous or trivial;

and for our purpose we may call an option a genuine option when it is of the forced, living, and momentous kind.

1. A living option is one in which both hypotheses are live ones.  If I say to you:  “Be thou a theosophist or be a Mohammedan,” it is probably a dead option, because for you neither hypothesis is likely to be alive.  But if I say:  “Be an agnostic or be Christian,” it is otherwise:  trained as you are, each hypothesis makes some appeal, however small, to your belief.

2. Next, if I say to you:  “Choose between going out with your umbrella or without it,” I do not offer you a genuine option, for it is not forced.  You can easily avoid it by not going out at all.  Similarly, if I say, “Either love me or hate me,” “Either call my theory true or call it false,” your option is avoidable.  You may remain indifferent to me, neither loving nor hating, and you may decline to offer any judgment as to my theory.  But if I say, “Either accept this truth or go without it,” I put on you a forced option, for there is no standing place outside of the alternative.  Every dilemma based on a complete logical disjunction, with no possibility of not choosing, is an option of the forced kind.

3. Finally, if I were Dr. Nansen and proposed to you to join my North Pole expedition, your option would be momentous; for this would probably be your only similar opportunity, and your choice now would either exclude you from the North Pole sort of immortality altogether or put at least the chance of it into your hands.  He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed.  Per contra, the option is trivial when the opportunity is not unique, when the stake is insignificant, or when the decision is reversible if it later prove unwise.  Such trivial options abound in scientific life.  A chemist finds an hypothesis live enough to spend a year in its verification; he believes in it to that extent.  But if his experiments prove inconclusive either way, he is quit for his loss of time, no vital harm being done.

Let’s do a quick example with the Book of Mormon.  The Book of Mormon offers a forced option.  Once a person encounters this book, the choice is to accept it as true or live without its teachings.  Is it a living option?  That depends very much on the person who encounters the book and that person’s desire to know if it is true.  A person with no desire to seek such a truth will find it a dead option.  One who has some amount of desire will find it a live option to the extent of the desire.  The Book of Mormon is definitely a momentous option.  Found true, it is life changing and leads to other momentous options such as embracing the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Now, we’ll move to the meat of our thesis–the critics within the Church and an analysis of what they offer.  I have read many blogs and they tend to criticize Church leaders for everything from not fully implementing the United Order today, to cutting the ribbon for a new mall, to wearing suits at General Conference.  We won’t go into any one of these specifically, but just look at them generally, according to the option analysis that Dr. James gives us.

Are you offering a forced option?  If you phrase it as accept this truth or not, I suppose you could call it that, but does it make any difference in anyone’s life either way?  Suppose your issue is incorrect or biased.  It would be best left alone.  Suppose your criticism is correct.  In this case, you have proven that humans are called to be Church leaders.  We all know this to be the case and it has always been the case.  Infallability is not a doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Consider the following:

Matthew 18: 18  The twelve receive the keys of the kingdom.

Matthew 26: 69-75  Peter denies Christ three times.  Did Peter need a critic to remind him of this after sincere repentance?  Would such a critic have been helpful or not as Peter led the church?

3Nephi 23: 9-13 (Christ is speaking)

Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them.  And said unto them: Was it not so?

And his disciples answered him and said:  Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.

And Jesus said unto them:  How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?

And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.

And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded.

Church leaders have made mistakes, ranging in severity, for many years.  I would guess, ever since Adam took the fruit.  Personally, I would fear the correction of the Lord much more than anything another person might say.  Look at some of the corrections the Lord gave to Joseph Smith:

D&C 3: 5-11 (refers to the lost manuscript of the Book of Mormon)

Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.  And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.  For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God.   Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words– Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.  Behold, thou are Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou are not aware thou wilt fall.  But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work;  Except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.

D&C 95: 2-3

Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face; For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house;

I guess the point is clear.  There has never been a perfect leader.  When the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ are imperfect, the scriptures show that they stand accountable to the Lord.  He corrects his church in his time, in his way, and doesn’t seem to mince words when doing so.  One more point is the love with which the Lord chastises:

D&C 95: 1

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I live I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you–

Do we tend to show such love in our criticisms?

OK, back to our analysis of the forced option.  Even if the particular concern is correct, it is best left to the Lord, and proves nothing new to anyone.  Thus my conclusion is that the option offered is not only not forced, but best avoided.

