About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

Outrage, virtue signaling and the Sermon on the Mount

I remember with special clarity the moment I accepted Christianity.  I was in my 30s and I was reading the Bible all the way through for the first time.  And I came to this passage:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (NIV version Matthew 6:1-4).

For various reasons, this is what I needed to read at that time.  Over the next few days, I read and re-read the Sermon on the Mount, and it just seemed true to me in ways unlike anything else I had ever read.  And imagine my surprise when I finally read the Book of Mormon that the Savior also rehearsed the Sermon on the Mount to the people in the Americas.

I now, almost two decades later, have a printed out copy of the Sermon on the Mount on my desk that I read all the time.  I find it comforting and encouraging.

But I also am constantly reminded how often our modern-day culture seems to directly contradict the advice in the Sermon on the Mount.  The tone of forgiveness, gentle discussion, sincerity and lack of guile seems to be the exact opposite of the behavior of so many people today.  This especially applies to our outrage culture, which I find linked at the hip to the evil of virtue signaling.

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Mercedes-Benz is against Church values?

There is a small but very interesting controversy involving a street name change in the Atlanta, George area.  Mercedes-Benz USA, which is investing in Atlanta, wants to change a street name to “Mercedes-Benz Drive.”  The Church opposes this, according to local Church “spokesperson” Bill Maycock.

The Mormon church will oppose the renaming of Barfield Road to Mercedes-Benz Drive, which goes before the City Council on March 7, according to metro Atlanta church spokesperson Bill Maycock. He called for a separation of church and brand.

 

“The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for prestige and luxury and class status and all that sort of thing,” Maycock said. “In the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the church, we don’t do any of that…It’s not what the Atlanta Temple is. It’s not what the Atlanta Temple teaches its members.”

 

MBUSA met with church leaders, but is driving ahead, according to company spokesperson Donna Boland.

“We don’t feel that the road renaming has an adverse impact or implication on church beliefs, but understand if the church feels it must voice its disagreement to the city,” Boland wrote in an email. “We are focused on being a valued member of the Sandy Springs community and hopefully that will be a more important factor than what this particular road is called.”

 

The road is currently called Barfield in honor of an old farming family, several members of whom also opposed the renaming idea when it was announced in late 2015. The proposal went quiet for over a year due to the controversy, but is back now that construction on the new headquarters at Abernathy and Barfield roads is underway.

 

MBUSA, which is relocating to Sandy Springs from New Jersey, said it has a 40-year “tradition” of naming streets around its facilities for the company. German-based Mercedes-Benz is known for using its name in branding, including recently purchasing the naming rights of Atlanta’s new football and soccer stadium.

The story continues:

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Trump again says he wants the repeal of the Johnson amendment, which restricts politicking at church

During his campaign, Donald Trump said several times that he is against the Johnson Amendment.  This amendment, approved in 1954, takes away the tax exempt status of churches involved in politics and lobbying.

To be more precise, this story describes the Johnson amendment more fully:

Proposed by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (D-TX) and passed by Congress in 1954, the law prohibits tax-exempt organizations—including churches and other nonprofits—from lobbying elected officials, campaigning on behalf of a political party, and supporting or opposing candidates for office. Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code bestows tax-exempt status upon nonprofit groups as long as they don’t “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for office.” (The “in opposition to” clause was added in 1986.)

The Johnson Amendment is now applied most scrupulously to churches and faith-based organizations, which are barred from translating their community organizing into political activism of any kind. A Southern Baptist congregation opposed to abortion, for example, is prohibited from explicitly supporting a pro-life Republican running for Congress solely because of the church’s nonprofit status.

Through the Johnson Amendment, the Internal Revenue Service exercises the power to stifle a religious organization’s right to free speech. In effect, an evangelical pastor, Orthodox rabbi, Muslim imam, or Catholic priest who wishes to urge support for a religious freedom bill or oppose Obamacare’s contraception mandate can be muzzled under federal law.

The suppressive nature of the Johnson Amendment can be traced to its origins in the 1950s—a period that the Left usually condemns as “conformist” and hostile to free speech — and Lyndon Baines Johnson, a man criticized for his low political morals. Running for re-election in 1954, then-Sen. Johnson faced a difficult challenge from his Democratic primary opponent, Dudley Dougherty, who received backing from two conservative nonprofit groups in Texas. The nonprofits churned out campaign materials calling for the election of Dougherty — much to the chagrin of Johnson. Shortly thereafter, the Texas senator urged Congress to take up a proposed change to the U.S. tax code that would prohibit outside groups—like those supporting his primary opponent—from political organizing. Aimed at punishing Sen. Johnson’s enemies, the Johnson Amendment now applies to a wide range of nonprofit organizations, including churches.

At the National Prayer Breakfast today, Trump reaffirmed he wants to “totally destroy” the Johnson amendment.  What that really means, I guess, is that he wants Congress to pass a law overturning the Johnson amendment, and he will sign it.

I think there are advantages and disadvantages to the Johnson amendment for churches.

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A non-hysterical response to the Trump refugee ban

(Warning: this post will present many different viewpoints on a complex issue.)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clearly wants its members to have charity for refugees.

Go to lds.org.  Put in the word “refugees” in a search.  87 stories came up emphasizing the importance of Christ-like love and support for refugees.

Take a look here.

In my stake in Colorado, the stake presidency has emphasized creating welcome baskets for any refugees in our area.  The Church has put out two statements in the last 13 months asking members to have charity for refugees.

And then there is this video from Elder Uchtdorf:

I think it is impossible to watch this video and not feel heartbreak for refugees.

Now having said all this, I have seen a very large number of normally reasonable people go   over the edge on Trump’s refugee ban.   Way too many people are reacting with hysteria, scorn and hatred.   Don’t get me wrong: you can oppose the steps taken by Trump.  You can march and hold peaceful protests.  But it is a sure sign you are being motivated by the wrong forces if you respond with outrage and anger.

Meanwhile, there are some things to consider.

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Church issues statement on refugees

I quote from this Deseret News story:

Amid the controversy swirling around President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim countries, the LDS Church issued a statement late Saturday night urging solutions that relieve refugee suffering.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth,” the statement said, “with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war and religious persecution. The church urges all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering.”

On Friday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order that suspended the U.S. refugee resettlement program for four months. It also cut the number of refugees the United States will accept this year to 50,000, down from the 110,000 set by President Barack Obama.

A federal judge blocked part of the order on Saturday.

The order barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry to anyone from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. The State Department said those countries are seven predominantly Muslim nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

That led religious faiths throughout the United States to voice concerns about religious freedom.

This is the second time the LDS Church has responded to Trump’s calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a strong statement in December 2015 soon after Trump on the campaign trail called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States.

Like Saturday’s statement, the December 2015 statement did not name Trump or refer specifically to the controversy, but it said that while the faith is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns, “it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom.”