About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

Nearly every LDS prophet has spoken out against statism

Some readers may have had the frustrating experience of speaking about politics to our brothers and sisters who mistakenly believe in left-wing politics and/or economics. You may say something like, “well, you know that Church leaders have spoken out against socialism,” and they will say something like, “well, not democratic socialism.”

Let us be clear, dear readers: most Socialists of the 19th century and the early 20th century would be absolutely ecstatic to see what left-wingers have achieved, even in the supposedly capitalist United States. The United States today is a country where the government absolutely dominates the economy. Social welfare spending (meaning spending on government health care, Social Security and entitlements) makes up nearly 60 percent of the federal budget. Remember that there was no such thing as federal social welfare spending as recently as the early 1930s. Meanwhile, total government spending has skyrocketed from 8 percent of GDP in 1900 to almost 40 percent today.

By any reasonable standard, we are have a socialist system in the United States with pockets of laissez faire in a few isolated industries. Yet, we constantly hear from politicians that more socialism is necessary.

Oh sorry, not socialism. Democratic socialism.

So, let’s be more precise. What we have today is, again by any reasonable standard, statism. This is a system where the government dominates political and economic life.

And this is the opposite of what modern-day prophets have repeatedly preached going back to Joseph Smith. LDS prophets have consistently and unwaveringly been in favor of personal, voluntary charity. They have been against government-based welfare systems. And the reason is that government-based welfare systems are about force.

Again and again, prophets exhort us to voluntarily give to others, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and help the helpless. They do not tell us that the government should do this for us, and in fact again and again they say that government-based charity is not God’s way.

(Note: if you still believe the United Order was a socialist system, please read this. It was not.)

Let’s hear from the left-wing favorite, President Uchtdorf, who spoke on this subject at General Conference in October 2011. President Uchtdorf clearly points out that caring for the poor is not about government sending people a check. Caring for the poor is about personal charity that involves action by both the giver and the receiver:

There are many good people and organizations in the world that are trying to meet the pressing needs of the poor and needy everywhere. We are grateful for this, but the Lord’s way of caring for the needy is different from the world’s way. The Lord has said, “It must needs be done in mine own way.”9 He is not only interested in our immediate needs; He is also concerned about our eternal progression. For this reason, the Lord’s way has always included self-reliance and service to our neighbor in addition to caring for the poor.

Let’s hear from some other prophets on the issue of statism:

Continue reading

Give Mormon apologists a break

Spending any time at all on social media can rapidly distort your sense of reality when it comes to what most Mormons believe. We often forget that more than half of Mormons live outside of the United States and that almost none of these people care about the petty concerns of the various factions out there. In my relatively conservative ward in rural northern Colorado, most people don’t follow any of the blog-based battles. Most people are simply too busy getting kids to and from school and various events, as well as doing their callings and trying to find time to go to the temple, to worry about the latest outrage fest.

But every once in a while I follow some on-line conversation down the rabbit hole and end up shaking my head at the angst among various factions. And apparently — unbeknownst to me — there are a LOT of liberal Mormons who hate Mormon apologists. And I am not talking about slight disagreements — I am talking about real hatred (at least in their on-line expressions).

I am not going to defend everything ever Mormon has ever done in the apologetics world. I am sure there are mistakes and exaggerations out there.

But I will defend my vision of the importance of apologetics, and it is really quite simple: Satan is happy to use deception to convince people not to be religious and not to believe in the Church. Good apologists simply point out the deception and provide another way of looking at things that supports a faithful point of view.

So imagine you were on the Sanhedrin when Christ was brought up for trial (see Matthew 26:57-67). The accusers were looking for false witnesses. I see apologists as the people willing to stand up and point out the deceptions going on. I see the apologists as those willing to point out all of the good things Jesus did. I see the apologists as those willing to protest a nighttime, unjust trial. I see the apologists adding their testimonies that Jesus is the Christ. What could possibly be wrong with opposing injustice, false reports and outright lies?

Continue reading

Another high profile disciplinary council

Some readers may have heard that Jeremy Runnells has announced via a press release that he is facing a disciplinary council.

There are a few points I would like to make:

1)We would not know about this situation if he had not announced it in a press release. Church discipline is private.

2)When the council takes place, we will only hear one side of the story, i.e., Bro. Runnells’.

3)People who are truly interested in repentance usually do not make their disciplinary councils public through press releases. I have known people who faced a disciplinary council with an attitude of understanding and willingness to make changes. They have faced a loving, charitable process that has resulted in true positive progression in their lives. Bro. Runnells’ public statements show he is not interested in counsel from Church leaders.

4)Bro. Runnells’ claims in “Letter to a CES Director” have been thoroughly debunked point by point by FAIR Mormon.

