Why you should have more sympathy for protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson

The chaotic protests and looting in Ferguson last year and Baltimore in the last week have created understandable concern about the rule of law in these cities and elsewhere.

Who cannot help but admire the mother who disciplined her teenaged son who she thought was throwing rocks at police?

This mother’s actions seem to show that 1)the people protesting are misguided thugs and 2)all that is needed is a bit of discipline to get things under control.

Such a reaction is understandable but unfortunately ignores the realities of the lives of people in Ferguson and Baltimore and their interactions with the government. Once you begin to dig down into how police and local government have, for years, oppressed the people in Baltimore and Ferguson, you cannot help but feel some sympathy for residents there.

Let me put it to you this way: if you lived in the poorer parts of Ferguson or inner-city Baltimore, chances are you would feel helpless and angry at the police and the government too. Would you riot? Perhaps not, but you would at least understand why other people are protesting.

Before going on, let’s remember how the United States was founded. It was a violent revolution against an oppressive government. History shows clearly that the British government was considerably less oppressive to the majority of people in the colonies than the police and local governments of Ferguson and Baltimore today. It is simply a fact that the vast majority of colonists never had to deal with a British government official. If you were a landowner in Connecticut or New York or Virginia, you might go your entire life without ever seeing a British “oppressor.”

So, why did the colonists rebel? Because of taxes (which were ridiculously low compared to today) and because the British government was denying basic rights to people in the Americas that were granted, for the most part, to people in England. It is true that colonists read about and heard about oppression of other people, but the vast majority of white colonists never suffered any oppression from government themselves. (It is worth remembering that the situation was obviously different for the slaves).

Yet, in an environment of relatively light tyranny, the colonists nevertheless wrote founding documents expressly intended to limit and control police power. The colonists recognized that they had unusual liberty, and they wanted to protect and enlarge liberty for future generations.

Do the people of Ferguson and Baltimore have liberty today? No, they do not.

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The time I got politically involved

ConstitutionI’m going to think out loud here and invite you all to listen in.

Really, I’m just a stay-at-home-mom, who likes to write in her spare time and watch cheesy romantic comedies on Netflix. I go to Church, serve, and try to do my best. Most days my kids eat me for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I’m actually ok with that, because that’s what I signed up for. I follow the news, the issues and try to stay informed. I vote, write letters to the editor, my congressman and city councilors.

But then a few months ago, I found myself standing at a “line in the sand”. My line in the sand. And like Rev Tevya I couldn’t be bent any more without breaking. The particular issue is not important for this post, but I decided to get involved. In a matter of weeks, I found myself starting and managing a social media campaign about this issue, inviting people to join, researching, reading, writing about this issue, attending City Council meetings, and trying to find people willing to get involved. Continue reading

Wives of Joseph Smith

Over the course of 2015 I will be blogging about the various women believed to have covenanted with Joseph Smith. For each I will provide biographical background, along with what, if anything, is known of her life after Joseph’s death.

In evaluating allegations that women were “married” to Joseph Smith, it is important to establish what constitutes sufficient evidence that a woman should be listed as a “wife.” I have come up with the following “tells” that can give us a high-level view of the women whose names are associated with Mormon founder, Joseph Smith. The first four attributes speak to whether or not a marriage occurred. The second four attributes speak to what may have motivated the marriage and what the marriage meant to the woman after Joseph’s death.

Bride   Did reliable contemporaries consider the woman a wife?
ManWoman  Are details of the alleged marriage known?
intercourse   Was the marriage said to be sexually consummated?
baby    Is it said Joseph Smith had a child with the wife?
marriage   Was the woman sealed to Joseph after his death?
temple   Did the woman go to Utah after Joseph’s death?
vision   Was the marriage a subject of prophecy?
dynasty Did the marriage “bind” Joseph to important people?

In some cases, the woman died before she could have achieved the milestones of being sealed to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo temple or traveling to Deseret with the Saints.

RIP The woman died before she could have achieved this milestone

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Learning in the Light of the Gospel and BYU Law School

Robert P. George spoke at the BYU Commencement Ceremony this week where he was given an honorary degree as a doctor of law and moral values. You can watch the whole ceremony here, and read the text here.

George is a well-known conservative author who has written prolifically about religion, morality, and the institution of marriage. He is a powerful voice in favor of a continued role of religion in the public sphere. At his remarks today at BYU, he focused on a message that I thought was both prescient and powerful. He specifically spoke about the purpose of religious institutions of higher education such as BYU and the unique function they serve. While universities more broadly were once focused on teaching and communicating values, today even once nominally religious universities have fully embraced the secular ethos.

George identified four purposes for a university: Continue reading

Joseph’s Wives: Emma Hale

From December 2013 to August 2014 I wrote a series of posts on a Faithful Joseph, tracing a plausible history in which Joseph Smith didn’t keep his wife Emma in the dark, and rarely, if ever, engaged in sexual activity with the women he would covenant with.

This is the first post in the series Joseph’s Wives, describing each of the women believed to have been Joseph’s wife based on information from reliable contemporary witnesses. Of these, the first and most important to understand is Emma Hale. I have identified several “tells” which I plan to assess for each wife:

  • Are there substantiating details that contemporaries considered the woman a wife?
  • Are details of the alleged marriage during Joseph’s lifetime known?
  • Is there an indication that the marriage was sexually consummated?
  • Is it reported one or more children was engendered by Joseph Smith with the wife?
  • Is there a record that the wife was sealed to Joseph after his death?
  • Did the reported wife embrace Joseph’s teachings regarding covenant marriage after his death?
  • Was the marriage a subject of prophecy?
  • Did the marriage serve to “bind” Joseph to important families, so-called dynastic marriages?

The result will be a visual summary which can be used to assess the nature of Joseph’s marriages over the period of his lifetime. This visual summary and links to the posts describing the individual women will be posted separately.

Any discussion of Joseph’s wives must include Emma Hale, Joseph’s only legal wife, the only wife Joseph publicly acknowledged during his lifetime. Continue reading