Thursday, November 8, 2012

Talking to your Kids about the Election

From Anonymous D:

I was talking to my daughter last night. She was asking me about the election, what I thought so forth. She knew I voted for President Obama, and that her mother did as well. It’s also well known in the ward that I did. She was telling me that her friends were giving her a little bit of a hard time about it. I told her just to let it go. It isn’t worth losing a friendship because of a disagreement about politics. She then informed me that one of her friends told her that she needed to look up a scripture, Helaman 5:2 and that would pretty well explain our situation.  
“For their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”  
That’s when I got a little annoyed. I fancy myself as at least competent in the Book of Mormon, I was a aware of the verse of course but I was also aware of the context. So I sat down with my daughter to explain the context.

Here is what was happening in the Book of Mormon at the time: The Nephites had just been driven out of their lands by the Lamanites, who were stirred up by Nephite dissenters, you know the type who seek power and gain or more power and gain. Mormon explains the wicked state of the remainder of the Nephites. “…it was because of their pride, because of their exceeding riches, yea it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which is sacred….murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions and deserting…” And all of this wickedness was in the church. It’s not the fault of the Lamanites, and because of this “…the church began to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve…and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.”  It’s the so called good people who are causing all the problems.

Now, I told my daughter: With that situation as the backdrop we can put this verse in context. The problem with the Nephites wasn’t, that the other guys, (the Lamanites) were bad guys and therefore destroying the Nephites; the problem was that the Nephites themselves were wicked.  Now you pay attention to what they were doing, the self-justification. The first problem was pride. They saw themselves as the good guys; the righteous people, after all they were rich, isn’t that a sign in and of itself that they were the good people? Because of this pride and their riches they saw fit to oppress the poor, after all they had worked for their wealth right? Perhaps they believed that the poor simply hadn’t worked as hard as they had, but what is clear is that they sought to set themselves apart from the rest of the community, they sought power over them, sought to be above them. Why should they help the poor when they weren’t willing to put the work in? So they oppress them, punish them for being poor, or for not being as committed to the business of making money. They actually with hold the necessities from them, food, clothing, and they beat the humble, mocked sacred things. That is an interesting word mock. In this context it means that they were participating in the ordinances but without real intent. They mocked the sacred, probably the Law of Moses in this case, because they would participate in the ordinances without ever intending to actually follow through on the covenants they made. For a large portion of the Nephites the Temple ordinances of the Law of Moses were simply for show, a business transaction or status symbol.

That is the context. I explained to my daughter that her friend (actually the friend got the scripture from her father) had quoted a relevant scripture but when he applied that verse of scripture he turned the meaning of it on its head. The very use of this verse of scripture in that manner demonstrates that we are not on the side of the Prophets and the poor and humble but we’ve cast our lot with the proud. Who after all blamed the poor, oppressed them and beat the humble, while all the while saying that it was the other people who needed to repent? You will notice that pride and oppression of the poor lead the parade of sins.  Immorality is way down the list of things that vex the Nephites. That is not to say that it’s better to be immoral, but that we simply don’t see our pride and oppression of the poor as a sin. On the contrary we actually elevate those qualities in our society just as the Nephites did, making them all the more dangerous.

My view that Republicans tend to look upon themselves as the good people and those who vote for Democrats or liberals as bad people has only been reinforced in the hours since the election. What I’m hearing from conservatives as justification for their loss is that a large portion of the country simply want to be given things, to take things from the righteous, yet persecuted minority, those who have money, It is the 47% now changed to 50% narrative, and it’s what Mitt and conservatives really believe, that they are Atlas holding the world on their considerable shoulders. It’s a delusion. It’s the very demonstration of the pride that destroyed the Nephites.
How much better is it for us to throw ourselves in with the meek and humble, even if we aren’t yet, we can at least make strides to becoming such, in other words repenting. Shouldn’t we throw ourselves in with the lowliest as brothers and sisters and try to bring all up, help the poor where we can, take their burdens upon us, mourn with them, weep with them? By doing this we stand as a witness of Christ. We don’t separate ourselves from the rest of human kind and claim that they are getting what they deserve and stay our hand because their situation is just.

It is wickedness for us to claim that it is the other guy who needs repentance, that if society fails or our government is corrupted that it’s the fault of the wicked who don’t see things my way, or it’s the lazy poor and needy who simply take from the hard-working producer types. That is the pride that destroyed the Nephites, constantly seeing themselves as better than their fellow children of God.

My biggest concern is how easily the inversion of values occurs. How easily we play the game of blame aversion, or self justification, how easily we read the Book of Mormon and see those with whom we disagree reflected in wicked of that book, and how easily we throw ourselves in with the righteous. Personally I admit that I’m not doing as much as I should to help the poor. Given the blessing I have I need to do more. My commitment as a disciple of Jesus Christ must be deepened.  It’s difficult to realize these things, but it’s true. I’m the one who needs to repent and I’m the only one who can do it.

Thanks, Anonymous D!

For my part, I'm making a deal with some of my friends claiming that our great country will be destroyed in the next four years as a result of this election. If the US is still here and the Constitution still stands, I'll buy them a pizza. If we are destroyed, they owe me one - in Heck!


[Addendum] Talking to my 4-year-old grandson who came in and asked what I was watching. I said it was the news about the President winning - "he's the good guy!" I said. I should have anticipated his follow-up: "Who's the bad guy?" Quickly thinking: "They're all good guys!"