5)Bro. Runnells’ claims had already been debunked by many sources when he wrote them, but he chose to ignore the existing scholarship.

If you have any friends who have been affected by Runnells’ letter, please ask them to read this:

http://en.fairmormon.org/Criticism_of_Mormonism/Online_documents/Letter_to_a_CES_Director

Bad news for Bernie Sanders supporters

If you are a Bernie Sanders supporter, I’ve got some bad news for you: nothing significant will change if your guy gets elected.

Here is the simple reality of the American political system: it was designed to prevent significant change. We have three branches of government intended to check and balance each other. We have states intended to check and balance the federal government.

There are only three real areas where presidents can effect significant change: 1)foreign policy 2)judicial appointees and 3)the bully pulpit. Bernie is only likely to bring change in the latter two areas. So, if you are content to have a lot more left-wing judges and a lot more talk about inequality and social justice — but not much actual action — then by all means “Feel the Bern.” But don’t come complaining to me three years from now when nothing else has changed. I will just remind you of this post, and I will point out that Hillary Clinton probably would have given you the same judges.

If you want to claim that the Obama presidency brought change, I would point to two “accomplishments” of note: the disastrous Obamacare bill and the worthless Dodd-Frank bill. Yes, these were two significant pieces of legislation, but remember they took place when Obama had a Democratic House AND a filibuster-proof Senate. There are no scenarios where Bernie enjoys a Dem House and Senate.

So, let’s say Bernie wins in 2016. He will face a Republican House galvanized more than ever to stop his brand of Socialism. The Senate will probably be won by the Democrats, but probably with 51 to 53 Democrats at most. And then come the 2018 elections, which are likely to resemble, more than anything else, the shellacking that Obama suffered in 2010. This is simply a reality that nearly all presidents in recent U.S. history have faced: off-year elections are usually punishing for presidents, and this happened to Obama in 2010 and 2014, and it will almost certainly happen to Bernie.

Meanwhile, Republicans have made huge gains on the local level. I urge you to read this article if you still think the Obama presidency was all awesome and stuff for Democrats.

The shift in party affiliation over the past seven years is absolutely incredible. In 2008, there were 35(!) states that were either solidly or leaning Democratic, five solid or leaning Republican and 10 judged as competitive. The following year there were 33 Democratic states, 12 competitive states and, still, five Republican ones.

From 2008 to 2015, Democrats went from a 30-state lead to a six-state deficit when it comes to states solidly or leaning their way on party affiliation. That is simply stunning.

Gallup’s findings are in keeping with what I think is the most under-told story of the Obama years: Republicans have made massive gains at virtually every level of government other than, of course, the White House.

Republicans have their largest House majority since World War II, having retaken the majority in the 2010 election. They hold a four-seat majority in the Senate, having seized control of the world’s greatest deliberative body in the 2014 midterms.

At the state level, Republicans have 31 governorships — almost two-thirds of all the governor’s mansions in the country. Republicans are even more dominant at the state legislative level; the GOP holds total control over 30 of the 50 states’ legislatures and has partial control in another eight states — meaning that more than three-quarters of the country’s state legislatures are controlled by the GOP.

Continue reading

About that claim of suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction

You may have heard the claim that there have been at least 32 suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction since the Church made the now well-known changes in the handbook.

I’d like to make a few comments about that claim.

First, and this should be obvious but it still bears repeating: every suicide is a tragedy, for the person and for the person’s family. I agree with the Church spokesman who said that every soul is precious to God and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking.

But second, the people who are trumpeting the claims are well-established critics of the Church who are reporting from people they claim have talked to them privately. No independent confirmation of these numbers has taken place. You, dear reader, can choose to believe what you want, but based on my life’s experience, I simply don’t believe that these people are telling the truth. Given the ghoulish way that they are glorying in their claims (which in their minds confirm their opinion that the Church is bad, bad, BAD), is it beyond the pale to believe that they have simply made things up? I think not.

None other than the Salt Lake Tribune, always anxious to find ways to criticize the Church, went looking for information to corroborate the claim of “32 suicides.” But, in a strange twist, actual journalism took place at the Tribune, and they were forced to report that there is no evidence of that many of suicides:

Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”

In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.

“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”

Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”

But third, the people involved ignore the obvious reality that suicide is a complex psychological problem that simply cannot be attributed to one cause in a person’s life. It might be instructive to read this post.

Do you realize that by no research or academic standard would a simple causal factor be seen as responsible for any given suicide – even those that appear to have an obvious instigator (see below). That may be the one thing that everyone in the suicide literature actually agrees on: taking a life is an inherently complex matter (even when it seems simple).

Continue reading