Tuesday, September 27, 2011

...be a LDS Dem, a Politician and a Good Parent?

The following is an extract from the final pages of the final chapter of my book How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? (Bear in mind that this book is written from the active believing LDS point of view.)

In the course of writing my book, I have learned that all of Harry Reid’s children are still active in Church and, still more extraordinary, they have suffered no divorces. Not bad.

Now, that could all change tomorrow. Life offers no recess from… life. But even up to this point, they have certainly had a good streak going and have definitely beaten the odds. So, how did they do it?

As stated, I don’t know Harry Reid’s family. So, I can’t make any real judgments about ways and means. I have no firsthand knowledge. But, in doing my research, I have gained just enough  confidence to make a few suppositions (and that’s all they are at this point) about why this family is the way it is.

I’m not about to give Harry Reid much credit for this phenomenon. Nope. I must give credit where credit is due, in this case, to Landra, the wife and mother. You see, in reading news about the Reids, I’ve detected a silent yet strong undercurrent, a foundation to the family, which is Landra Reid. For example, Reid is often assailed by opinionated people who chew him out. And yet, many of these ranters manage to include the side comment, “As much as I love your wife, I think you are…” and the rant continues. This top of the hat to Landra happens with curious and amusing frequency. I could be wrong about her. But, as I said, these are the musings of a complete outsider. I don’t even know what Landra looks like.

However, I thought that the following interview excerpt was particularly enlightening, on many levels. This is Harry Reid being interviewed by Tom Daschle, a former Democratic Party leader and longtime friend:

Daschle:   You've raised them particularly well despite incredible pressures of public life.

Reid:        One of my pet peeves is when people leave public office and say, "Now I can spend time with my family." I don't say that. I've spent enough time with my family. I feel that I could have been practicing law... a businessman...

I think that people should understand that the mere fact that you've been in politics doesn't mean you can't be a good parent. Now, I hope I've been a good parent. But I wouldn't have been a better one if I had been doing something else.

Now, there's no question, Tom, that my children are as good as they are mainly because of my wife. She is a wonderful mother. Wonderful wife. But she would have been doing that if I had been doing something else. So I think that people should not hesitate going into politics because they're afraid it will hurt their family.

Daschle:   Well, I can say–with some authority because I know them–that I think the test of a good parent is how good a parent your children become. And you've got children that are fantastic parents.[1]

Once again, I’ll have to take Daschle’s word for it. But, why not? It rings true to me. As I said, I may be wrong. I could emulate a few conservative friends by choosing to constantly think the worst of Reid.

But, with limited time to spend on earth, I have no interest in spending it in the search for negativity. I have already been given guidance on how to spend my time: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy,” I’ll seek after those things.

So, at the end of the day, all I can say is that Senator Reid sure has my vote–uh, actually, no. Not literally. He doesn’t literally have my vote. You know what I mean. Harry Reid seems like a great guy to me.

And, you know who else seems like a great guy? Glenn Beck. I await the day when a leftist Democrat writes a whole chapter praising Beck. I don’t think that day will come. I can only hope to be proven wrong.

Opening the Door to the Treasure

I quote from Reid’s recent biography The Good Fight, in which he describes his and his wife’s conversion to the LDS faith:

We opened the door to our heavenly father. Yes, we were married, but now we would reconcile our disparate backgrounds in a union of spirit and understanding, and in a recognition that there was more to life—more to existence-—than what we could see. More than just us. It was as much choice as revelation. A simple act. And our choice was made so much easier by the people we’d met… even the crazy man who lived next door to the Birds. He was expert in scripture, and referred to Satan as “Old Horns.” A nice man, with a wonderful spirit, who, we later learned, had struggled with mental illness and had been in and out of institutions. There were many others, who didn’t so much speak their religion as live it. We would start a family soon. For my children, I would do anything to avoid the path that my parents had taken. This was to be a very different path.[2]

Their story reminds me of a talk by President Boyd K. Packer, in which he relates a parable about Celestial marriage:

They made a covenant that together they would open the treasure and, as instructed, he would watch over the vault and protect it; she would watch over the treasure. …his full purpose was to see that she was safe as she watched over that which was most precious to them both.

