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.

The Great Separation

I attended my ward’s last Boy Scout Court of Honor this week.  It was a somber event for me.  Two of my sons received merit badges, and one young man was honored as an Eagle Scout. These were of course pleasant things to observe, but I kept on thinking about how the Scouts represented a simpler time, a time when there was nothing controversial about honoring God and being morally straight.

There is a Portuguese noun called “saudades,” which means you miss something or long for something so much that it hurts.  I have saudades for that America, the America of my youth that has been lost for so many people.

And then a frightening thought hit me:  the end of the Scouts for my ward also means that my young men are set free from the structure of the Scouts.  Now they are supposed to set their own goals.   By the end of January, my sons will have set their goals, and it will be interesting to see how many of those goals are kept.

But here is another frightening part:  my sons have two parents active in the Church and a lot of support from an excellent ward. What happens to the young men and young women who do not have that support for one reason or another?

The Church is going through a revolution of sorts.  President Nelson’s many, many reforms are, to be clear, welcome.  I consider them inspired, and I believe they will have consequences over the long term that are overwhelmingly positive for members of the Church.  But in the meantime, there will be a lot of questions and concerns, as always happens whenever we are faced with rapid change.

Members are increasingly responsible for their own learning and their own testimonies.  In a home centered and Church supported environment, the onus is put on the members to do homework at home.  You cannot rely on a gospel doctrine teacher or somebody else in the ward to tell you about the doctrine and Church history– you need to research it yourself. 

The Church has always promoted personal responsibility and self-fulfillment.  That is part of the reason I wrote this post back in 2014.  It is simply a cop out to spend your time complaining that the Church didn’t teach you certain things.  At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own Gospel learning and your own reaction to new revelations about Church history.

But this is even more true now.  You are responsible for ministering to those in need on your own without having to report monthly.   (Yes, you should have regular talks  with EQ leadership, but that is not the same thing as monthly reports and puts more responsibility on you to do the work without being pushed by leadership).  You are responsible for discussing Gospel topics on a nearly daily basis with your family through the Come Follow Me program. And young men and young women will have even more responsibility in their quorums to act on their own without leaders prodding them into action.

When you add it all up, this means much more individual stewardship.  And it means that you are more and more responsible to work out your own salvation.

As a student of Church history, I think back to the Saints in Nauvoo right after Joseph Smith died. It must have been a trying and frightening time.  Brigham Young was asking them to make a perilous journey across dangerous territory to move to a barren desert surrounded by cold mountains.  The Saints were literally leaving the United States to move to uncharted territory.  Some people stayed in Illinois with Emma Smith and Joseph Smith III.   But others followed the new Church leadership.

It was a great separation. One group was following the new prophet of God and others were not.  We are in a time like that now:  members can either follow the inspired Prophet of our time, President Nelson, or they can head down “broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” (1 Nephi 12:17). To be clear: I am NOT saying that all of the people who don’t study Come Follow Me will be lost. I don’t know their hearts, and I don’t know all of their circumstances. The judgement is ultimately up to Heavenly Father.

But I am saying that all of the changes going on in the last few years provide additional responsibilities for Latter-day Saints to study and pray on their own and not rely on Church leaders or teachers to provide all of the answers. Others times had other challenges. Church members in the 1830s and 1840s suffered persecution and violence that we do not, in general, suffer today. This persecution caused many of the elect to leave the Church. One of our challenges today is to do more study at home, relying on Church materials for support.

The good news is that there are many people in your wards and stakes who will help you along this journey.   If you feel you need additional help, go to your EQ presidency or your Relief Society president or your Sunday School presidency. They are certain to help answer any questions you may have.

And here is a personal experience:   the program is already working.  In my family, the regular discussion of the Gospel through Come Follow Me has been a great blessing.  All of us are pondering the scriptures and their meanings more than ever, and we are doing it at home with the help of Church material.  Discussions can be very deep, and even our nine-year-old spends time pondering out loud the mysteries of existence and how the plan of happiness makes it all more understandable.

