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.

Does the ‘render unto caesar’ story in the Bible mean Jesus was in favor of paying taxes?

Matthew 22:15-22

15 ¶ Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, aneither carest thou for any man: for thou bregardest not the person of men.

17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it alawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why atempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, aRender therefore unto bCæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Many people today interpret the above passage as Jesus’ justification for taxation. I hear it in discussions all of the time, and in the modern world where Jesus must be used to justify social justice rhetoric, this passage is trotted out constantly by left-wingers and other lovers of taxation.

Any careful reading of this scripture and the Bible in general will, of course, render such a take ridiculous. It is clear that people at the time did not understand this parable to mean Jesus was justifying taxation — just the opposite, as I will show in this post.

The first and most obvious point is that In Luke 23:2, we read that the three charges brought against Jesus were that 1)he was a subversive 2)he was AGAINST paying taxes to Caesar and 3)he claims to be the Messiah. So, if the audiences at the time universally agreed that Jesus was in favor of paying taxes to Caesar (based on the render unto Caesar quotation), the second charge would have never been brought. The “render unto Caesar” quotation is in three of the four Gospels, including Luke 20:25, so clearly it was well known.

So, what is the correct interpretation of this passage? To completely understand it, we must know more about the history of the First century AD, the Roman occupation of Israel and coinage during the time.

The First Century AD was filled with anti-tax protests and uprisings in the Holy Land. There are several non-Biblical reports of Jewish tax revolts in the years before and after Jesus’ death. Judas the Galilean taught at the time that “taxation was no better than an introduction of slavery,” and he said the only legal tribute was to God. One of Pontius Pilate’s primary charges was to prevent more revolts against Roman rule, which is one reason the governor was in Jerusalem during Passover when Jesus was crucified.

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Study shows Utah handled the COVID pandemic the best

A newly released study shows that the state of Utah had the best overall COVID policies in the United States.

Utah had a comparatively low mortality rate during the pandemic and was better than other states at maintaining economic activity and not destroying kids’ futures.

There is an old saying from the Vietnam War: “we had destroy the village in order to save it.” Now, it turns out that quotation may be false, but any case it came to symbolize the failure of the Vietnam War. During the pandemic, the equivalent may have been: “we had to close the economy, imprison the people and kill the kids in order to save a few older people.” Because unfortunately this was the policy for most states, and that policy did not work in most cases because older people still died.

But the good news is that states like Utah avoided the worst policies during the pandemic, according to this study. Here are the results from the top states:

The top 10 states in order are: Utah, Nebraska, Vermont, Montana, South Dakota, Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, Arkansas and Idaho.

And here are the worst states:

The worst states are NJ, DC, NY, NM, CA and Illinois

If there is any trend that we can note, it is that the best states promoted personal freedom the most, whereas the worst states had the most tyrannical lockdowns. In addition, many of the best states (except Florida) were relatively sparsely populated and many of the worst states are more crowded, with the obvious exception of New Mexico.

Here is the summary from the study:

During the pandemic there were many commenters on this blog calling for more complete lockdowns like we are seeing today in China. It should hopefully be obvious now that these horrific policies kill many more people than they save, while completely destroying freedom. If only somebody in the LDS world had warned us that lockdowns would not work. Oh yes, somebody did.

President Nelson’s inspired messages for our times

President Nelson’s message from General Conference this weekend were inspired and just what the world needs to hear.

“I have been to Ukraine and Russia many times. I love those lands, the people and their languages. I weep and pray for all who are affected by this conflict,” he said. “As a Church, we are doing all we can to help those who are suffering and struggling to survive. We invite all to continue to fast and pray for all the people being hurt by this calamity.”

“Any war is a horrifying violation of everything the Lord Jesus Christ stands for and teaches. The Savior commanded us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies and to pray for those who despitefully use us. It can be painfully difficult to let go of anger that feels so justified. It can seem impossible to forgive those whose destructive actions have hurt the innocent. And yet, the Savior admonished us to ‘forgive all men.’”

“My call today, my dear brothers and sisters, is to end the conflicts that are raging in your heart, your home, and your life. Bury any and all inclinations to hurt others — whether those inclinations be a temper, a sharp tongue, or resentment for someone who has hurt you. … We are followers of the Prince of Peace. Now more than ever, we need the peace only He can bring. How can we expect peace to exist in the world when we are not individually seeking peace and harmony?”

The prophet invited everyone to forgive someone by Easter (April 17, 2022). “If forgiveness presently seems impossible, plead for power through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to help you. As you do so, I promise a personal peace and a burst of spiritual momentum.”

