The Founders, the Constitution, and the Plan of Salvation

This weekend, the nation celebrated Constitution Day in honor of the ratification of that divinely inspired charter of liberty. For members of the Church in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and parts of Maryland, this was a particularly auspicious weekend to celebrate. After a lengthy open house, the Philadelphia temple was dedicated today.

In light of the hallowed history of this great city, Elder Christofferson and President Eyring during the dedicatory sessions both reflected on the founding and its role in the restoration. Elder Christofferson in particular linked the events that took place in Philadelphia from 1776 to 1789 to the unfolding of the restoration in a profound fashion. He first mentioned that the truths contained in the declaration of independence were “central to the plan of salvation.” Then, he emphasized that had there been no constitution, there also would have been no restoration.

President Eyring then acknowledged the likely presence of many of those founders in the temple today. He reflected on their appearance in the St. George temple petitioning for their ordinances to be performed, and joked that they now likely “qualified for a temple recommend.”  As he said this, I felt a special spirit echoing the truth of his words. I knew that these men had fought for godly ideals and that they were now cheering the construction and dedication of this great temple.  President Eyring prayed that those ideals and liberties would be secured and that the United states could continue to be a bastion for freedom and a stronghold for the Church.

I loved these remarks. The ideals of the declaration truly are part of God’s plan of salvation as Elder Christofferson suggested: In particular, the equality of all men (and women) in the sight of God, the idea that we have unalienable and God given rights, and the ideal that government is based on the consent of the governed. These were radical truths when put to paper hundreds of years ago. They remain radical today. But they are also eternal truths that predate this Republic or even republican governance on the earth.

It is fitting that a portrait of the great men from the constitutional convention stands at the entrance to the temple. Though they were imperfect, these men designed a perfectible system which grabbed hold of eternal and perfect truths. I am grateful for them and for their efforts.

Striker: History of a Definition

Ladies tailors strikers

[Textile Workers in 1909 embodying the 4th definition of “striker”]

This past June/July, I spent a couple of weeks hanging out over at another LDS-themed website. I had been induced to visit this other site because I became aware my name was being used in vain.

I learned a few useful things as a result of that interaction, because some of those participating in that forum had knowledge I did not yet have. They didn’t cause me to question any of my primary theses regarding Nauvoo events, but they did make me wonder about my use of the term “striker” to describe the seducers who were telling women it was acceptable to participate in illicit intercourse. The strident critics on that other site claimed I was entirely wrong in the use of this one word. They pulled up various citations from the mid 1800s that indicated “striker” was a term that seemed to convey the idea of political activism. So I was planning to remove the term “striker” from a future update of my book, Reluctant Polygamist.

Luckily, I hadn’t gotten around to excising “striker” from my book. It turns out the term means what I thought it meant, and the word would have been even more upsetting and pertinent than I realized. Continue reading

Harry Reid is still lying about Mitt Romney’s taxes — and he is still proud of it

This article from yesterday’s Washington Post has to be read to be believed.

One of the strangest incidents of the 2012 presidential campaign was when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid accused then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of having not paid any taxes over the past decade. That Reid made that allegation from the floor of the Senate made it even odder.

The problem with Reid’s allegation? It’s just not true. We know that, at least in 2011 and 2010, Romney did pay taxes. How do we know that? Because Romney released his tax returns for those years. In 2011, Romney paid $1.9 million in taxesin 2010, he paid slightly more than $3 million in taxes.

Our own Fact Checker gave Reid Four Pinocchios for his “no taxes” claimPolitiFact gave the claim a “Pants on Fire” rating.

Yet Reid (D-Nev.) not only refuses to retract the allegation but also seems to take great pride in it. When pressed by CNN’s Dana Bash last year about continuing to defend a statement that is not true, Reid responded, “Romney didn’t win, did he?

Now, in a new interview with WaPo’s Ben Terris, Reid echoes those sentiments. Here’s Reid’s full response to Ben’s question about the Romney attack:

People bring that up, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Why? Because I knew what he had done was not be transparent and forthright about his taxes and to this day he hasn’t released his tax returns. … Did I want to do that? No. I had the information, I tried to get somebody else to do it. I tried to get somebody in the Obama ‘reelect,’ I tried to get one of the senators, I tried to get one of the outside groups, but nobody would do it. So I did it. And with that, like everything, I think in life, here’s something I learned from my father, if you’re going to do something, don’t do it half-assed, don’t play around. With the Mitt Romney stuff, I didn’t play around. …

Again, to be clear, Reid is just wrong. Romney didn’t release all 10 years of his tax returns but the returns he did release showed that he paid taxes. If a small part of an allegation is accurate but the main thrust of it isn’t, that doesn’t make the whole thing true.

Continue reading

Not Simply a Mass Delusion

University of Utah Professor Gregory A. Clark wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune attacking organized religion generally and the Catholic Church’s decision to elevate Mother Theresa to Sainthood. Reading his anti-religious screed brought back memories of arguments that I once embraced as an atheist. In particular, Professor Clark argues that God either does not exist or he is a cruel being not worthy of worship.

“Apparently, Mother Teresa hates amputees. Either that, or God does. He’ll routinely regrow limbs for salamanders. But for people? Meh. Not so much.

Primitive superstitious beliefs are not reason to rejoice. Mass self-delusion is not reason to rejoice. Rejecting reality is not reason to rejoice.

They are reason to mourn.”

The problem of theodicy or the existence of evil continues to confront and challenge religion. It is difficult to explain how God can allow human suffering—and even worse, this suffering is selective and inconsistent. Prayers seem to be arbitrarily answered or ignored.

But I wish Professor Clark could open his heart to the teachings of the restored Gospel. So many of the doctrines of the restoration address these very same concerns. In light of our knowledge of the plan of salvation, the love of God can be reconciled with the suffering that we witness in this life. Continue reading