Not to stop short, we still need to see if the option is momentous. To the best I can tell, this depends largely on what the particular criticism is trying to accomplish.  If nothing major is intended, I believe it would fall in the category of idle gossip, and therefore not be anything close to momentous.  If something major is intended, that could make it momentous.  If the goal is to show that the Church is no longer true, such would definitely be momentous.  However, with this hypothesis, one must show himself to be true and trustworthy or the hypothesis is not worth considering.  This means stating the intentions clearly from the beginning.

3Nephi 12: 37, Matthew 5:37

But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever cometh of more than these is evil.

Truth is communicated clearly.  Its intentions are communicated clearly.  The critical thinker who wishes to state his position against the Church and give his best evidence to support his hypothesis may, perhaps, be able to have a forced option that is momentous.  However, this depends fully upon his own honesty to be forthcoming about his true position.  We will not pursue this any further, as this posting is intended for those who are within the Church.

Finally, we get to the final choice–is the option living or dead?  I realize that Dr. James considered this first and I am doing it last.  This is purposeful for a couple of reasons.  First, I believe that for the critical thinker, whether the option is living or dead often depends on how forced and momentous it is.  We’ll once again use the Book of Mormon as an example.

Think of the forced options that the Book of Mormon presents.  Either it was a 19th century product of a deceiver named Joseph Smith, or an ancient record translated by the power of God, by the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Either it is a fraud, or we have found the Kingdom of God restored to the earth!  This is forced and momentous!  Men have been searching for the truth about God for thousands of years and have been little successful, and here it is, presented as an option for us to consider!  What is more, if we look at the evidence with the objective, scientific mind, both options are equally ridiculous.  On the one hand we must explain how a young man, not educated well enough to write a good letter, fabricates an intricate book of hundreds of pages, full of proofs of ancient origin and facts not known until many years after his death.  To claim he or even the most educated man in the world in the 19th century could have written the Book of Mormon is laughable.  On the flip side, our scientific mind is forced to contemplate visits from angels, God himself, and revelation, which science has long willed to believe against!  This is perhaps the ultimate forced option.  Now, consider how momentous.  Not only is the truth of God potentially in front of us, but this changes everything about life.  There really is a God who wants to communicate with us!  “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”, is truly a false doctrine, to be traded for the life of the saint!

Now, consider these things in the light of whether the Book of Mormon is a living option or not.  Any true critical thinker, I believe, would make this a living option, simply due to what is at stake.  The act of critical thinking is the attempt to get outside of personal biases and consider, in an unbiased way, those things which are important to life.  And how interesting it is that many refuse to make the Book of Mormon a living option for this very reason!  “I am a man of science and don’t consider religious things,” really is saying that one prefers to close his mind and not believe in things, which may well be true, because he doesn’t want to risk losing the faith he has put in a certain view of things.  It is no different than the early religious man denying that the earth is a sphere or revolves around the sun because of the drastic change of view required.  I believe that critical thinking must get past such biases and make the options living or dead based on how forced and momentous they are.  Those who refuse to do so automatically choose to put their faith (and faith it is, hardly knowledge or science) in the hope that the Book of Mormon was a fabrication, for which no lasting hypothesis has ever been made!

The second reason I believe that the Living Option should be the third consideration is that what we choose as a living option shows what we really want to believe.  In a spiritual and scriptural sense, this is more important than my first reason.  If I desire to know of the iniquity in the Church, where is my heart?  We have already shown that those who are within the Church who want to reveal problems or seek iniquity aren’t generally doing it as forced or momentous options, but these are living hypotheses for some reason, and this makes itself the issue.  Consider, again, the words of Dr. James:

Our reason is quite satisfied, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of every thousand of us, if it can find a few arguments that will do to recite in case our credulity is criticized by some one else.

When we “will to believe” something, our need for evidence is greatly reduced.  This is a psychological truth.  We see it every day in politics.  One party believes the other is the devil incarnate, and vice-versa and there needs be little or no real evidence to fuel such beliefs.  One only needs find a crum of suspicion to accuse his opponent, and believe his accusation correct.  Likewise, one needs only that same crum of evidence to suppose his ally is correct.  Our will distorts political evidence so greatly that real dialogue is almost impossible–believe me, I’ve tried.  So the real problem with seeking iniquity is just that, we will probably find it, at least enough to satisfy our own will to believe.  Let’s consider what the scriptures say about this, and the spiritual implications:

2Nephi 27:31, Isaiah 29: 20-21:

For assuredly as the Lord liveth they shall see that the terrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off; and they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught.

