Saturday, December 31, 2005

Illegals and the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has tried to add a provision in United States law protecting Churches from illegal immigration prosecution. I applaud that they are trying to make changes legally, but saddened that it goes against the very ideas of why there are immigration laws. The protection of both everyday citizens and the whole nation are at the mercy of illegal immigrants flaunting the practically open boarder policy. We need to get tougher with the laws we do have and with teeth!

Well, I must say that this issue has made me decide that if I knew someone was an illegal immigrant I would turn them in regardless of religion. This is partly because I don’t believe it is equal to speeding, but more closely related to an invasion and act of war; although not necessarily the same thing. In fact, if I learned someone was an illegal alien I would neither baptise or give a calling to that person. I have never been in that situation that I know of, but my feelings are set! Now, the question would be what consiquences it would have for me to refuse. Does anyone know what has happened to someone who has refused a baptism or ordination? Is there eclesiatical reprimanding or simply passing the responsibility? At any rate, I would turn them in to the authorities as enemies of national security.

Now, I am not against changing the law to make it more streamlined to legally enter the U.S. (although a blanket allowance is NOT an option I will accept). However, until we find a way to make it less uncomprehensible for immigrants to enter legally and protect the already legal citizens at the same time, than I want a moritorium on immigration other than with very strictly enforced visas.

My own opinion about the actions of the Church? Perhaps they should rethink how they do religious business until the laws change. In the past I can see how they could turn a blind eye as everyone else seems to have done the same and made immigration law into no-law. Currently, however, that is not the case and the Church should start following the law. It is true that immigration is a government, and not eclesiastical, issue. However, the Church's involvement in law making has changed that status at least periferally. I am not against the Church trying to influence and change the law. I am, and so are many LDS members, against it breaking the law on an issue that doesn't seem moral enough for civil disobediance justification.

To answer a few questions brought up at another blog.

Would you still be for it if you knew that such enforcement would increase the cost of a head of lettuce to $6.35 (as someone mentioned earlier)?

Yes, it is a small price to pay to protect the United States from the influx of murderers, rapists, and those who have no business getting here without going through proper channels. I would certainly not move to another country without doing whatever was needed legally to live in, say, Canada. It isn't about money. Its about national security and doing the right thing!

what about good Mormon employers (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few here in the Phoenix area that do this) who stop by the open air labor market and pick up a few guys without papers for some casual construction-type labor?

They are breaking the law and acting dishonest. This should cause them to rethink their worthiness to go to the Temple. This goes beyond the "speeding" argument as I have said above, because it is close to an invasion; usually considered an act of War by other nations.

Would you feel compelled to turn Bro. Employer in for labor law violations? He’s violating The Law as well!

Actually, I would follow the gospel ideal first. Go to that person and explain what you find seriously wrong with what they are doing. If they continue to support illegals I would think of raising my hands in objection to callings within the Church. Finally, after deliberation and objection, I would turn them in for violating the law.

I have no qualms about this one bit! Its time to "lay down the law" in order to protect the U.S. against foriegn invaders who can do harm and just slip away into the dark mists of Mexico. The other alternative is that if you are an illegal who breaks the law, then instant death penalty no matter how small the infraction. After all, you aren't really a citizen and could just as easily be a spy or terrorist. Due process of guilt or innocents is, of course, expected. If found innocent they should immediately be sent back to where they came from. Extreme, but it might deter the more sinister elements from deciding its easier to do their damage over the boarder and on U.S. soil. If they want in, they should be documented and easily traced with a declaration of discernable reasons for entering.

Like I said above, I am not against streamlining the immigration laws making it less confusing to get in. What I am against is making it so easy that any can get in, or not doing something about those who are currently getting in and getting away with it against the moral and physical safety of this nation. I know of no nation that is so open, against its own laws, to allowing people from other nations to willy nilly come right in. My guess is that even Canada isn't so open; or at least probably follows its own lenient laws about citizenship.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Narnia, E.T., and Mormon Story Telling

Recently I was able to see the Narnia film and was thrilled by its faithfullness to the book. Aside from that, it was a beautiful movie filled with great visual moments. The acting could have been better, but children have not been known for outstanding performances. Aslan was one of the best mostly CGI creatures, aside from Golum, every created. He had a natural grace and movement to him that might only be matched by King Kong if the reports I am hearing of that movie are correct. Sadly, the great awe felt for Aslan in the books could not be translated easily. It was hard to see the connection the Children developed for Aslan, and made his death of lesser emotional power than the books delivered. Sometimes well written words speak a thousand pictures.