So it is a scary time, but also an exciting time.  I cannot help but feel that Church leadership sees that our testimonies must be strengthened for the times to come.  There are new dangers on the horizon but also new opportunities for learning and love.

It is a great thing to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ.

Should the church reconsider its policy against concealed weapons?

Many readers will have heard by now about the Texas church shooting. Here is a picture that I found very eerie because it could have easily taken place in an LDS chapel (although it didn’t — the church involved was not LDS):

To summarize, a man wearing a tench coat entered a Texas church with a shotgun hidden in his coat. The man shot an usher, shot another man and was killed by two members of the congregation who pulled out guns and shot him. The two people shot by the guy in the trench coat died. It should be noted that several other members of the congregation also pulled out their guns right after the shooting and adopted defensive postures to take on the gunman. Guns in church are legal in Texas because of a recent change in the law. The shooters who killed the gunman saved countless lives. As you can see from the picture above, the congregants were sitting ducks who could have been massacred by the gunman.

LDS church policy in Handbook 2 states:

21.2.4

Firearms

Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. With the exception of current law enforcement officers, the carrying of lethal weapons on Church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited.

I have seen some reports that indicate the handbook policy was actually changed in August 2019 to make the policy against guns more stringent. It is worth noting that in September 2018 a church member with a concealed carry permit accidentally discharged his gun in a meetinghouse in Provo, Utah. This accident may have had something to do with the 2019 policy change.

But given that church shooting in Texas — in which people with concealed carry permits saved countless lives, perhaps the Church will consider changing its policy again. This post is intended to politely discuss this issue.

Please note: we at M* do not believe it is our job to counsel the Brethren on Church policy. We do not criticize Church leaders on this policy or any other policy. We believe the Church is led by revelation and that Church leaders receive that revelation. The purpose of this post is, therefore, not to complain but instead to provide a forum for members to present their opinions.

Possible arguments in favor of allowing concealed carry at Church

1)Concealed carry at an LDS church should only be considered in states and countries where concealed carry at church is legal, as it is in Texas. It is worth noting that this means concealed carry would still not be legal in most countries and even in some U.S. states. So, this question only applies to a few locales, not the entire world.

2)Concealed carry permits involve taking safety and training classes. The people with these permits are among the safest gun owners in the world because of this training.

3)The number of guns in the United States continues to climb. I have seen estimates that there are between 300 million and 400 million gun in the U.S. Meanwhile, the homicide rate has gone down. (See the below chart).

With so many guns in the United States, and so many crazy and/or over-politicized people out there, it is reasonable to believe that LDS churches may suffer attacks by shooters.

4)Please do not come on this blog and make inane arguments about gun control. You can take those arguments to other blogs where people believe in unicorns and the tooth fairy. The fact remains that the United States has a constitutional protection for gun ownership, and that will not change anytime soon. There are at least 300 million guns in the United States, and they will not magically disappear because you want them to. In a Zion world there would be no guns (in my opinion), but we don’t live in Zion, we live in a fallen world where bad guys can easily get guns. And as the chart above shows, the more people talk about gun control (under President Obama), the more guns people buy. Let’s deal with the facts as they are, not as we wish them to be. And this post is not about gun control — it is about Church policy towards concealed carry.

5)If bad guys are going to have guns (and they are), good guys with guns will be needed. If bad guys know that the Church is a gun free zone, they are more likely to target our chapels. Many of the most publicized mass shootings take place in gun free zones.

6)Lives will be saved if a concealed carry holder takes on a potential shooter at church.

Possible arguments in favor of continuing church policy as it is

1)The Church is concerned about all lethal weapons in a peaceful church setting. It does not help bring the Spirit to see people around you carrying weapons of any kind. The Church is about worshipping the Prince of Peace.

2)Guns, even those carried by people with conceal carry permits, will sometimes go off, even accidentally. Can you imagine the tragedy of somebody accidentally being killed by a person carrying a gun at church?

