Friday, August 27, 2010

WWJD: Revisited

A while ago I sat in my criminal procedure class in 206 of the law building. My professor posed the question: "If He had to choose, would Christ would be a prosecutor or a defense attorney?" He paused for while to let the question sink it. One class member answered the question. The professor agreed with the student: "That's right, He would be a defense attorney!" I balked. It reminded me of an experience I had about a decade ago on a bus trip back to Idaho.

We had finished our tournament and were on the way back home to Meridian, Idaho. As the only LDS member on the adolescent bible quiz team (we scrutinized the book of Luke that year), I was more curious than most because I was accustomed to LDS rather than mainstream Christian church groups. I remember this bus trip because of a single conversation I overheard between two adult leaders of the group. They were discussing capital punishment and concluded that Christ would not pull the trigger on an execution squad charged with killing a convicted murderer in a country than condoned capital punishment. I remember disagreeing with their conclusion. I still do- and I disagree with the conclusion of my criminal procedure professor as well.

What Would Jesus Do? I would like to address this question in three ways:

1) Argue that a better question is WWJHMD (What Would Jesus Have Me Do),
2) Argue that Christ is not as "soft" as He is often perceived to be, and
3) Argue that Christ should be emulated because of his admirable way of being. His way of being is as much or more admirable than his behavior.

1) A better question is WWJHMD, What Would Jesus Have Me Do,
The most recent time I can recall being asked this question is about three months ago. I was a coordinator for Especially For Youth and part of my job was to decide when to sent rule-breaking youth home. A number of rules will get you sent home for breaking them, such as using drugs, breaking the law of chastity, or committing violence on others. This particular kid swore, listened to hard music, refused to wear his program T-shirt, complained loudly when disciplined, and refused to obey his counselor (among other things). I pulled him aside on day 1 and told him straight up I'd send him home if he didn't follow the program, obey his counselor, and reform some of the identified behaviors. He committed to change, but continued his behaviors. Long story short, we decided to send him home. Mine was the task of telling the parents to come get him- well, this mother didn't want to come get him, she was on vacation, the kid caused trouble at home, etc.- and she tried to convince me to let him stay, using "he's in the hands of the church," and "he promises to be better," etc. When I continued to insist, she asked me the big WWJD. I was a bit dumbfounded, in my head asking, "Did she really just pull the "what would Jesus do" card?" Yes, yes she did.

I claim that the question WWJHMD is superior to the WWJD question because not one of us is Jesus. Each of us has a specific, individual mission in life. Generally, we have the same imperative that Jesus did to surrender to God's will, but God's will for Jesus is different than His will for Jessica or Johnny or Hafid. If I were to respond correctly to the WWJD question, I would have to fast 40 days and nights and point people to myself for their salvation and call apostles and ensure that I get crucified at about age 32. However, that is not my mission any more than John Wycliffe had the same mission in life as Noah. My life's path as well as my response in particular circumstances will be dependent on 1) my unique mission, 2) my unique character, and 3) my unique history- all three of which are different than the Savior's.

By the way, my answer to the mother in the story was - "Well, I don't know what Jesus would do, I'm not him, but I'll tell you what I'm going to do..." and sent the kid home.

2) Christ is not as "soft" as He is often perceived to be
In both the rebellious teen and bus ride conversation stories above, adults perceived that Jesus would unerringly choose the "softer" of two alternatives. I'm not sure from where people get this idea of Christ being so soft and merciful. He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament as well as the Savior of the new. It was He who, though He had the power to choose otherwise:
-Sent down fire and brimstone on Sodom
-Consumed Korah and His followers (Numbers 16)
-Commanded the wholesale slaughter of men, women, and innocent children when the Israelites entered Canaan and at other times (e.g. "utterly adestroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling..." 1 Sam. 15:3) (also after killing all the men Midianites, under the Lord's direction Moses commanded to kill all the rest except the virgins, leaving them for the conquerors: Num. 31: 17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.   18 But all the awomen children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.")
-Claimed credit for the burning, crushing, and drowning of countless thousands in the New World destruction around 33 AD (see 3 Nephi 9:3-12)
-Promised continued punishment by noting that his striking arm was "stretched out still" (see e.g. Isa. 9, 5:25, 10:4, and 2 Nephi analogs)
-Accused and judged hundreds during His mortal ministry as hypocrites and sinners
-Repeatedly threatened and tried to frighten people (I count about 162 instances of His wrath in the bible alone and about 252 of His anger - see Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible)
-Followed through on countless threats of violence (the scriptures are replete with examples of the Lord's anger and wrath, e.g. destruction of Ammonihah, destruction of Nephites, destruction of Philistines, scattering of Israel, the worldwide flood in Noah's day, etc.)
-Judged/accused sinners dozens of times (see e.g. Matthew 23, D & C 50:6-8, and Matthew 7:5 just on the one sin of hypocrisy)
- I hope there's no doubt that I could go on providing instances of Christ's choosing a "hard" alternative instead of a "soft" one.