What was more evident than the books was the Christian symbolism, as it wasn't hidden behind descriptions and lengthy dialogue. For some who saw the movie, particularly Christians of zeal and critical of Hollywood and modern culture, that was the most important function of the movie. Aside from some who see magic and fantasy of any kind as satanic, this was a chance to preach and teach the message of Jesus' suffering and saving. It was a missionary moment for the moment. That is where the problem starts for this movie and Mormon fiction.

In the early 80s an even bigger film, E.T., hit theaters. The movie was touted as family friendly and emotionally touching. What it wasn't, from any information available, was seen as a Christian missionary moment. That can easily be understood. The main characters were from a divorced family, it had slight profanity, good and evil were hardly mentioned, and it was written and directed by a social Jew. Yet, the story itself had many of classic elements of Christian symbolism and some of it subtle. Most of the symbols came from the main character and alien E.T. He was not of this earth, he had healing powers, he took upon himself at least Elliot's experiences, He suffered in a natural setting, died and was placed in a tomblike encasing, came back alive from his own power, and left into the sky by spaceship with a careful expression of faith in him to remain behind. Even the movie poster had religiously symbolic power, with the finger of Elliot and E.T. touching like The Creation painting in the Sistine Chapel.

That brings Narnia back to square one as a Christian film. What makes it Christian? The story isn't unique. The hype is as much theater as the film. It talks of good and evil, but doesn't really explain the concepts as a teaching tool. The characters are no more Christian than any other children in Disney films and the work "Christian" isn't mentioned once. In the end, the talk of a "Christian film" is vague and unfulfilled even if the recent efforts have been enjoyable.

Of course, this is directly related to Mormon fiction as the same problems arise. Is Mormon fiction defined by subject matter, cultural markers, sermonesque studies, character identity, or promotional hype? Or, like the difference between E.T.and Narnia for general Christianity, is it more about who writes and produces the material? Perhaps it is a combonation of all of these and a wider net can be cast. In casting the net wider the whole argument about "Mormon fiction" might become pendantic and self-serving. It might be more important for Mormons to write than that they write Mormonism. Taking Orson scott Card's example as a wide net caster, he has impressed many non-Mormons with the positive qualities of Mormonism with very few Mormon characters and blatant symbolism. His book "Lost Boys" is one of the most realistically realized Mormon families in all literature. Yet, their faith is only part of the story while in some instances the story itself speaks more about family relationships, good and evil, and afterlife theology. Mormon fiction will only succeed outside its own world once it becomes second nature rather than front row seat.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Romney Factor

There have been a spat of discussions everywhere about Romney as the next Presidential contendor. The question on most people's minds is how his Mormonism will play out. This is especially the case with the religious conservitive segment of the Republican party that is often at odds with anyone not of their flavor of Christianity or non-Christians in general. So far there hasn't been much, if any, words exchanged about Romney in the negative. The most troublesome part of the Republican party has been quiet. Of course, this is most likely because the primaries are a few years ahead.

The liberal media has stayed rather quiet as far as his religious identity, refering instead to the possible bad hype it will play in certain segments. That is most likely because of two possibilities; they want conservatives to trounce on themselves and they want to not look like the religiously biased people most of them are. That might be an added plus to his running for President when it comes to the Mormon image. So far the secular section has stayed either nuetral or positive toward the fact he is Mormon, and looked more at his career. Of course, the truely touchstone sections of the media have ignored him completely. At this time it is a wait and see moment of calm.

Some have wondered if his winning the presidency would be a bad thing, with non-stop excuse for public Mormon baiting. Past examples have shown, however, that what the person does as a politician plays much more airtime. Sen. Reed, for instance, is a pure politician with hardly a notice of his religious affiliation in his speach and actions (and that discussion is another post). Conservative Mormons might end up excited by him politically, but be dissapointed how little he will change the National perceptions.

He is, however, in the middle of two fractious sides of the political social wars. He is most likely to be seen as too Conservative for the Liberals and too "Mormon" for the Religious Right. That might make it tough to please enough of both parties to gain a majority. He could lose by fiat based on opposing fears.

On the other hand, I don't think his becoming President would be a bad thing. He has already proven his ability to change a dangerously contorted mess and get voted governor of a highly Democratic state. His past actions seem to dictate an ability to weather crisis and come out on top. In the end, I would say he would be anywhere from nuetral to good for the LDS Church’s image and mission; baring an excessively nasty scandal. Then again, as someone else has pointed out, scandal is what politics thrives on.