3)Guns are not compatible with a Zion society, and this is what we should be trying to create at church. Like it or not, some people are going to feel uncomfortable knowing other people at church are carrying guns.

4)If you favor guns at church, would you favor guns at a temple? I would not personally. Consider this question carefully while you consider whether you want guns in a chapel while the Sacrament is being served.

My take: I am honestly undecided on this issue. I own several guns for protection. I take them to the range once a year to shoot. I am against most gun control, and I favor the 2nd Amendment. It is simply a fact that many attacks take place in gun free zones. But on the other hand, I have tremendous sympathy for those who don’t want to see guns at church. It is also simply a fact that a gun carried by even the safest person can go off accidentally. And I would not want people to carry guns into the temple, so if I don’t want guns at the temple, why would I want them in a chapel? So I can see good arguments on both sides of this issue.

Here is your chance to sound off, but please, please, please don’t turn this into a debate on gun control. This is not the time or place.

Lots of good news

Latter-day prophets have usually been an optimistic group. Even though they see many negative trends in the world when it comes to moral behavior, they remain upbeat and positive.

“I am an optimist!” President Hinckley often declared. “My plea is that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.”

So, it is in this spirit of optimism that I bring you some great news from the world around us.

The United States is energy independent and CO2 emissions are going down

I urge you to read this story, which indicates energy production in the United States is WAY up, much higher than predicted just a decade ago. The United States, because of new technology, is producing twice as much oil as a decade ago, and we no longer need to import oil at all. Meanwhile, CO2 emissions are way down as energy companies switch to natural gas, rather than coal.

By the way, the increase in energy production has created 4 million new high-paying energy-related jobs in the last decade in the United States. So, very good news all around.

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist from 2010, wrote a fantastic article in the Spectator a few days ago detailing many recent positive trends:

Let nobody tell you that the second decade of the 21st century has been a bad time. We are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history. Extreme poverty has fallen below 10 per cent of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60 per cent when I was born. Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline…

…Perhaps one of the least fashionable predictions I made nine years ago was that ‘the ecological footprint of human activity is probably shrinking’ and ‘we are getting more sustainable, not less, in the way we use the planet’. That is to say: our population and economy would grow, but we’d learn how to reduce what we take from the planet. And so it has proved. An MIT scientist, Andrew McAfee, recently documented this in a book called More from Less, showing how some nations are beginning to use less stuff: less metal, less water, less land. Not just in proportion to productivity: less stuff overall.

This does not quite fit with what the Extinction Rebellion lot are telling us. But the next time you hear Sir David Attenborough say: ‘Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth on a planet with finite resources is either a madman or an economist’, ask him this: ‘But what if economic growth means using less stuff, not more?’ For example, a normal drink can today contains 13 grams of aluminium, much of it recycled. In 1959, it contained 85 grams. Substituting the former for the latter is a contribution to economic growth, but it reduces the resources consumed per drink.

As for Britain, our consumption of ‘stuff’ probably peaked around the turn of the century — an achievement that has gone almost entirely unnoticed. But the evidence is there. In 2011 Chris Goodall, an investor in electric vehicles, published research showing that the UK was now using not just relatively less ‘stuff’ every year, but absolutely less. Events have since vindicated his thesis. The quantity of all resources consumed per person in Britain (domestic extraction of biomass, metals, minerals and fossil fuels, plus imports minus exports) fell by a third between 2000 and 2017, from 12.5 tonnes to 8.5 tonnes. That’s a faster decline than the increase in the number of people, so it means fewer resources consumed overall.

If this doesn’t seem to make sense, then think about your own home. Mobile phones have the computing power of room-sized computers of the 1970s. I use mine instead of a camera, radio, torch, compass, map, calendar, watch, CD player, newspaper and pack of cards. LED light bulbs consume about a quarter as much electricity as incandescent bulbs for the same light. Modern buildings generally contain less steel and more of it is recycled. Offices are not yet paperless, but they use much less paper.