I think this perception reflects a one-sided view of Christ. It perceives and hears the yin but is blind to the yang. How familiar are these scriptures:
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the aleft hand, bDepart from me, ye ccursed, into everlasting dfire, eprepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an ahungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the aleast of these, ye did it not to me. (Matt 25)
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not abaptized, shall be damned. (also repeated in D & C 68:9, Ether 4:18, and D & C 112: 29). 3 Ne. 11: 34
23 And he that adoubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of bfaith is csin. Romans 14:23 or
24 And if they will not repent and believe in his aname, and be baptized in his name, and bendure to the end, they must be cdamned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.
Therefore, though Christ is certainly merciful, it is erroneous to categorize Him as less "hard" or exacting than the Father. Neither can look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, and both are perfectly unified in agreement as to how to handle any circumstance. There's no permission shopping with the Godhead: "let's go ask Mom because Dad would say no." The Father and the Son are one. All the attributes of the Father are those of the Son, and vice versa. Speaking of the Father, Elder Maxwell taught: "Too many Christians believe in God as a “kindly Grandfather,” who indulges us, who is indifferent when we sin. The God of the gospel is a loving Father, who in loving us is willing for us to endure pain if that is necessary for us to grow. He is not a mere “Life Force”; he is the kind of Father who is committed to our growth and who loves us enough to trust us to each other, knowing the harsh consequences of that decision." Neal A. Maxwell, "Spiritual Ecology", New Era, Feb. 1975, 35.  Therefore, if it is morally upright to uphold the law in executing a criminal, Christ would not (and has not) refrain(ed) from bringing down the axe.
Similarly, in the scenario of whether Christ would prosecute or defend, I assert that He would not prefer one over the other. Presuming that both are vital to a just system (a valid presumption in my view- in our courts both sides require zealous advocacy to protect against a breach of justice from the unfairness which would otherwise result, and without prosecutors criminal laws properly instituted by the people would lose all semblance of efficacy), he would probably split his service half as a prosecutor and half as a defense attorney. I don't think Christ would shirk from "getting his hands dirty" if the job is an honest and necessary one.
3) Christ should be emulated because of his admirable way of being. His way of being is as much or more admirable than his behavior.
Third, I argue that Christ is much more than a paragon of proper behavior. It is His heart that we should seek to emulate in addition to his patterns of action. Any behavior can be done with at least two underlying orientations of the heart- two ways of being toward the action's object.
Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along, Do your duty with a heart full of song,
You can put your shoulder to the wheel in either of at least two ways: grudgingly or "with a heart full of song."

Another example. A father can send a misbehaving child to her room. The father could be oriented toward the child thus: "my daughter is an annoyance and her misbehavior embarrasses me. She should know better. I'm angry at her for causing me this inconvenience. It is only just that she should then go to her room - I'm the dad here." Or, his way of being, the direction of his heart toward her, might be: "this child is my daughter. She is a person with hopes and fears and weaknesses just like me. She is also a child and thus needs my help while she's young to learn about consequences so that she can eventually learn self-discipline, which will preserve her liberty." In the first instance, the father views her as an object (in this case, an obstacle to his peace); in the second, as a person.

Thus, in a particular situation Christ might act in a particular way (e.g. telling the woman caught in adultery to go her way [a "soft" example] or casting out the moneychangers [a "hard" example]); but regardless of the hardness or softness of his external behavior, His internal orientation toward the object of his action is unquestionably pure, truthful, and loving, and He sees that person as He or she is, a beloved daughter or son of God. "Jesus, Lover of my Soul" (hymn 102) shows us the way we can love our neighbor- not only by how we treat them but by how we choose to view them. Not quite the way we feel towards them, since our control over our emotions is only partial, but how we choose orient ourselves toward a person, independent of our interactions with them in the physical world.  Even during conflict with opponents, we can avoid the spirit of contention through this internal orientation that comes when we follow Christ's counsel: "44 But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise an the evil and on the good."

For a more complete exploration of this concept, please see Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute (which rocked my paradigmical world) or Anatomy of Peace by the same author.

I imagine that I'll probably look back on some of my blogs later on with a bit of chagrin at my short-sightedness or failure to consider other relevant ideas. However, I still think the discussion is valuable, based on this cool quote:
"Ignorance is more likely to be overcome by self-exposure than concealment."

Okay, so I made that quote up. But the principle is true, and the alternative to thinking through one's world is to accept a worldview with a "God of the gaps" (see Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God). Plus, being quick to observe and having a sober mind are desirable qualities (see Mormon 1:2). The pattern to revelation and understanding God's mysteries hinges upon thinking and pondering (see 1 Nephi 11:1 and TG: ponder). As long as I know my positions are based on incomplete information and logical flaws, I avoid the greater deception of not only being wrong, but also thinking I'm right while so doing- non decipitur qui scit se decipi "he is not deceived who knows that he is deceived."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"that they do always remember him"

In James Ferrell's The Holy Secret (see my post summarizing the book), the mentor in the story juxtaposes the bread and water sacrament prayers and engages a textual analysis.  Importantly, he notes that in the bread prayer one manifests that she is willing to:
1) take Christ's name upon her
2) always remember Him
3) keep His commandments. 