Interesting side-note that this chapter of scripture, in the Bible, re-affirmed as to its importance in the Book of Mormon, and endorsed (with all Isaiah’s writings) by the Savior (3Nephi 23:1), is a prophecy about the “marvellous work and wonder” that the Lord would do in the Last Days.  That is a direct reference to the Book of Mormon and the work of the restored gospel.

“All that watch for iniquity are cut off.”  What does this mean?  I suppose there are many possible meanings, but it seems, at very minimum, to be a warning that if we are looking for iniquity we definitely can’t have his full spirit to be with us.

3Nephi 12:1

And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying:  Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

The Lord, appearing to the Nephite people called twelve apostles.  He then immediately told the multitude, “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen…”  Let’s first establish that he did this not because these twelve were perfect.  We have already analyzed that Nephi, who was one of them, had failed to record the words of Samuel the Lamanite.  Was there some risk that the twelve would teach something incorrect?  If so, we have already established that the Lord would rebuke them himself, as he did in the Old and New testaments, as well as the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.  In all of these books of scripture, there is never a time that the people were led astray by the Lord’s called servants, but often the case that the people wouldn’t heed the word of the Lord, wanting to fit in with their “Babylonian culture” instead.

1 Samuel 8: 4-7

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,  And said unto him, Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.  But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us.  And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.  And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee:  for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

Note that the people wanted a king to be like all the [other] nations.  It was probably cool or stylish, or the best practice in their minds.

Helaman 13:2-3

And it came to pass that in this year there was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people.  And it came to pass that he did preach, many days, repentance unto the people, and they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land.

But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.

Samuel went on to teach and prophesy many great things.  The reason I bring this example up is to focus on whom he called to repentance.  It wasn’t the prophet or the Church leaders.  Interestingly enough, one of the greatest prophets in scripture was also in the city of Zarahemla trying to get the people to repent.  Nephi, the son of Helaman (the son of Alma the younger, the son of Alma the elder, a descendant of Nephi, the son of Lehi) and father to Nephi (mentioned above who was made one of the twelve apostles), was given virtually all power because of the trust the Lord had in him.

Helaman 16:1

And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city.  And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.

I brought up the genealogy of Nephi for a reason–to show that he was the “establishment” prophet.  The people seemed to just not want to hear anymore from this crazy family that had been subjecting them forever.  Many of our modern scholars suggest that this family was somewhat elitist (due to their schooling in reading and writing, and high positions in government and church), if we look at it from a worldly perspective.  This must have been a great enough stumbling block to the people that the Lord sent a Lamanite to call them to repentance, someone as far from “elitist” or “establishment” as you can possibly find.  Samuel lamented that the people were so wicked that he, “a Lamanite” would have to call them to repent.  However, those who believed Samuel went straight to Nephi to be baptized.  Samuel wasn’t calling the Church to repentance, but those who wouldn’t listen to the called representatives of the Lord for whatever reason.

I have to admit that I can sympathize with Samuel, being an uneducated electrician who hates to wear a suit, standing on our modern city wall (the internet) posting these things in academic form, because the spirit (and you are free to judge if it be the spirit of the Lord for yourself) won’t let me quit.

It’s time to put this all in context.  Why have I written this long and rambling assessment?  The purposes are threefold.  First, because I feel it necessary to prevent spiritual damage to those who may be critics, as well as to their audience.  Second, because I feel great love for all mankind which motivates the first reason, and also the third, which is to offer the Lord’s way to deal with the human weakness within the Church.

What spiritual damage could be prevented?  I fear that, while we have proven that there is no momentous intention in criticism, it is human nature to invent something large.  The hypothesis begins to form that if there is some sort of iniquity in the Church, maybe I don’t need to fully repent in my own life, or at least I can rationalize some of my own iniquities, or perhaps, I can be a little less valiant in my serving the Lord.  In reality, this is a forced and momentous option.  If I choose not to personally receive of any amount of the spirit with which the Lord could bless me, I have chosen a momentous loss.

Moroni 8: 26

And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

Can I have lowliness of heart, or perfect love and the Holy Ghost if I am critical of another, or any organization?  If I think I can, I am fooling only myself.