Even in cases when the use of stuff is not falling, it is rising more slowly than expected. For instance, experts in the 1970s forecast how much water the world would consume in the year 2000. In fact, the total usage that year was half as much as predicted. Not because there were fewer humans, but because human inventiveness allowed more efficient irrigation for agriculture, the biggest user of water.

Until recently, most economists assumed that these improvements were almost always in vain, because of rebound effects: if you cut the cost of something, people would just use more of it. Make lights less energy-hungry and people leave them on for longer. This is known as the Jevons paradox, after the 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons, who first described it. But Andrew McAfee argues that the Jevons paradox doesn’t hold up. Suppose you switch from incandescent to LED bulbs in your house and save about three-quarters of your electricity bill for lighting. You might leave more lights on for longer, but surely not four times as long.

Efficiencies in agriculture mean the world is now approaching ‘peak farmland’ — despite the growing number of people and their demand for more and better food, the productivity of agriculture is rising so fast that human needs can be supplied by a shrinking amount of land. In 2012, Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and his colleagues argued that, thanks to modern technology, we use 65 per cent less land to produce a given quantity of food compared with 50 years ago. By 2050, it’s estimated that an area the size of India will have been released from the plough and the cow.

Land-sparing is the reason that forests are expanding, especially in rich countries. In 2006 Ausubel worked out that no reasonably wealthy country had a falling stock of forest, in terms of both tree density and acreage. Large animals are returning in abundance in rich countries; populations of wolves, deer, beavers, lynx, seals, sea eagles and bald eagles are all increasing; and now even tiger numbers are slowly climbing.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic is that Britain is using steadily less energy. John Constable of the Global Warming Policy Forum points out that although the UK’s economy has almost trebled in size since 1970, and our population is up by 20 per cent, total primary inland energy consumption has actually fallen by almost 10 per cent. Much of that decline has happened in recent years. This is not necessarily good news, Constable argues: although the improving energy efficiency of light bulbs, aeroplanes and cars is part of the story, it also means we are importing more embedded energy in products, having driven much of our steel, aluminium and chemical industries abroad with some of the highest energy prices for industry in the world.,,

As we enter the third decade of this century, I’ll make a prediction: by the end of it, we will see less poverty, less child mortality, less land devoted to agriculture in the world. There will be more tigers, whales, forests and nature reserves. Britons will be richer, and each of us will use fewer resources. The global political future may be uncertain, but the environmental and technological trends are pretty clear — and pointing in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the world is suffering through fewer and less deadly wars. Although the United States is unfortunately involved in many conflicts all around the globe, the reality is that we have not seen the types of massive wars that shook the globe for many decades. Recent figures show a significant decline in deaths from war over the last half century or so.

Coming back to the United States, I am happy to report that the abortion rate in our country is the lowest it has been since abortion became legally nationwide in 1973. You can read more about that here. Meanwhile, the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it has been perhaps ever in the history of the United States.

To be clear, there are very worrisome trends that I and many other Latter-day Saints see around the world. Anybody who has read this blog over the years knows I am far from a Polyanna. But today is Christmas Eve, so let’s celebrate the many good things going on in the world and be optimists like President Hinckley. At least for a day or two.

The real impeachable offense

On the same day that Nancy Pelosi announced the U.S. House of Representatives would proceed with impeachment against President Trump, the Wall Street Journal reported that the president is considering sending 14,000 more troops to the Middle East. This is on the top of thousands that have already been sent to the region in the last year, and the endless wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa.

Pelosi claims she is protecting the Constitution, but President Trump’s call to Ukraine is not illegal and therefore is not even close to a “high crime and misdemeanor.” The Democratic impeachment theater is a complete sham, and nobody should support it.

What we should support, however, is a massive change in U.S. foreign policy, and unfortunately Trump is going back on his many, many promises to get us out of foreign wars. If he goes through with another large troop deployment, he will completely erase all of the good he has done speaking out against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Trump gets credit for pulling troops out of Syria (something Hillary Clinton never would have done), but many of the troops were simply sent to Iraq.