In the water prayer, one manifests that she does:
1) always remember Him.

This difference between the two prayers is notable.  We truly manifest our willingness, presuming we indeed are willing.  However, it wouldn't be right to manifest that one does keep His commandments, since none of us actually do that, being instead quite full of sins of both omission and commission.  However, in what way(s) do we always remember Him?  We manifest in the present tense that we "do always remember Him."  Is that true?  Do I always remember Him?  Am I falsely witnessing when I take the water?  What does this affirmation mean?  I'd better know, since I solemnly proclaim it each week.  This post is my attempt to answer this question. 

To start, let's take a look at each word.  
Do : manifests a present, real-time reality
Always: an adjective meaning continuous and uninterrupted
Remember: a verb meaning, amongst other things,    1. To recall to the mind with effort; think of again: I finally remembered the address.  2. To retain in the memory: Remember your appointment. 3. To keep (someone) in mind as worthy of consideration or recognition
Him: Christ 

Insights From Relevant Church Talks
Elder Christofferson's 2009 Always Remember Him: "I would like today to elaborate with you what it means to “always remember him” (D&C 20:77, 79). I will mention three aspects of remembering Him: first, seeking to know and follow His will; second, recognizing and accepting our obligation to answer to Christ for every thought, word, and action; and third, living with faith and without fear in the realization that we can always look to the Savior for the help we need."  Elder Christofferson's BYU-I devotional address sheds additional light on how to apply the principle of always remembering him.

Elder Holland's 1995 This Do in Remembrance of Me:  We can remember Christ's treatment of His friends, His foster father Joseph's humble service, the injustice He suffered, our blessings, His cheer, His miracles, His teachings, etc.  Elder Holland's list is eloquent and applicable and I felt the Spirit reading it.

I printed off these two talks to ponder more during Sacrament Meeting tomorrow.

Now, I speculate.
The knee-jerk answer to the question of "how do I always remember Him" is to think frequently of His life, mission, teachings, and love.  This answer is helpful, but doesn't qualify as always since we are mindful of Him much less frequently than we are mindful of the other things of daily life.

One scripture passage provides some insight.  Hel 13:22 "Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches, not to thank the Lord your God for them; yea, your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities."  These people "always remembered" their riches- the evidence being swelling with great pride unto boasting, malice, etc.  Thus, perhaps by our hearts swelling in Christlike charity unto service, mercy, compassion, and kindness, we always remember Him.

Another scripture says we should pray always.  Perhaps if I can resolve what that means, I can resolve what it means to witness that I "always" remember Jesus! 

The "I just remembered that I have to be at the school at three!" is the least helpful meaning of remember in resolving this question.  On the other hand, the sense that you remember the sacrifice of the patriots who died in the Revolutionary War by promoting liberty and civic virtue and patriotic responsibility is more useful.  We can remember Christ in this way by seeking the same values he espoused, e.g. liberty, salvation, and obedience.  We can also remember Him in this way by reaffirming that we still value the objectives of our covenants with Christ (e.g. bearing one another's burdens, repenting, choosing Him as our Savior, etc.).  Besides this second sense of remembering Him, there is perhaps a third meaning of "remember" that may apply-

Paradigms are "A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them."  I think paradigms can be learned and chosen.  Because a paradigm is a way of viewing reality, it is always in one's mind, and requires little present conscious volition.  I think the primary way I can improve my integrity when manifesting that I "do always remember Him" is by choosing the Atonement paradigm.  Christ had a very specific orientation toward people- some would call it "out of the box" (Arbinger Institute- Leadership and Self-deception), others the paradigm of truth (in that He views people as they truly are), and my favorite, the Charity Paradigm.  I think they all mean essentially the same thing.  The charity/truth/out-of-the-box/Atonement paradigm sees each individual as a beloved child of God, capable of becoming as He is in attributes such as grace, knowledge, mercy, glory, power, and justice.  Thus, by viewing myself and others through this paradigm, I do always remember Him.

On the other hand, I don't do a very good job of viewing people through an Atonement paradigm- instead, I often view myself and other as objects (either means to an end, obstacles to an end, or irrelevant to an end)- thus, it is still dishonest for me to witness that I do always remember Him if I haven't substantively adopted the Atonement paradigm.  Hmmm.

I'm still trying to figure this out- thus, I solicit your helpful insights.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage: Impacts on Education

Below is a research paper I recently completed about the impacts on education of legalizing same-sex marriage.  If this topic interests you- enjoy!

(my views about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, though relevant to the subject matter, aren't related to the research below).