Galatians, 5: 22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

I would have the reader know that I write all of this in a spirit of love.  Occasionally, through love, we must reprove with sharpness (see D&C 121).  I have tried not to be sharp, but academic.  I have attempted to lay out a principle and allow the conscience of the reader to decide how it may apply to him/her.  My only desire in this is that because of the love I have for others and for all mankind, that I can simply invite all to live closer to the spirit, which spirit will testify of the caring I have.  If you follow what is offered hereafter and it makes your life better and closer to the Lord, does that not testify that I have shared the principle in love?  Because I don’t personally know the critical writers in the blogosphere, this will have to suffice.

My purpose is not to attack anyone or any writing.  It is to invite all to receive the Spirit and it’s guidance to a greater degree in their lives.  This, too, is a forced, and momentous option.  You can choose to gain the spirit in greater abundance or live without it.  The results can be momentous in everyone’s lives.  Living with the Spirit brings us to a state of being able to create Zion.  If we live without it, we will only stumble on, at best, or be left behind when the Lord decides the time is at hand.

My invitation follows what Moroni has shared in Moroni 8: 26 (quoted above).  Follow the counsel of those Prophets and Apostles called by the Lord to receive a remission of sins, and continue to gain in meekness, and lowliness of heart.  There is no place for being critical in this.  If you follow this path, you can receive the Holy Ghost which will fill with hope and perfect love.  When we have hope and perfect love I can’t see how any negative feeling could be held toward another human, though one’s heart may break at the choices mankind tends to make which lead them to be critical, harbor ill feelings and allow these to bring them to greater transgression or just hinder the Spirit they may receive.

And what about when there is inevitably a question or item that seems out-of-place within the Church?  I find that it works best to take such questions directly to the Lord, asking in faith.  We live in a day and a culture (Babylonian culture) where society puts a high value on creating a movement and trying to push for change through political pressure or petition.  Such is not the Lord’s way.  Abraham questioned the Lord’s plan to destroy Sodom, so he went to the Lord.  The Lord didn’t rebuke him or attack him for asking, instead he spoke with Abraham as an equal, taught him, and saved Lot.  On the flip side, when Israel pushed for a King, putting the pressure of their numbers on Samuel, the Lord respected their decision, but explained they had rejected him so they were getting what they asked for.

I have taken many questions to the Lord and have received some answers, which have always enlightened my understanding and increased my love toward all men, including the servants of the Lord.  Sometimes I have learned that my perspective was wrong.  Other times I have learned how my thoughts and the question at hand were not mutually exclusive.  When we ask the Lord in humility, it is done with a true will to believe whatever he may teach.  Only in this way can we really gain the truth.  If I desired a change, or felt through the best spirit I could receive that one was needed within the Church, I would take such an idea up in prayer to the Lord to learn if my perspective was correct (hopefully being humble enough to accept his answer if not), and then for him to bring about that change.  Sounds less than effective in our Democratic mind, but do we really believe in the Lord?  Do we really want his will to be done, or would we rather submit him to ours?

Finally, I would simply ask all to recognize the spirit for the fruits it brings.  When we read or write or speak of others and organizations, it can only bring about the Spirit of truth if it is done in love.  Moroni explains why this is so important:

Ether 12: 33-34

And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou has loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.  And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy father.

I know what the Spirit tastes like.  It tastes like faith, hope and love and charity.  This is what teaches, edifies, and brings us closer to our father in heaven.  I invite all to seek this Spirit.  It is the best Spirit.  It is the Holy Ghost, by which we may know the truth of all things.  I’m sorry to those may feel to be critical, even if they may be right, but criticism, especially if coupled with negative feelings are ingredients that must be avoided to have it taste right.  To say it in a restaurant metaphor, rather than swallow these, I’ll just head back to Carl’s.

Babylon, We Bid Thee Farewell

We have spent a lot of time looking at economic and other ideas of Western Civilization in an attempt to find the good, put off the bad, and see if it can point us a little closer to the United Order.  In considering all this, I have come to a simple conclusion (though I invite any other opinion to be voiced)–we can’t use Babylon to create Zion.  Sorry to anyone who has a political agenda, especially to anyone who thinks they are bringing us closer to Zion through their political agenda.  It can’t be done.  Today we will consider ideas from Nibley’s What Is Zion? A Distant View.  First a definition of Zion, from Nibley:

 The first thing to note is that Zion is perfect, flawless, and complete–not a structure in the process of building.  We work for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth and the establishment of Zion.  The first step makes the second possible….