The prophet pointed out that we should concentrate on the things we personally can do in our own lives and gave five suggestions on how we can maintain positive spiritual momentum:

  1. Get on the covenant path and stay there.
  2. Discover the joy of daily repentance.
  3. Learn about God and how He works.
  4. Seek and expect miracles.
  5. End conflict in your personal life.

It is worth noting that the prophet and several other speakers renewed calls for eligible members, but especially young men, to go on missions.

And how about those 17 new temples, in addition to the scores of others announced in the last few years? President Nelson has announced 100 temples since he became prophet.

Why do we spend so much time worrying about things we can’t change?

I find myself repeating versions of the “Serenity Prayer” to myself all the time. As most readers probably know, the most popular version is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

What I usually say to myself is:

God, please help me to stop worrying about changing the things around me that I can’t change. I can only change my reaction to the things that happen. I can only change myself.

Now, I would never claim I am 100 percent successful in this effort. I worry about things I can’t change all of the time, including in some posts on this blog.

But, interestingly, I have found that one of the primary messages of the Gospel, and the message we are about to hear in General Conference this weekend is: “concentrate on the things you can change to make your life better and to bring you closer to God, not the things you cannot change.”

Jenny’s boyfriend justified slapping her because he was mad about President Johnson

The world, meaning most of society around us, wants to distract us by having us concentrate on all of the outrages that we cannot change. Just to give one example, think of all of the apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change and how people all around us are urging us to concentrate on trying to change the weather, for heaven’s sake. (For the record, I do believe the Earth is warming, and that man has contributed at least some to that warming, so please don’t be triggered. The point is that if you stop and think about it, there is not much you personally can do about that problem, while there are many things you can do to improve your own life).

Think of all the things you can do with your personal life. You can eat better, you can exercise more, you can make a decision to try to control your temper in situations that make you angry. You can tell your spouse you love her or him. You can offer to help a friend who is in need of help. You can decide — today — to say sincere prayers twice a day and read the scriptures every day. You can decide — today — to make an appointment to go to the temple. You can decide — today — to do more family history work.

What are the source of stress and conflict in your life? How many of them could you possibly change through different reactions that you can control?

A quick story: when I was in my 20s and obviously the smartest person in the world (in my own mind) I found that I was always bugged by people at work. So many of them had annoying habits, or were just plain stupid, or not doing their jobs the way they should. And I had no compunction about telling these people what I really thought about them. And for some reason I was always having conflicts with people at work! The nerve of those people!

Now that I am in my late-50s I am struck by the fact that I almost never have problems with people at work. I really do get along well with just about everybody I know in person. So what changed?

It should be obvious that it was not all of the annoying people around me who changed — it was my attitude and what I choose to do with my time and energy. I find that I care personally more about the people I work with, and I know more about their personal lives and their hopes and dreams. And, miracle of miracles, none of them is annoying or stupid!

I really do try, especially at church, to see the best in the people in my ward. I try to support leadership and the people in their callings and to avoid gossiping and judging. And, again, I get along great with people in my ward and I have almost exclusively positive opinions of the people with whom I worship regularly.

It seems clear to me that one of Satan’s distractions is to get us to spend a lot of time obsessing about things we cannot change.

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How to recognize Satan’s tactics in times of turbulence

Does it seem to you that the world is more divided now than any recent time?

It certainly seems that way to me. The divisions seem to be popping up in every sphere: politics, culture, religion, in families and even in leisure activities.

For the first time ever, the Oscars involved a physical confrontation in which a presenter made a joke about an actor’s wife, and the actor walked onto the stage to slap the presenter.

Personally, I found the joke in very poor taste. Making fun of a woman who is losing her hair should definitely be out of bounds, but the point is that this is yet another sign of division and conflict in a world filled with it.

During the pandemic, there was conflict between mask wearers and non-mask wearers and the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Now we are being told that we as Americans must consider Russia our enemy, and if we don’t we are guilty of treason, even if the United States is not at war with Russia. When it comes to cultural issues, it seems like we are supposed to be outraged every day. Biological men take the place of biological women in women’s sports events, and if we question this at all we are condemned. If we ask teachers not to discuss sexuality with very young children, we are condemned yet again.

Long-standing boundaries of behavior and social mores are being erased, and yet those who want to maintain even a semblance of the boundaries are somehow the bad people?

My wife and I have noticed we know a half-dozen married people — latter-day Saints married in the temple — who are either divorced or heading towards divorce. In our lives, this seemed to happen all at once — all of a sudden a married couple who seemed happy was suddenly unhappy.

It seems obvious to me that these conflicts are part of Satan’s plan to cause division and contention and conflict in the latter days.

President Wilford Woodruff warned in 1896:

“There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it.”2

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