QUESTION PRESENTED:  What are the strongest arguments in support of these two competing claims: 1) legalization of SSM/SSCU (same sex marriage/same sex civil union) negatively affects education, and 2) legalization of SSM/SSCU does not impact education?
RULE:  There is little quantitative research data to support either claim.  However, as the sources below show, the arguments for each are sophisticated and supported enough to arise beyond the level of mere political rhetoric.
CONCLUSION: Legalizing SSM/SSCU will probably impact education in some ways.  Those ways will likely include 1) increased censoring of speech by teachers, students, and counselors and 2) altering curriculum.  In America, the extent and nature of those impacts will likely vary as a function of A) the amount of local control over education in the jurisdiction, B) federal and state appellate court decisions, C) controlling law in the jurisdiction, D) school board and district curricula and decisions, and E) local community activism. 

To substantiate the argument that SSM negatively affects education, I elucidate a number of potential or actual impacts. 

•    Legalizing SSM/SSCU may result in school counselors being fired or disciplined, which removes otherwise qualified counselors from doing their part to enhance education.  “A high school counselor [Don Mendell] is the subject of an ethics complaint to the Maine licensing board because of his appearance in a TV ad in favor of Maine’s Question 1, which would secure the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. ”  The Maine Board of Social Work Licensure subsequently voted 2-1 to dismiss the complaints.   Notably this complaint was made between the time that Governor Baldacci signed a bill into law allowing same-sex marriages in Maine (May 6, 2009), and when the law was put on hold by a narrowly won referendum on November 3, 2009.
•    Those states which legalize SSM/SSCU are arguably more likely to follow Massachusett’s lead in requiring schools to assist in forming Gay/Straight Alliances that register with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network): “In April 2000, Massachusetts' Board of Education adopted a gay and lesbian civil rights protection "safety measure" approved by Governor William Weld in 1993 requiring schools to extend civil rights and "assist in the formation of Gay/Straight Alliance student groups. "  Notably, Massachusetts was the sixth jurisdiction worldwide to legalize SSM and the first state in the U.S. to do so.
•    Some professors may be suspended or fired based on expressing views contrary to same sex marriage or homosexuality.  Dr. Chris Kempling was suspended in 2002 by the British Columbia College of Teachers for expressing criticisms of homosexuality.  Dr. Kempling’s legal challenges failed: the British Columbia Court of Appeals found that limits on his freedom of expression were justified by the school’s duty to maintain a tolerant and discrimination-free environment, and Kempling’s complaint filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal was dismissed on similar grounds.   Though Dr. Kempling’s outcome might not have resulted directly from legalizing SSM, it is relevant to note that SSM became legal in British Columbia in 2003. 
•    School curricula may be altered to require inclusion of LGTB topics. 
1)    In British Columbia, the Ministry of Education in 2006 made a settlement agreement  with a gay couple, the Correns, committing to consult the couple on how gays are presenting in the school curricula.  Notably, parents may not opt their children out of LGBT topics in all such classes.  The Corren Agreement has resulted in the curriculum for one elective class, Social Justice 12.  (see especially Unit 6, Examining LGTB Issues) . The Corren Agreement may affect other curricula as it comes up for revision.   In the “Background and Rationale” section of its curriculum guide, Making Space: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice Throughout the K-12 Curriculum, the British Columbia Ministry of Education notes: “The school system must also promote values expressed in federal and provincial legislation with respect to individual rights. In this regard, key pieces of legislation include the Constitution Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms…the BC Human Rights Code.”  Notably the BC Human Rights Tribunal, established under the BC Human Rights Code,  is the body the Correns initially complained to, which complaint resulted in the Corren Agreement.  The link between legalizing same sex marriage and this outcome is the Ministry of Education’s expressed responsibility to promote values expressed in provincial and federal legislation, including the Human Rights Code (and, I presume, the Civil Marriage Act passed in July 2005). 
2)    In Ontario, the Ministry of Education posted to their website in January 2010 a revised Health and Education curriculum  for grades 1-8, which included content about the acceptability of homosexuality and masturbation .  Premier Dalton McGuinty noted on 21 April 2010 that Catholic schools can’t opt out of the curriculum .  The next day he pulled the curriculum “off the shelf ” and pledged to listen to more groups before implementing the curriculum as planned in September 2010.  (See also my summary of the curriculum document, source #6 below).
•    In Canada: “School Boards such as those in Quebec and Ontario, especially in Toronto, Hamilton and London, now [2006] require homosexual "education" in their school system. ”  In the U.S.: “In May 2009, the Alameda Unified School Board [in California] was considering the adoption of a new curriculum for K-12 that would promote acceptance and normalization of homosexual and transgender behaviors under the guise of anti-bullying… despite the evidence of potential harm, and over the strong objections of many parents, the board adopted the proposed curriculum. ”  Examples of homosexual education include:
1) That’s a Family, targeted at K-4 students, which shows gay and lesbian parents 
2) The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Guide, accepted as official district curriculum in April 2010 by the Berkeley, California School Board.  The guide “is an approach specifically developed for elementary schools (K-5) and is inclusive of LGBT families and individuals in the broader context of diversity ” 
3) Two Lives Publishing is a “publisher and distributor of children's books for children in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered families. ”  They offer Diversity Packs, collections of books aimed at various age subsets of K-12 audiences
4)   “The new Lambda Legal toolkit - “Tell Me the (Whole) Truth: School Supplies To Get Real Sex Education” - is the first action-oriented resource specifically addressing the anti-gay aspects of “abstinence-only” programs and their effect on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ”.
•    As happened in British Columbia, “schools are responsible for providing an educational environment that is free from discriminatory harassment, ” and those schools may be required to provide “resources to adopt a broader, educative approach to deal with the difficult issues of harassment, homophobia and discrimination. "  This may include a higher level of policing both students, teachers, and counselors to censor statements they make about LGBT issues, including same-sex marriage.  The Jubran requirement may also result in firing teachers for statements or conduct leading to “a "poisoned" educational environment characterized by a lack of equality and tolerance, ” as happened to an anti-semitic Canadian teacher in Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15, [1996] 1 S.C.R. 825.  The presence of legalized SSM may be used to evidence lack of equality and tolerance by teachers who would otherwise not be disciplined for voicing disagreement with SSM. 
•    Educators may, under the U.S. federal constitution, teach about same-sex marriage in school, even to young children without giving notice to parents.  “Given that Massachusetts has recognized gay marriage under its state constitution, it is entirely rational for its schools to educate their students regarding that recognition. ”
•    Young children may be exposed to same-sex marriage field trips.  After the California Supreme Court’s decision legalized same-sex marriage, first graders in San Francisco in 2008 were taken to a same-sex wedding.  The trip was sponsored by the school . 
•    Arguments have been made same-sex marriage may impact education in four significant ways :
1)    Admission to church affiliated schools of SSM-parent children or SSM individuals (and the possibly resulting stripping of 501(c)(3) status of discriminating schools )
2)    Employment of SSM individuals as faculty/staff
3)    Housing of students based on marital status 
4)    Regulation of school clubs