When all the accidentals and incidentals are stripped away, what remains that is quintessentially Zion?  Buildings, walls, streets, and gates–even of gold and jasper–do not make Zion; neither do throngs in shining robes.  Zion is not a Cecil B. DeMille production; the properties do not make the play, no matter how splendid they may be.  What makes Zion?  God has given us the perfect definition:  Zion is the pure in heart–the pure in heart, not merely the pure in appearance.  It is not a society or religion of forms and observances, of pious gestures and precious mannerisms:  it is strictly a condition of the heart.  Above all, Zion is pure, which means “not mixed with any impurities, unalloyed”; it is all Zion and nothing else.  It is not achieved wherever a heart is pure or where two or three are pure, because it is all pure–it is a society, a community, and an environment into which no unclean thing can enter.  “Henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean” (3Nephi 20: 36).  It is not even pure people in a dirty environment, or pure people with a few impure ones among them; it is the perfectly pure in a perfectly pure environment.  “I … will contend with Zion … and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me” (D&C 90: 36).

This makes it so different from our world that it almost begins to sound distasteful.  But a moment’s reflection will show that Zion cannot possibly be other than wholly pure.  For Zion is the eternal order; it has existed elsewhere from the eternities and will someday be permanently established on this earth.  Even the smallest impurity or flaw in anything designed to continue forever would, in the course of an infinite stretching of time, become a thing of infinite mischief.  The most perfect structures men have been able to erect have been short-lived because of tiny, all-but-imperceptible flaws.  Hence, any flaw, no matter how small, must be removed from a system designed to be timeless; otherwise, there will be no end of trouble.

 Does Zion seem pretty distant at this point?  Think about it for a minute.  First, let’s get a good definition of some terms we have used, and often do use interchangeably, though they have some different meaning–The Law of Consecration, The United Order, and Zion.  The Law of Consecration is a law which we covenant to live now.  In this we offer all to the Lord.  This can (and I believe should) be lived, by all who are under the covenant, today.  By striving to use all our time, talents, energies, and means to accomplish the will of the Lord, we become pure in heart.  The United Order is accomplished as the Priesthood takes an active role in directing the consecration of the people.  Zion comes when all of this is perfected.

Perfection has an unreachable sound to it.  I will propose that perfection isn’t quite what we often picture in our minds.  Agency is an eternal principle, therefore, perfection must be able to take many forms, so long as it blesses instead of harms others in the long run.

So maybe, Zion isn’t exactly so distant.  We can consecrate ourselves now.  We can live that law and come very near the United Order through our offerings to the Church and other worthy institutions, as well as in our families.  Zion can follow when the Lord decides we are ready.  Nibley Quotes Brigham Young:

When we conclude to make a Zion, we will make it, and this work commences in the heart of each person.

 It  seems to me that our part is quite simple–repent and turn our heart to making Zion.  I believe Zion flows from the person who decides to build it.  It influences first his or her family.  It can then be passed on to friends and others who catch the spirit.  When the Lord decides it is time, he will create Zion from our Zion.  However, we can enjoy the benefits of Zion at home, right now, if we so choose.

 Moving on, it now becomes necessary to define Babylon.  Again, from Nibley:

Throughout the scriptures, Zion is brought into clearest focus by placing it against a dark background; and like Zion, that background world is given a code name:  Babylon.  Babylon, like Zion, is a real society–a type, place, and environment of human existence, described in the scriptures with great clarity and precision.  (The word Babylon is not just a general term to indicate anything that is not Zion; it is the designation of a very particular and specific type of society.)  Though Babylon is vividly described by the prophets, the best way to define her is as the exact opposite of Zion in all things.  Babylon is just as pure in its way as Zion; it is pure evil–for even good, when it becomes contaminated and perverted, becomes an evil.  The main thing is that Babylon and Zion cannot mix in any degree; a Zion that makes concessions is no longer Zion.