The U.S. Constitution says in the most clear terms possible that Congress has the responsibility for declaring war. No war has ever been declared in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the Middle East. All of the troop deployments in that region are unconstitutional. Bush should have been impeached for sending troops there without a declaration of war, and Obama should have been impeached as well. And I would support the impeachment of President Trump for the same reason.

I want to quote at length from a talk called “Let Us Have Peace” from 1947 by J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency:

Nor may we overlook that great doctrine of neutrality set up under Washington himself and Jefferson and Hamilton, which was aimed at and brought about the localizing of international armed conflicts, and the preservation , under prescribed rules, of peacetime intercourse between belligerents and nonbelligerents. War was to curse as few people as possible. This has been jettisoned for the concept that every war should involve all nations, making all suffer the ravages of a global war.

Until the last quarter of a century, this gospel of the Fathers was the polar star by which we set our international course. In the first hundred thirty years of our constitutional existence, we had three foreign wars, the first merely the final effort of our Revolution, which made good our independence. During the century that followed we had two foreign wars, neither of considerable magnitude. During the next twenty-three years, we had two global wars. While the gospel of the Fathers guided us we has peace. When we forsook it, two great wars engulfed us.

It is not clear when we began our wandering, nor is it necessary to determine the time. President Theodore Roosevelt was hinting our straying when he uttered the dictum “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” We were to force others to do our bidding. President Wilson had the full departure in mind when he declared: “Everybody’s business is our business.” Since then we have leaped ahead along the anciently forbidden path.

In our course under the new gospel of interference with everything we do not like, we have gone forward and are going forward, as if we possessed all the good of human government, of human economic concept, of human comfort, and of human welfare, all of which we are to impose on the balance of the world,— a concept born of the grossest national egotism. In human affairs no nation can say that all it practices and believes is right, and that all others have that differs from what it has is wrong. Men inflict an unholy tragedy when they proceed on that basis. No man, no society, no people, no nation is wholly right in human affairs; and none is wholly wrong. A fundamental principle of the operation of human society is to live and let live.

Yet, to repeat, we have entered into new fields to impose our will and concepts on others. This means we must use force, and force means war, not peace.

What has our apostasy from peace cost us?

In men, our two recent adventures have cost in casualties, dead, wounded, and missing, 1,402,600, with almost as many saddened and crippled homes.

In money it has cost, in World War I, some $60 odd billions; and World War II cost us some $400 odd billions, including increased civilian help, in total, almost a half a trillion, the great bulk of which we still owe.

In spiritual values it has brought great numbers of our youth and older men to the very depths of desponding atheism. Our whole social structure seems undermined. We are becoming a blaspheming, unchaste, non-Christian, God-less race. Spiritually we seem ripe for another war.

President Clark was prophetic: just a few years after this talk, the Korean War started, without a declaration of war. Then Vietnam, and then a series of smaller engagements in the Middle East and elsewhere, leading finally to our current never-ending conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. There have been no declarations of war since World War II, and all of these wars were unconstitutional.

So, yes, let’s have impeachment, but for the right reasons. But of course the world loves war and always comes up with new excuses for military conflict rather than peace. Satan always is ready to buy up armies and to reign with blood and horror on this Earth. As latter-day Saints, we should recognize this pattern and oppose it. Let’s oppose war and proclaim peace, even if there are only a few small voices doing it.

Download the Scripture Plus app!

I have really been enjoying the Scripture Plus app, which adds videos, graphs and all kinds of explanatory background to the Book of Mormon.

This app is brought to you by the same people who do the Book of Mormon Central videos, which I have been enjoying for several years. The videos are tied into the app, so you can read the scriptures and then do further study.

One of the things I have found in the Come Follow Me program is that my children who are still at home (ages nine to 14) really enjoy understanding the context of the scriptures. Believe it or not, my kids will discuss the scriptures for more than an hour if we can talk about the history involved and other details, other than just reading the scriptures. And the Scripture Plus app helps you do that.

So check it out here.