I wish him well, and as both a Conservative and a Mormon I would vote for him. He is currently the most viable Conservative Republican in the recognized running. It might end up him against a moderate Republican group of primary contendors. The only real visible "threat" would be if Jeb Bush decides to run; and for me that would make a hard choice and a belief that Jeb would win because he is not Mormon. As for who will win the actual Presidential race if he ran? Thats up to the Democrats.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mormonism in a Nutshell

I have gone through and corrected any mistatements or half-truths about LDS faith in the belief-o-matic information. It is true that other writers would probably add or emphasize different things than I have in the corrections. But, I think most would agree that there are problems.

[added and corrected text]
(explanations and deleted material)

Belief in Deity
A "Godhead" of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit/Ghost as three separate entities united in purpose. God the Father resides in heaven with His wife, the Heavenly Mother; Christ, their only begotten Son; and the Holy Ghost; a spirit without a body. God has a perfect [Glorified] body, which looks like ours. (I have left out "and 'exalted' Mormons, who become God-like in heaven" as that is not exactly true. Eventually that will be the case when the final judgement happens, but it is hard to say if it has already happened for any previous earthly inhabitants yet.)

Jesus Christ is God's firstborn son in the Spirit [and Only Begotten in the Flesh]. Jesus is Lord and Savior; God of this earth; creator of all in heaven and earth as directed by God the Father; one in purpose with the Father and the Holy Spirit--a Godhead of three separate members.

Origin of Universe and Life
God, through Jesus Christ, created the heavens and earth in six time periods--the word "day" is not of a specified number of years, [but represents periods of creation. All things were created Spiritually and Physically.]

After Death
One's spirit immediately joins the spirit world and will be assigned to either paradise or spirit prison. Based on one's record of [faith], thoughts, words, and actions; righteous believers will live in a state of paradisiacal happiness. Unbelievers and sinners in spirit prison will live in misery, but they are provided the opportunity to repent, accept the gospel, receive ordinances performed for them by the living, and thus [become capable of going to the highest level of Heaven if they would have lived in righteousness on earth knowing the truth.](I have left off "and thus move to the lowest level of heaven" as rejecting the purpose for all the missionary work in the spirit prison.) At the Final Judgment and Resurrection, most will be assigned to one of three kingdoms of heaven where spiritual growth continues. [The most righteous and faithful will go to the Celestial Kingdom where they will live with and become like God. The rest will be placed in one of two lower Kingdoms. Only those who had fallen from Heaven with Satan, or with full knowledge openly rebelled against God,] will suffer eternal torture in the outer darkness. ( I have left out "Only a few, the most wicked sinners, will suffer eternal torture in the outer darkness, as most will have accepted the gospel and suffered for their sins enough by the end of the Millennium." as untruth.)

Why Evil?
Humans did not inherit guilt (I left out "sinful nature" as an innacuracy. We did inheret physical bodies that are susceptible to sin.) from Adam and Eve's original sin, [but became responsible for our own mistakes]. The Fall was a planned blessing from God, enabling people to experience human bodies, procreate, experience the joy of redemption, and to do good (the complement of evil). Satan and his demons [traverse](I left out "pervade" because it is doesn't sound correct) the earth as spirits tempting all to sin. God gave people free will, and Satan's temptations are [part of God's plan] (I have left out "a blessing from God" as both innacurate and redundant) so that people can show their faith by resisting.

Show faith in and obedience to God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Adhere to the practices, requirements, commandments, laws, and sacraments of the faith as exemplified by Jesus Christ. Good works are integral to the [development of] faith through [such things as] monthly fasts and fast offerings to the needy, to show your obedience and love for God. Baptism [and confirmation as a member of the church becomes necessary starting] at age 8 , the age of accountability. (That whole baptism sentence was a little off. It had to be re-written to make sense.)Confess all sins to God, and major transgressions to a presiding officer as well. Receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; receive the temple endowment; be married for time and eternity.

Undeserved Suffering
Adam and Eve disobeyed God, thus the first humans and their descendants lost their immortality and connection to God, gaining physical bodies that suffer disease, deterioration[, and death]. Also, Satan rules the earth and causes misery to mankind. [The Fall and Atonement](I took out "this" as unnecessary pronoun) was God's design --to bless humans with the ability to enjoy their physical bodies, have free will to choose good over evil, be able to experience [ joy](took out "pleasure" as inaccurate dichotomy. As I have said in another place, the word can be both good and evil depending on its use.) which complements suffering, and to experience the joy of redemption and eternal life through Christ. God allows Satan to cause misery to mankind as an opportunity to strengthen character and faith.