With great joy they found that they could pass the treasure on to their children; each could receive a full measure, undiminished to the last generation.[3]

[1] Reid, “Book TV interview with Harry Reid.”
[2] Reid, The Good Fight, 128.
[3] Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,” 21.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

... serve Coca Cola at an LDS Owned Restaurant?

First, this is rather a trivial matter since Coke is not against the Word of Wisdom (the Mormon health code). But it is a bit of a taboo among the most orthadox Mormons (and health nuts). For that reason, it is fun to relate the following two stories,

The first happened at the FAIR LDS Conference in Sandy, UT in early August. I met a lot of intersting people. But the most often bragged of my events happened during the breaks, when everyone was out in the lobby consuming whatever was provided, which was, in several cases, a bunch of Sprites. But two of the scholars (fairly well known among the apologetics growd) needed something "a little stronger". So I showed them both (but at different times) where the Code Machine was.

The second story happened when I was visiting the Joseph Smith Memorial building and decided to poke my head into one of the cafes there. I couldn't resist takeing a picture of the men. Could ou blame me?

Friday, September 9, 2011

...be a Mormon and a Democrat? (Part 2) "Instruments of the Lord's Peace"

Have we... slipped unknowingly into patterns of slander, evil speaking, and bitter stereotyping? Have personal or partisan or business or religious differences been translated into a kind of demonizing of those of different views?

Elder Robert S. Wood gave one of my favorite General Conference talks in April of 2006 called “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace”. Finally, a talk on politics! I highly recommend that you read or listen to the entire talk on the Church’s website. Here's an excerpt:

    We appear to be living in an era in which many are speaking without thinking, encouraging emotional reactions rather than thoughtful responses. Whether it be on the national or international stage, in personal relations or in politics, at home or in the public forum, voices grow ever more strident, and giving and taking offense appear to be chosen rather than inadvertent.    Have we... slipped unknowingly into patterns of slander, evil speaking, and bitter stereotyping? Have personal or partisan or business or religious differences been translated into a kind of demonizing of those of different views? Do we pause to understand the seemingly different positions of others and seek, where possible, common ground?    It is far too easy sometimes to fall into a spirit of mockery and cynicism in dealing with those of contrary views.

Robert Wood comes at this from a unique perspective. As the dean of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College and an advisor to several U.S. presidents and defense secretaries, he knows Washington politics up close.

Elder Wood’s conference talk was the final push that I needed to get this book underway. That book is called How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? and it is now available on Amazon, at Deseret Book, and various independent LDS bookstores in the U.S. and Canada, as well as Costco (see below).

The following excerpt from that talk helped me solve the primary problem of finding someone write the liberal/Democrat perspective on each issue.
    I recall that as a graduate student I wrote a [negative] critique of an important political philosopher. My professor told me that my paper was good, but not good enough.
Before you launch into your criticism," she said, "you must first present the strongest case for the position you are opposing, one that the philosopher himself could accept."
   I redid the paper. I still had important differences with the philo-sopher, but I understood him better, and I saw the strengths and virtues, as well as limitations, of his belief. I learned a lesson that I’ve applied across the spectrum of my life.
Behold, a thought experiment: to taking upon yourself the opposite view, arguing from that perspective using arguments that the person with that view would accept, rather than building up a straw man. In essence, the book I have written is my own personal homage to that simple mental exercise recommended by Elder Wood and his professor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

...have a Positive Experience in Yemen on 9-11?