To expound the argument that legalization of SSM/SSCU does not impact education, I cite a number of rebuttals to claims of impact.

•     “No on 8” and similar endeavors to legalize same-sex marriage do not affect the education code.
1)    Kate Kendall, Center for Lesbian Rights, The California Teachers Association, state superintendent O’Connell, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other gay and civil rights groups said it is misleading to inject education into the debate over gay marriage.
2)    “Under the California Education Code, public schools are under “local control” when it comes to many curriculum choices. One of the locally-decided curriculum choices is whether to teach sex education (Cal. Ed. Code 51933). If the local school district decides to teach sex education, then and only then, the ‘instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships” (Cal Ed. Code 51933(a)(7))… schools are required to tell parents that they’re teaching sex ed and need to disclose exactly what they’re teaching. (Cal Ed. code 51938). If same-sex marriage is part of that curriculum, parents have the right to exclude their child from those classes.’ ” 
3)    Hilary McLean, speaking for state Superintendent Jack O’Connell, said the decision to teach gay marriage lies with local communities and school boards rather than the state.  “Schools are not required to talk about marriage at all… It’s up to local school districts to decide. ” 
4)    None of the California’s 1,000 districts adopted policies to reflect the state Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage .  Why would they necessarily do so if Prop 8 failed?
5)    “’Proposition 8 does not deal with curriculum, so its passage or failure would not impact instruction,” said Ian Hanigan, spokesman for Irvine Unified, a district that offers comprehensive sex education instruction to adolescents. “There has never been a directive from the state that specifies marriage as applying to ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’ couples.”  In Garden Grove Unified, the concept of marriage is not taught as part of regular curriculum, so changes in the law would also not change class instruction, said Alan Trudell, the district’s spokesman.  Officials from Newport-Mesa Unified and Westminster School District also said they don’t expect the failure of Prop. 8 to change district policies… ”
6)    SSM legalization won’t affect parental rights over the education of their children.  In California, “State law explicitly provides that ‘instruction or materials that… do not discuss human reproductive organs or their functions’ is not subject to the parental notice and opt out laws… parents are not entitled to have notice of or the opportunity to opt their children out of such programs. California law does not support a broad parental veto regarding the contents of public school instruction. ”  (see also (Cal Ed. code 51938).) 
7)    "Seeing as there is nothing in Maine education law or rule that even mentions marriage, I think it's quite unlikely that changing the rules about marriage would encourage anyone to change what they are teaching in the classroom," said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Maine Department of Education .
8)    "The ed code is crystal-clear, and that's not being reported in the ads," said Sharla Smith, the sexual health expert at the California Department of Education. Patti Kelly, a spokeswoman for the California School Boards Association, said Proposition 8 will not “impact public education. ”
9)    LDS Harvard Law grad Morris Thurston wrote: “No provision of the Education Code requires any teacher to teach that same‐sex marriage is “just as good” as traditional marriage. Teachers are to teach respect for marriage and committed relationships, and Proposition 8 will not change this law. ” 
•    Almost all claims of impact are explainable outside of the legalization of SSM; i.e., the impacts occur independent of the legalization of SSM.
1)    The Massachusetts Wirthlin family case did not turn on the legalization of SSM in that state.  Generally speaking, the introduction of homosexual education in school can occur with or without the legalization of SSM.  Censoring counselor, teacher, and student speech also occurs independent of the legalization of SSM because the legality of such actions turns on grounds other than the status of SSM in the jurisdiction.  That many of these alleged impacts occur in SSM-legal jurisdictions may be a coincidence or correlation, rather than evidencing a causative link.
2)    Many asserted impacts turn on sexual orientation discrimination, rather than on the legal status of SSM: “Remember, this was a discrimination case and as such the issues raised by it will not be affected one way or the other by the passage of Proposition 8, since discrimination based on sexual orientation is already prohibited in California. ”  