Contemporary Issues
Abortion is wrong [in most circumstances]. (Regardless of my own feelings on the subject, the Church does see some areas -- such as rape and health issues -- where its not out of the question.) Homosexuality is wrong, and homosexual rights vehemently opposed [as a mockery of the divine plan]. The divine role of woman is mother and wife, helper to the husband. Men are regarded as the head of the family, provider, leader, and teacher. Marriage is regarded as eternal, but divorce is permitted if necessary. [Church growth has brought challenges and changes in leadership responsibilities, such as going from a provincial to a world wide church] (I added the leadership part because I consider it a contemporary issue at least within the church).In keeping with the belief that doing good works is essential for salvation and is Christian, Mormons established a "welfare" program. Mormons practice monthly fasts and give fast offerings to assist the needy.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Where the Orthodox Bloggers?

Today I was trying to update my list on the side that linked to other bloggs and foung it hard to find any of interest. None of them looked very promising in my search for bloggs with closer viewpoints as my own. It seems that Orthodox Mormonism doesn't thrive well on the Internet Ether. I have tried to come up with some reason for this.

Perhaps most orthodox Mormons like to live rather than talk. Conservatives of all stripes are not known for erudite expansion of their thoughts and ideas. This has given the Liberals, who do love to talk, plenty of false ammunition that Conservatives don't think. The truth is that Conservatives believe in doing rather than saying. They don't do much writing, they don't do much active protesting (although that has slowly changed), and they don't do nearly as much navel gazing. What they do tend to do is act on their thoughts and ideas in such ways that Liberal always seem reactionary. Thus, I believe, to blog is not something that Orthodox Mormons tend to appriciate. Instead they go to Church, read their Scriptures, Home and Visiting teach, go to work and earn money, raise children, and basically live the teachings of the LDS Church rather than discuss them.

I am not sure how this is effecting the Church members themselves. If the general Conservative Mormon doesn't care for blogging, they won't make bloggs. Sadly, this quiets the voices that reflect the mainstream of Mormonism. For instance, at BBC, the question was asked what books would be used to introduce Mormonism to outsiders for a better understanding? The list was of obscure history books of little value to actually understanding mainstream Mormonism. To be sure, some of them were good for those who are already familiar with Mormon readings of history. However, none of them capture the actual heart and spirit of Mormonism as represented by every day mainstream followers who actually live the religion. The point is that what is representative of a particular brand of Mormonism, the self-satified over educated and usually less Church active Internet devotees, is not what actually exists in the same numbers in the real world. Interestingly, most of the more Conservative Mormons who do have blogs concentrate on politics more than religion. Doctrinal and Religious discussions go untouched other than as possible background material. The possibilities for Mormonism seem to go unheaded by all but those who are less Orthodox in their views.

The blog world can be seen as a fulfilment of some Orthodox Mormon activities. The first is missionary work where the word is spread to those who are not members of the Church. True, it is probably less of a hit than even door knocking. People have to find you rather than you find them. Still, it is better to try than ignore yet another media outlet that can spread the word. Because of the nature of the blog world, it can also act as a public diary. This has its own problems as privacy concerns can keep it fully functioning. This can be overcome if the poster is prudent in what they decided to write, mostly keeping to gospel insights and observations.

I suppose I am calling for two things. First, if anyone has any ideas where I can find more Orthodox Blogs than please tell me. I am trying to increase my link possibilities and expand productive discussions. Second, more people who hold Orthodox Mormon views should go out there in cyber-space and be heard. We must become more communicative if we are to make any impact for the next generation who are more technologically friendly. Then again, perhaps actions speak louder than words and blogging is unnecessary. Only the future can tell.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Against Dutcher

It isn't that he is a bad director. Surely much of what he does has quality that many LDS focused movies to do not. However, his films are far from good enough to call him the greatest film director the short little history of LDS film making has had. This is not to say there are any other LDS film makers that have been better. In fact, I would say he is the only one who has (if you call three films) consistantly made films. The problem is two-fold of ego and stereotypical Hollywood conventions.

At I had listed movies that I have enjoyed much better than any Dutcher movie he has currently made. Although fully aware of the problems they have that make them problematic, I will explain why each has in my view more and better moments.