17 comments:

  1. Captain Moroni always stood by the freely elected government of the Nephites, not with the King Men, or the ones lifting themselves up.

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  2. I had a Facebook friend comment that we should remember that the majority wanted Barabbas, too. I was really mad about that one.

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  3. The weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth is pretty loud at the moment. I keep trying to get myself worked up to enter the fray of moaning, and with all those truly suffering in New York and New Jersey that we should be talking about. This evening I have a true apocalyptic story on my blog, and it is real, and happening now.

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    1. Lesson 21 in the George Albert Smith manual tells me how I should respond.

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    2. Thank you, Anonymous. For those without access to the manual, Lesson 21 is "The Power of Kindness" Here's a url to cut and paste: http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-george-albert-smith/chapter-21?lang=eng

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  4. I think each side may have righteous intentions, but unfortunately both may inappropriately stereotype the other.

    A sees B as lazy moochers which may be true for some but not for all, as some of them may be hard workers but may not have the ability or opportunity to get ahead. B sees A as prideful, rich, selfish beings which also may be true for some but not for all, as some of them are more than willing to give of their time and substance to the poor.

    We have to realize that both sides may be doing what they see as the "right" thing to do. Either way I think it is inappropriate for either side to use government to force individuals or groups to act the way they think is the "right" way, because everyone has a right to believe what they want and act how they want (if they don't harm others) and will be held accountable for that.

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  5. Thanks, MM. But I don't think the "libertarian" view is the middle-ground solution. I understand the view is that conservatives "force" moral issues (culture war) on others and liberals "force" economic issues on others.

    I see the middle road in recognizing that government is good and instituted for our benefit (D&C 134:1) Especially when we have a government of principles and processes under our Constitution and history that allow us to work out our conflicts and problems together as we find the common ground. That is why I like our current president as well as Lincoln who established the theme, through much cost of blood and sacrifice, of government of, by, and for the People.

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  6. If we don't like other people making up the rules for us, telling us how to live, what to believe, and how to spend our money - we shouldn't insist on doing it for them. I think we keep doing this to each other and that is why the country is so divided. We can't agree on things so each side uses the force of government to make the other do what they think is best.

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    1. MM. I have no intention of making rules for anyone. My point is that We the People do what we do together finding the common ground to provide for the common defense, ensure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, etc. I think that the libertarian emphasis on "force" and general antipathy to government in any form lead us away from those Constitutional ideals of the Founders, Lincoln and D&C 134:1.

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    2. I appreciate that, I also agree with D&C 134:1. There is a difference between a libertarian and an anarchist. Maybe I am too pessimistic but it seems more and more the people of this country cannot find a common ground or even agree on the meaning of the Constitution. That is why I think the government may protect people from infringing on each others' rights but to do much more than this is to impose political or other views by force on those who don't agree.

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    3. I reject the choice as anarchy vs. force. I choose our Constitution of, by, and for We the People. It still works. It certainly did last Tuesday. I'll let the readers decide for themselves.

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    4. I am perfectly okay with other people making up rules, as long as I have an avenue to protest and work to change those rules if I think they are unjust. Heavenly Father has a lot of rules that are much more strict than any law on the books. I choose to follow them, to the best of my ability, and when I fall short, I ask for help by apologizing and repenting, then trying to do better next time.

      If I look at the nation, those principles seem to apply too. We do our best to make laws that are in line with God's principles. We do better sometimes than other. We have courts that help enforce our laws, and to decide when a law is out of line with the principles in the Constitution. We have a way to change the Constitution if we feel the need to, and we have elections at regular intervals so that if the majority of the country believes we need to repent and change, we can do that as well. I think that the answer is not in having the government only stop violence, but in recognizing that politics is a constant ongoing process, not a perfect end to try and create.

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    5. Thanks for the save, Julia. Discussions with anarchist/libertarians seems to run in circles. I think we've thread-jacked enough. Anonymous D's points are very worthy of consideration and this is fast becoming one of the most read postings on this blog. I couldn't be more pleased.

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  7. I respect your viewpoint. Just wanted to clarify - as I said in my last post, there is a difference between anarchy and libertarianism (as I am alluding to them), and in your response you seem to be lumping these together. I never presented a choice of anarchy v. force.

    I am not an advocate of anarchy. I support a small limited federal government as outlined in the Constitution with other government involvement to be done at the state level as confirmed in the 10th amendment. I can see you are tiring of the thread so I will leave it there. :) Thank you

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    1. if the Tenth Amendment ever had much of a point to it other than its help in selling the Constitution for state ratification, it was essentially done in by the Fourteenth. Yes. Let's give it a rest. It's my blog - I get the final word.

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  8. After the election, I was worried that my friends in my dorm hall would ostracize me for voting for and supporting Obama. I would avoid saying anything when people came into my room complaining how upset they were that Obama won, rather than that Romney lost, but it finally came out. I was a little taken aback by their continued acceptance of me. For the first time on a personal level, I found that politics can be dealt with in a civilized matter.

    Also, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in a talk about pride:
    "I have watched sports fans vilify and demonize their rivals. They look for any flaw and magnify it. They justify their hatred with broad generalizations and apply them to everyone associated with the other team. When ill fortune afflicts their rival, they rejoice."
    He then relates this to politics. A personal belief of mine is that when you start to yell or argue in anger, you have sinned are at fault, no matter how good the cause you are for is.

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Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!