Legalizing SSM/SSCU will probably impact education in some ways.  Those ways will likely include 1) increased censoring of speech by teachers, students, and counselors and 2) altering curriculum.  In America, the extent and nature of those impacts will likely vary as a function of A) the amount of local control over education in the jurisdiction, B) federal and state appellate court decisions, C) controlling law in the jurisdiction, D) school board and district curricula and decisions, and E) local community activism.  


The following five sources highlight key arguments in the debate on education impacts resulting from legalizing or prohibiting SSM.

1)     Federal District Court’s dismissal of the famous Robert and Robin Wirthlin case in Massachusetts regarding the reading of The Prince and The Prince in their seven-year-old son’s class. 474 F.Supp.2d 261 (D.Mass. 2007).
Judge Wolf, noting the similarity of this case to the First Circuit’s Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions, 68 F.3d 525 (1st Cir.1995), dismissed the case.  He noted that: 1)  “the constitutional right of parents to raise their children does not include the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children,” 2) “under the Constitution public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy,” and 3) “It is reasonable for public educators to teach elementary school students about individuals with different sexual orientations and about various forms of families, including those with same-sex parents, in an effort to eradicate the effects of past discrimination, to reduce the risk of future discrimination and, in the process, to reaffirm our nation's constitutional commitment to promoting mutual respect among members of our diverse society.”  The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court.

2)    Gay marriage opponents put California schools in centre of debate, McClatchy newspapers Tuesday 21 October 2008,
This article addresses the debate about the impacts of Proposition 8 on education.  Though Prop 8 prohibited rather than legalized SSM, it is useful to examine as a counterpoint to the argument that legalizing SSM impacts education.  The article quotes some authorities claiming that Prop 8 doesn’t affect education and discusses the California education code.

3)    Settlement Agreement: Murray and Peter Corren, Complainants, and British Columbia, Respondent.
This document details the agreement between the British Columbia Ministry of Education and a gay couple, which resolved a complaint made by the gay couple to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.  The agreement empowers the gay couple to 1) elect homophobia-expert organizations to help revise curriculum and 2) consult on the structure and content of some curriculum to include sexual orientation/gender identity instruction.

4)    Same-Sex “Marriage” and Schools: Critical Review of the GLSEN Same-Sex “Marriage” Curriculum.

This document criticizes the proposed high school curriculum GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) advocates.  The three authors claim to find that 1) “The curriculum was quite focused on presenting a favorable view of same-sex marriage” and 2) “The curriculum frequently suggested the use of coercive methods to persuade students toward a favorable view of same-sex marriage.”

5)    Same-sex marriage and public school curricula: preserving parental rights to direct.  32 UDTNLR 361, 371: University of Dayton Law Review (Spring 2007).

Arguing that “If proponents of same-sex marriage succeed in implementing their radical agenda, then pre-K-12 curricula will undoubtedly undergo significant modifications… These changes are likely to leave children confused and emotionally affected, especially as some advocates of same sex-marriage wish to begin presenting gay-friendly programming for children in pre-schools at a time when instruction about human sexuality and sexual practices is most certainly well beyond their developmental needs or grasp,” the author claims that same-sex marriage content is a subset of sexual education.  He also argues “that unfettered instruction supporting a gay rights agenda and same-sex marriage can have a negative impact on the right of parents to direct the educational upbringing of their children by exposing them to ideas that are best discussed at home., and therefore should require more parental input than other subjects.” 37 JLEDUC 269, 272-273: Journal of Law and Education, Law Review Digest: Primary and Secondary Education, (April 2008). 

6)    The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education (2010).