I will start with my least favorite of my favorites "Charley" because I think it is still more enjoyable than Dutcher films. Admittedly, it falls flat in the place I think Dutcher's films don't work; heavy handedness. What it does do that Dutcher doesn't is an honest change of character. You gradually see two completely opposite people fall in love and influence each other to get rid of the worst elements and excentuate the better parts of the person. With Dutcher, there is change only where the audience has already expected it; while basically the personal remains the same. He can say "see how complex a character I have made" when in reality they have only made a choice that was already made.

"Other side of Heaven" is probably the most professional LDS movie to date. That most likely has to do with the actual professionals that worked on the film both in front of and behind the scenes. Its weakness is probably its strength. As a history of a person there is no real story behind the events. Because of an episodic narrative there is no overdone plot line that boggs down characters into pre-formed actions. We can sit back and enjoy the story of a youth dropped in the middle of a place he probably never dreamed existed. The viewer doesn't feel they need to expect any message coming out of the theater.

The movie "Saints and Soldiers" has been given awards by many small time film festivals. The reason for this, I think, is that "Mormonism" is not particularly present and yet holds to many of the same values. Its message may not have been subtle, although who can argue that war is a sublte business, but the story is about true struggle. The main character loves the Germans, but has to kill them as a soldier. Nazi's kill Americans without feeling, but at least one of them shows compassion. In other words, against the cookie cutter "complexity" of a Dutcher film, this one strives to show the real anxiety of having to do something that naturally isn't within character. The Americans die in a typical hero death, but in some ways the view walks away feeling sorry for the German's loss of humanity as much as the American's lives.

I feel that the LDS movie business is at a crossroads. It can either continue to be the sideshow Hollywood wanna'be that Dutcher has created, or move on. Mormonism should recede into the background, but be a powerful motivator, and the story should take its place. Characters should do more than change the way we expect them to (ala Anakin/Darth Vadar) and make actual choices that are unexpected. Of course, we shouldn't forget the one possitive contribution of Ducther; recognizing that film is a visual medium and not an static stage.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Teaching the Differences

Religious Tolerance Pt. 1

Religious Tolerance Pt. 2

I find this to be an interesting examination of how Mormons should respond to ecumenical relationships. The trend seems to be in getting accepted for what we have in common, rather than simply trying to be understood. J.F. McConkie explains the dangers of acceptance by appearing assimilated very well. I don't know if I totally agree with him, especially in respect to this:

Perhaps we need to rethink the idea of seeking common ground with those we desire to teach. Every likeness we identify leaves them with one less reason to join the Church. When we cease to be different we cease to be. The commandment to flee Babylon has not been revoked, nor has it been amended to suggest that we seek an intellectual marriage with those not of our faith. The fruit of such a marriage will always be outside the covenant.

It is a hard saying, and perhaps a little more harsh than what should be our attitude. After all, usually Mormons are seen as "other" in areas where we are not much different. Perhaps it would be best to be in the middle and say "we are the same on these subjects, but we feel there is much more to be taught and won't cross a particular line." The community of Christ has already shown what happens when uniqueness is jettisoned for mainstream acceptance. Not only have they shrunk and splintered, but they are no more accepted by other faiths as before the Great Compromise. As J.F. McConkie says, you become just another Church like all the rest and lose opportunity for growth. Maybe its time again to celebrate our differences and reconnect with the more unusual aspects of the faith.

Mission Statement for this Blog

Welcome to a blog where the goal is for Conservative voices to be heard with respect and security. For whatever reason the Blog has become infested with usual Liberal noise and confusion, even among those places dedicated to the Restored Gospel. That might have been happenstance, but what you hear here is by design.

The goal is to invite as many Conservative commentators as show interest. Liberals will be allowed to comment under at least two conditions. The first is based on a quota of participants. There must be more Conservatives or a weeding process might be done. Liberals must show restraint in responses as there is a fine line between "loyal" opposition and rebellion. Also, they must with any participant be respectful and use no foul language.

Questions of what constitutes a Conservative voice is the responsibility of the host, although it can be discussed. This Blog is an experiment at the moment, and any ideas how to serve its mission are welcome. It can only work if Conservatives participate and invite others with similar viewpoints. Perhaps if this grows other blog directors may be added.

Finally, this Blog is designated for discussing issues of importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed "Mormons"), and not ecumenical. Exceptions might be granted with permission.