Peter Johnson, director of such classic LDS films as How Rare a Possession and The Mountain of the Lord, was in Yemen shooting footage for a couple of documentaries. The day his crew visited the palace of the famed Queen of Sheba was noteworthy for being September 11, 2001. Although plenty of Americans were abroad at the time of the attacks, this crew were “lucky” enough to experience 9/11 in a way few Americans could lay claim. I cannot imagine a more interesting country to be in on 9/11 than in Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral home country. Johnson explains the experience:
When we completed our shooting for the day, we returned to the Queen of Sheba Hotel. We were unloading our equipment when Abdu came out of the lobby excitedly yelling, “An airplane has crashed into the White House!” We quickly went to our hotel rooms and watched in horror as the events of “9/11” unfolded before our eyes. It was late in the afternoon in Yemen, morning in New York City. We watched in astonishment as the planes hit the Towers. After a brief time to at least initially absorb what was happening in the United States, we gathered in one room to watch together and discuss what we should do. Senator Orrin Hatch came on the TV screen and said, “This has Osama bin Laden written all over it.” Yemen is the ancestral home of bin Laden, and the realization of where we were, in the midst of this shocking world event, started to sink in. (Journey of Faith, pgs 121-122)

Johnson’s crew was advised to stay away from large population centers until arrangements could be made to fly them out of the country, which could not be done for several days. Whenever I have related this occurrence to people, the most common reaction is something like, “So did they see people dancing in the streets?” The answer to that question is, NO!

Yemen had all kinds of reasons to hate America. And yet, Johnson’s crew saw no dancing or cheering. On the contrary, the consensus attitude from the people they encountered in Yemen was quite the opposite as Johnson explains:
The morning after 9/11, I left my hotel room and went outside. We had a contingent of about 18 or so Yemeni military guards. And I walked over to the military commander and I looked at him (and I was trying to be as cheerful as one could be that morning) and… he looked at me and tears welled up in his eyes. And he said, "I'm so sorry." (Journey of Faith, The Making of DVD)
He looked at me with genuine sorrow and expressed how bad he felt because of what had happened in America. I held his hand warmly and told him that we were very pleased to be in his fascinating country. I told him how much it meant to us to be with him and to see the land of his heritage. His eyes rimmed with tears, and he said, with emotion, that they were honored to have us with them. When I looked at the other soldiers, all their heads hung down. The commander saw this and said that they were “embarrassed” to face me. I asked him to tell his troops that we considered it a great blessing to be in Yemen and that it held great meaning for us. A smile came into his eyes and he seemed truly cheered by that. So many misconceptions about America exist in the Middle East. Many think that America hates them, and so they hate America in return. But their hatred for America does not necessarily mean they hate Americans. I found that sincere expressions of respect and affection from us warmed their hearts and ours immensely. (Journey of Faith, pg 118)

Since the crew had been advised to stay away from any population centers and even the American Embassy, the safest and most pragmatic course of action was to head out into the desert and continue shooting footage of the terrain. Johnson describes the following incident, which took place on September 12, 2001:
The sweetest human interaction occurred during our crossing of the Empty Quarter. On one of our stops, I was sitting in the Land Rover waiting for our journey to resume when I felt a hand touch my arm, which was resting on the open window. I looked to see one of our Bedouin guides, Amin, his face lit up with a warm smile. I turned to him as he took a ring from his hand and gave it to me to look at. It was a simple ring, not expensive. I turned it over in my hand, admiring it, and smiled back trying to express my appreciation for his friendship. Neither of us spoke the other’s language, so body language was our only means of communication. After a moment, I handed the ring back to Amin, but he refused to take it. I tried again to give it back to him, knowing that he was a poor man, recently married, with few material possessions. Again, he refused and looked at me with the most compassionate countenance. He again gestured that he wanted me to keep the ring, his broad smile and earnest eyes lighting up his face with a bright, sympathetic expression. I finally realized that Amin was attempting to let me know of his sorrow for the events of 9/11 and to assure me that he was my friend. I shall ever remember that moment in the stark desert when a very poor man reached across vast differences in culture, language, and religion to express his sincere brotherhood and love.(Journey of Faith, pg 129)

You can read more about the experiences of Peter Johnson and crew while they were filming in the Arabian Penninsula in the book Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land by Kent S. Brown and Peter Johnson.