This 208 page document details curriculum expectations for grades 1-8, and is mostly focused on exercise, diet, healthy living, human development, safety, etc.  The revision didn’t attract much attention between January and March 2010 until comments by Charles McVety, a powerful Canadian evangelical.  The curriculum includes many sample dialogues between students and teachers.  Some excerpts from the sample dialogues:
-    “We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents.  Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers.” (Pg. 112)
-    “Things I cannot control include … my gender identity, sexual orientation, and overall body shape and structure.” (146)
-    “We need to make sure that we don’t assume that all couples are of the opposite sex, and show this by the words we use. For example, we could use a word like ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife’.” (165)
-    “… is important. So is having all gender identities and sexual orientations portrayed positively in the media, in literature, and in materials we use at school... Additional help can come from trusted adults, community organizations, and school support systems such as gaystraight alliances.” (202)

Other Ontario Curriculum Resources:
•    The 1998 version of the Grades 1-8 Health and Physical Education Curriculum
•    Arguing that tabling the curriculum was a response to pressure from religious groups:
•    Arguing that tabling the curriculum was not a response to pressure from religious groups:
•    Claim that the curriculum will sneak back in: Robson, John.  “Classroom Engineering.”  The Ottawa Citizen, May 7, 2010.  Also Sharma, Prakash.  “Dalton McGuinty Revises Sex Education Curriculum.”  TopNews, April 28, 2010.
•    Arguing that outcry is based on a misunderstanding: Lajoie, Don.  “Ont. backtracking on sex ed program puts children at risk.” Windsor Star, April 27, 2010.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Principles of Equity in Family Law

Below is a research paper I recently completed about principles of equity in family law.  Enjoy!

(I thought the 12 equity maxims about 1/2 of the way down are the most valuable part of this post.  All of us have an idea of what "fair" means, but when it comes down to it in a specific case we often disagree.  The 12 maxims help reduce the reliance on subjectivity when deciding what's fair).

QUESTION PRESENTED:  What are the best sources for discussion or description of such principles that can provide framework for evaluating and deciding equity issues that arise in family law cases? 
RULE:  Though family law cases often turn on principles of equity rather than on hard law, those principles of equity constitute more than mere subjective assessments of fairness.

I now identify those equity principles which seem especially suited for resolving family law cases.

My first list is useful for designing a family law court/system; the second is useful for resolving individual family law disputes.

Family law is an area that is often perceived as less procedurally fair than other areas of law  .  Alternatives to traditional adversarial procedure, such as ADR techniques like mediation, are often preferred by both judges and parties in family law matters such as custody disputes.  Thus, in selecting principles of equity or procedural fairness that are best suited for resolving family law cases, it is important to analyze the mechanics, structure, and success of ADR proceedings that are often used by family law courts.  The elements of equity/procedural fairness that should govern the setup of a family law system/court, including less formal litigation alternatives, are:
1.    Adequate notice
2.    A hearing
a.    Audi alteram partem: (let the other side be heard) – formally or informally, each party should have the opportunity to:
i.    Speak verbally
ii.    Ask questions
iii.    Contradict their opponent
iv.    Present his/her case
3.    A neutral judge should:
i.    Declare any personal interest s/he may have in the proceedings.
ii.    Respect by creating an atmosphere in the courthouse that allows litigants to feel that they are important and their case is not trivial, regardless of the wealth, status, gender, or ethnic background of the parties. 
iii.    Sincerely care about the case, show benevolent concern about the litigants’ situation, and treat parties as people and valued members of society by listening to individuals and explaining and justifying decisions which affect them.
iv.    Take into account relevant considerations (such as the facts, law, principles of equity, extenuating circumstances), and ignore irrelevant considerations (such as personal bias).
v.    Make at least part of the proceedings public: for instance, the judgment or order.
4.    Speedy and inexpensive determination of the procedures
a.    Active case management
b.    Setting timetables
c.    Use alternatives to litigation
d.    Ensure the affordability of proceedings either by making them cheap and/or by providing assistance to indigents
5.    Avoid multiple appearances by the same parties on the same or similar issues
6.    Avoid inconsistent court orders
7.    Ensure that parties understand the reason for the outcome by promoting transparency of how decisions are made
8.    Enlist ADR methods

Above I have listed procedural fairness elements useful to setting up a family law court/system.  Because “certain general principles of equity or “maxims” often impact family law jurisprudence ,” I now list 12 equity maxims  that are useful to adjudicating individual family law disputes within such a procedurally fair court or system.

