Friday, February 22, 2013

What's the Matter with Sandy?

From Anonymous D:

I’m sure you’ve seen this: [Report on purported talk in Stake Conference by a Stake President in Sandy, Utah. I have no idea if the notes of the talk are accurate or the talk itself even happened as reported. But there have been no denials. And I have certainly heard these same sentiments expressed by LDS Church members in less formal settings and certainly all over the internet.].

This is a great example, a Mormon example of what Thomas Frank in his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas” calls the Plen-T-Plaint. Here is his definition:
…Everything seems to [anger] conservatives , and they react by documenting and cataloging their disgust.”
He continues defining the plen-T-plaint as:
A curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world. Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plant is a horizontal rather than a vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on. The plen-T-plaint winds us up. If offers no resolution, simply reminding us that we can never win. 
Using that explanation, this talk is almost a perfect example of the genre. That most of this is untrue, or highly colored isn’t important. That for example, we didn’t choose Socialism over Capitalism isn’t really important. Nibley pointed this out in “How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book.” The important thing is creating an atmosphere. One could go on and on documenting the many ways this Stake President gets things wrong, or the ways in which his vaunted capitalism has manifestly destroyed the American economy. The wars conservatives have started, or the torture they’ve endorsed. The irony that their hatred of Hollywood doesn’t extend to their one of their own - a master of the very violence on film the Stake President so seems to hate, who, when he shows up to the Republican National Convention and speaks to an empty chair, they can hardly contain their glee. But this would be a waste of time.

It’s not that I totally disagree with what was said, I disagree with the cause. I don’t agree that most American are takers, at least those who voted for Obama. We didn’t vote, those of us who did vote for the President, for redistribution but economic fairness. Redistribution has been occurring for the past thirty years and is factual when you view the world in terms of the haves and have not’s. The "haves" have been influencing, tax cutting, job shipping, profit maximizing, deregulating and outright influence peddling their way to the type of wealth concentration not seen since before the great depression. And this at the expense of those who cannot afford to have a high-priced lobbyist in D.C. making sure that this or that regulation is not passed, or their taxes are cut or that they get that big fat government contract with no oversight (thanks Halliburton). Who’s making sure that your local bank isn’t giving loans to dead people? Who’s making sure that the local oil rig isn’t actually cutting corners to get that extra crude out of the ground to make a little extra profit that you as the consumer will never see. And when that rig dumps a few billion gallons of crude into the Gulf, Oops. It goes on and on. Why was that never brought up? Why are the poor and the needy and the sick and the afflicted the takers in this man’s apocalyptic universe? Why are they the lazy slackers and it’s not the guy from Halliburton, or BP or Goldman Sachs. Why isn’t it Mitt Romney? A man who systematically vulture capitalized his way to hundreds of millions.

Why does this man get to quote Helaman 5:2 indicating that the people choose evil rather than good and not put that in context? The context of his speech makes it seem that the Nephites were guilty of the same things we are guilty of. But not so. What were they guilty of? Well back up to chapter four. It was because of the abominations among the church:
And it was because of the pride of their hearts, 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 was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—Helaman 4:11 - 12
They oppressed the poor, they withheld food from the hungry, they were proud. The lesser evils were their moral crimes listed last. This man lives in an upside down world, an world more influenced by his conservative thinking than the Gospel he’s supposed to be preaching.

Where, in this address is the indictment of pride? Where the indictment of gain or greed? Where the indictment of power or popularity? It’s not there. Of the four things Nephi says will destroy a people he misses three of them, or they are mostly present in others although he does acknowledge them in his Stake, at least the lusts of the flesh, Nephi’s fourth. (See 1 Nephi 22:23) But it’s clear from the text that our problems, as he sees them, mostly come from others. Actually he’s simply glowing about his Stake.

Why should I be surprised? I realize that I have great need to repent. I acknowledge the great evils in the world, that we live in a moral cesspool. The Gospel solution proposed by Joseph Smith was to repent and come out of the world, and to invite all who desire to come out to join us. We can’t consistently keep one foot in the world and one foot in Zion. But the LDS have always temporized in this, at least since they were forced out of Nauvoo. We have always wanted it both ways. Since the Stake President was fond of quoting General Authorities to bolster his case I can’t help but quote Brigham Young “Some of the Latter-Day Saints had an idea that they could take the follies of the world in one hand and the Savior in the other, and expect to get into the presence of the Lord Jesus.” Perhaps I should tie all of this up with Moroni:
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But . . . Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. . . . For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. (Mormon 8:35, 37).
That pretty much sums us up.