From here, we move back to the thesis.  We cannot use create Zion from Babylon.  Government is at best a protection for the righteous from Babylon.  At it’s worst, government is the servant of Babylon.  Most are somewhere in between.  In a Democracy or Republic, or whatever form you call it that is controlled by the people, the general righteousness or wickedness of the people tends to determine this.  Consider Helaman 5: 1-4:

And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.  For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.  Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.  And it came to pass that Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days

Nibley also sums up the problem of trying to use Babylon to create Zion:

Zion has never made war on Babylon, for when the environment has become too foul for Zion, she has simply been removed.  Babylon is always reserved for the burning–she is never converted or reformed; though many may leave her for Zion, her fate is to be overthrown, violently, suddenly, unexpectedly, and completely by the direct intervention of God.

So the idea that we can use the government to get where we want to be is little more than a trick of Babylon to compromise Zion.  If Babylon can get us to keep a foot in their door, they hope to get us to stick around for the destruction as well.  The scriptures offer a better way–leave Babylon behind.  Leave her sins behind, all of them, from sexual impurity to the love of money to pride, vanity and everything else.  Only by creating as much Zion as we can are we safe from the destruction.

Vacation

Just returned from a week long vacation, camping on Taylor Mountain, just north of Vernal, Utah.  It is amazing that a family of six can live in a trailer that is smaller than our living room at home, having almost none of the normal conveniences of life (video games, phones, computers, etc.) and seem to enjoy each other and life more than ever.  We’ll get back on topic next week.

 

Economic Pluralism

Finally, the last economic development to discuss, as it is where Dr. Quigley claims we now are, though he also suggests that it will be continually developing.  I will try to be as simple as possible and touch on just a few points, as I have written more in depth about this in the review of Tragedy & Hope.  See: http://www.stateofmankind.com/tragedy-and-hope-review/x-the-economy/.  Quigley describes the pluralist economy in a nutshell:

“As in most other countries in the postwar world, Britain’s economy is increasingly made up of large blocs of interest groups whose shifting alignments determine economic policy within the three-cornered area of consumers’ living standards, investment needs, and governmental expenditures (chiefly defense).  All these diverse interest groups are increasingly monopolistic in organization, and increasingly convinced of the need for planning for their own interests, but the major factor in the picture is no longer the banking fraternity, as it was before the war, but the government through the Treasury.” (Page 505)

What may not seem overly interesting here is actually totally packed.  Since WWII, while we have retained the rhetoric of capitalism, we have actually moved to a system where the money flows through and is controlled mainly by the government.  Small business still operates on a somewhat free market platform, but heavy industry and government have essetially merged.  The proof of this can be seen by naming just two companies–Haliburton and General Electric.  Haliburton is quickly recognized by modern Liberals as a company that received large and generous contracts from the Bush Administration.  Conservatives who follow such things will say exactly the same of GE and the current administration.  If we take off our political blinders and just look at all the large companies, we will see that Haliburton continues to get special treatment even today.  No doubt GE has much the same setup.  GM, Chrysler, the big banks, Wall Street, Boeing, Lockheed, Enron, (and the list can go on), all received and receive substantial support from government.  This is not to even go into the way the tax code supports or injures different businesses.  While we live the pretense of free market, everything from your personal tax rate (or tax supplement) to the ability the local grocer has to hire, due to how and how much he is taxed, to the price of cars (by subsidies or CAFE and safety standards), to anything we care to mention, is controlled directly or indirectly by government.  When we see this for what it is, the battle between the parties is not good versus evil as our culture likes to pretend, or rich versus poor as they try to sell, or labor versus business, as the unions echo.  The real battle is mammon versus mammon.  It is money from certain companies versus money from other companies.  It is “old money” versus “new money” or money against anyone else gaining money.  When taxes are to be raised on incomes greater than (X) amount, it is not to collect money for the government (simple math shows it is less than insignificant), but to keep small business from growing too big too fast or keep the upper middle class right where it is rather than joining the elites.  Have they ever suggested a tax on what the elites already own?

So we’ve established that government is where the different sectors of the economy fight for their prosperity.  He also mentions that they are “increasingly monopolistic”.  The pluralist economy is a double-down on monopoly capitalism, though the leash is held by the state, whose leash is held by the industrialists and bankers.