  1. And on the Eighth Day, God created Capitalism and the Free Market. (No. Wait! I think that was Cain and his buddy who talked him into it!)

  2. Wow. The SP was out of line with some of his remarks. So it is my fault, and many, many others, that we lost our jobs and need help? And yet the church dumped billions into a mall. I am poor but I am not lazy. We can't afford medical and dental ins. Me and my husband have rotting and missing teeth. My children need lots of dental work. My son needs very expensive medicine. Both me and ny husband have medical problems and are drowning in medical debt. But yet it is my fault, according to the Sandy SP and Romney (I don't like Obama or Romney). We make too much for any assistance, always have. But yet we don't make enough to stay healthy and to meet basic needs. But I am labeled lazy, want something for nothing. Corporations are rolling in money but won't hire, and if they do hire they only hire part time so they won't have to provide insurance and other benefits. Yet they get corporate welfare and all sorts of tax breaks and loopholes. They fight living wages claiming it hurts the business finances. No it hurts the owners having an extra jet, another vacation home, gold, etc. But that is alright because they provide jobs, according to people like the SP. A Russian billionaire convinced the state of NY and the city of Brooklyn to help him build a new arena for the Nets. Many people were displaced, promises by the billionaire and city were never fulfilled, like jobs and affordable housing. It cost the NY taxpayers $40 million but the billionaire got over $700 million in gifts, tax breaks etc. Only the arena was built and the promised construction jobs never materialized. Corporations getting govt. handouts are more of a drain than a single working mother on welfare. The thinking like the Sandy SP by church leaders and members has troubled me for years.
    Another LDS blog told a story of two families in two wards, same stake getting Baptized. One family was humble and poor. No one came to their Baptism, not even SP representation. Other family was wealthy, well attended Baptism and SP was there. At following stake conf. the wealthy family was introduced and asked to speak - wealthy man spoke only of his business dealings. The poor family was not introduced nor mentioned.
    I asked for church help once and will never do it again because of the way the Bishop treated us - awful. I have a strong testimony of the doctrine as restored by Joseph Smith, and I have no doubt he was a Prophet.
    All is not well in Zion.

    1. Anonymous
      When I wrote this blog post I thought and thought about actually having PMM post it. The last thing I want is for someone to leave the Church. Please don't leave. I am aware of the separation and pain economic inequality in the church can cause. Please don't leave. The reason I decided to go ahead with it is because there are at least some of us who recognize the trend and we are still here, being faithful in the church. I have a testimony. I have asked, I have felt. I have heard the still small voice whisper to me that this is the work of the Lord. At the same time I recognize that it humans who carry out the work, with all of our flaws. So please stay with us.
      My overall point, which I didn't make too well, is that the church doesn't belong to conservatives. The Church doesn't belong to Liberals or Capitalists or Socialists it is the work of the Lord and belongs to him. We shouldn't try to hijack the work to promote our own agenda. To the extent I've done that I apologize and repent. I admit that I see through a glass darkly, but I do see well enough to have a witness, a real witness, not some imaginary thing. So stay with us.
      Remember the conversation Jesus had with Peter after the Bread of Life Discourse when many left him (Jesus). He said to Peter will you also go away? To which Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? We believe and are sure that thou are Christ the Son of the Living God. So it is with us.
      Anonymous D

  3. Sorry, I forgot another thing. There are enough resources in the world so no one has to go without anything. It is corrupt governments and dictators and the few wealthy who control everything and have major influence with governments that keep the rest of us down. They want more and more money and power.
    Also the U.S. is no longer the country to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Many European countries have surpassed the U.S. in people having the ability to become successful by hard work, not filthy rich, but successful and have enough to meet family needs including medical, vacation, etc. Many other countries have surpassed the U.S. in many things.

  4. What policies of Obama are promoting economic fairness?

    1. Fair question. Here's the administration answer: (you have to cut and paste 'cuz comments don't take url's.

      You can also search "economics" on this blog for a fuller exposition of my views broader than just President Obama. I base my philosophy on Teddy Roosevelt so see his speech on my post

      Bottom line, while the Democratic Party is almost as bad, beholden to corporate power and interests, we need to break that power a little. Better responsibility and accountability on the corporate side. Less tax breaks and lobbying and campaign benefits. I have no problem with a progressive tax on the TR theory that those who have gained multiples times more from our system owe a little more of that back to help provide more equal opportunity (not equal result). And we need to care for those who are elderly, disabled (especially Veterans), orphaned, etc.


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