Finally, Quigley says they are “increasingly convinced of the need for planning for their own interests.”  The problem here is that money rules the state which then rules the economy.  The more people see the market distortions, the more power they desire to give the state to fix the problems, the more control is given to the powers of money that control the state.  Quigley explains what this leads to:

“And, in general, there will be a very considerable modification of the areas and objectives of freedom in all societies of the world, with GRADUAL REDUCTION OF NUMEROUS PERSONAL FREEDOMS OF THE PAST accompanied by the gradual increase of other fundamental freedoms…” (Pages 552-553, emphasis mine)

This leads us to the next major point of the pluralist economy–the social safety net.  I realize that I am in the vast minority here, but we need to see this for what it is.  Pluralism is a mix of capitalism, fascism, and communism.  The social safety net, especially those items from Johnson’s “Great Society” in the 1960’s, were perhaps the crowning portions for Quigley to decide we had entered into the pluralist economy.  The safety net is sold to us as a charitable good, supported strongly by both parties.  I believe it is anything but that.

I think the social safety net is a built-in machine of inequality.  It is set up to give the unfortunate just enough to survive, but no extra or skill set to thrive.  It gives the poor enough for the rest of society to conveniently focus on their own wants and forget about helping anyone.  If the United Order is about treating each other as equals and wanting to help the poor rise to greatness, the social safety net has created the exact opposite.  It has instilled in us a hubris unequalled in history.  Instead of becoming charitable, we blame the system and add to what is creating our problem.  I have gone in-depth on this:  http://www.stateofmankind.com/2012/02/13/why-do-we-have-a-social-safety-net/.

Quigley also described what is happening in our day:

“Associated with these changes are a number of others.  The belief that human abilities are innate and should be left free from social duress in order to display themselves has been replaced by the idea that human abilities are the result of social training and must be directed to socially acceptable ends.  Thus liberalism and laissez-faire are to be replaced, apparently, by social discipline and planning.  The community of interests which would appear if men were merely left to pursue their own desires has been replaced by the idea of the welfare community, which must be created by conscious organizing action.  The belief in progress has been replaced by the fear of social retrogression or even human annihilation.  The old march of democracy now yields to the insidious advance of authoritarianism, and the individual capitalism of the profit motive seems about to be replaced by the state capitalism of the welfare economy.” (Page 28)

I would just mention that state capitalism is the term Engels used to describe the state of the economy just before socialism took over.  His description of state capitalism matches well that of Quigley.

It is difficult to look at the day in which we live from a different point of view.  Much of our political rhetoric and our verbal debates are based on the past (such as the terms capitalism or freedom).  Most of our arguments are based on the past to the point we have trouble seeing the present.  For those who have a hard time embracing the view I have presented, I would simply ask one simple question–Have we improved our charity and love for the poor and all mankind, or is it diminishing?

The Candy Bomber

Last night in hopes of avoiding an extra half hour of propaganda that some people call the news, I decided to try BYUTV, hoping for a scripture discussion or something uplifting.  What I got was a homerun–a documentary on The Candy Bomber, which was a story I had never heard before.

Gail Halvorsen, a native of Salt Lake City, was a pilot during the Berlin Airlift.  Walking near the airfield one day, he gave a couple pieces of gum to a group of kids who were clearly underfed and low on hope.  He was touched as he watched them carefully divide the gum as far as they could and then share the wrappers so kids who didn’t get any could smell the wonderful smell.  He promised to drop them some candy next time he flew over.  When asked how they would know which plane was his, he said he would wiggle his wings as he flew over.  On his next flight, he collected all the chewing gum and candy bars from his crew and, without permission, dropped them to the kids by a small parachute.

They kept doing this and the operation grew until the commanding officer heard of it and did some investigating.  After lecturing Halvorsen on keeping him informed, he approved of what they were doing and helped it expand.  Soon, candy companies from the United States were donating large amounts of candy and chocolate to be dropped to the children in Berlin.  Halvorsen, now in his nineties, still returns to Berlin quite often to speak at schools and meet friends who were given hope by his simple actions.

I think this story is all the better because only a few years before, Germany was a bitter enemy.  Sometimes we don’t realize what a far-reaching effect our actions can have.  I have written before about my belief that we can’t create good by doing bad.  I believe the reverse principle is also true–we can’t do good without creating good.  We don’t always see the great things our good actions do, but I believe they are never insignificant.  How much better would the world be if we learned the lesson of Gail Halvorsen and loved our enemies and did the little things that would help our brothers on their way?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gail_Halvorsen