1.    Equity regarding what ought to be done:
a.    Those who generate costs or consume benefits should pay for them.  Qui sentit commodum, debet et sentire onus - He who derives a benefit ought also to bear a burden.
b.    Those who enjoy privileges should be held to an elevated level of responsibility.
2.    Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy: the judge will seek to use or create some order or injunction to make a fair outcome feasible.
3.    Equity delights in equality: the default outcome is for people in the same position to receive equal benefits (e.g. two parents, absent any additional facts, should get equal custody privileges).
4.    One who seeks equity must do equity: any plaintiff asking the court to impose an obligation on another must be willing to fulfill what obligation the court imposes on her, the plaintiff .
5.    Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights: injured parties must act relatively swiftly to preserve their rights, because defendants may not have access to the evidence necessary to defend themselves if too much time passes .
6.    Equity imputes an intent to fulfill an obligation: if person A agreed to do X and mostly, but not perfectly does so, his near-performance should usually count as full performance .  This maxim overlaps with “Equity looks through form to substance, and an equity court is interested in substantive justice rather than mere technicalities of procedure .”
7.    Equity acts in personam, not in rem : plaintiffs must assert “a right of some significance, as opposed to emotional and dignitary interests. ”
8.    Equity does not require an idle gesture: the court will not issue frivolous or impractical orders, such as ordering that a father may have custody of his children only if he pays a fine by a date in the past, or declare that a divorced spouse must drink a glass of water every second Tuesday.
9.    One who comes into equity must come with clean hands : if Mother says Father owes $900 of spousal maintenance, but she didn’t pay him back for the $600 plane ticket he bought her, then she doesn’t have clean hands.  This maxim doesn’t mean that a plaintiff must be blameless; rather, “unclean hands only applies if there is a nexus between the applicant's wrongful act and the rights he wishes to enforce. ”  This maxim overlaps “in pari delicto: Where the wrong of the one party equals that of the other, the defendant is in the stronger position. ”  “When both sides act with “dirty hands,” neither may advance that equitable argument against the other. ”
10.    Equity delights to do justice and not by halves:  Resolve all relevant inequities between parties, rather than just one.  Example-  “as a general rule, once a court has identified a husband as the biological father of a child, the court will proceed on to rule on issues of child custody and support and any other pertinent issues in order to ‘settle all the equities between the parties. ’”  This overlaps with the maxim, “Equity will take jurisdiction to avoid a multiplicity of suits.”
11.    Equity follows the law: equitable remedies should never be contrary to controlling law.  “Equity works as a supplement for law and does not supersede the prevailing law. ”
12.    Equity will not aid a volunteer: Equity cannot be used to take back a benefit that was voluntarily conferred irrespective of whether the recipient wanted it.  This maxim “protects the doctrine of choice.”  Ex.: during a divorce, Husband leaves his motorcycle at Wife’s home with a note that he gives it to her- equity will not allow him to later retain the gift.

Most elements of procedural fairness, equity, and procedural due process are relevant to resolving family law cases.  


Below are the best six sources I found for describing principles that can provide a useful framework for evaluating and deciding equity issues that arise in family law cases.

1)    John Bourdeau & Rachel M. Kane, Principles and Maxims of Equity, 27A AM. JUR. 2D Equity § 126 (1996).
Part V, “Principles and Maxims of Equity,” lists a number of “Maxims Having Reference to or Governing Court Action” (e.g. equity regards substance and intent, rather than form) as well as “Maxims Applicable to Litigants” (e.g. equity aids the vigilant and the diligent).

2)    Florida Family Law Set, 1 (2010),$FILE/311%20Family%20Law.pdf?OpenElement.

As one of the few states I found with a Family Law Procedures code, this document provides a pithy purpose section articulating some fundamental elements of procedural fairness in family law.

3)    Kevin Burke, Understanding the International Rule of Law as a Commitment to Procedural Fairness, 18 MINN. J. INTL. L. 357, 364 (2009).

This law review article extracted some useful procedural fairness elements from both international rule of law and international family law.

4)    Leonard Edwards, Comments on the Miller Commission Report: A California Perspective, 27 PACE L. REV. 627, 674 (2007).

This document pulls out some interesting findings about the perceived procedural fairness of ADR. 


In one of the most well-researched and refined papers referenced in this memo, Judges Burke and Leben show what elements lead to robust public perceptions of procedural fairness.  The paper summarizes key findings from investigations into elements of perceived procedural fairness. 

6)    Judith S. Crittenden & Charles P. Kindregan Jr., Some Equitable Maxims in Family Jurisprudence, in ALABAMA FAMILY LAW § 29:2 (2010).

The authors identify a handful of equity maxims germane to family law adjudication.  Alabama has a richer history of equity courts than most states, and this article represents the predominance of sophistication of equity principles of family law found in Alabama cases and practice guides.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Holy Secret

James Ferrell, if my sources are correct, helped to write the Arbinger Institute's Leadership and Self-deception as well as Anatomy of Peace.  Ferrell also wrote The Peacegiver, which I understand to be on a similar subject as Terry Warner's Bonds That Make Us Free and the two aforementioned texts. In this book, The Holy Secret, Mr. Ferrell describes a method for coming to love holiness. 

Insights/notes below.

Part 1: Loving the Holy Scriptures

Chapter 1: Awakening
- The story is told much as Leadership and Anatomy, that is to say via a story.  I relate with the protagonist, Michael, a Wall Street lawyer, who admits that though he attends the temple and reads the scriptures and observes the Sabbath, he's not passionate about these activities (it also doesn't hurt that I'm about the same age as Michael and in law school).  He doesn't love holiness.  A talk by a man named Al in sacrament pricks him and he wonders why he finds the temple boring and why studying the scriptures is more out of duty now for him than anything else. Michael decides to try to find out these answers by talking with the speaker, Al.

Chapter 2: Curiosity
- The mentor in the story (Al) is an older man with an impressive library.  Al notes how he remembers very little content from the books he's read, but notes that the books taught him how to learn and helped him be curious.

Chapter 3: Questions
 -Al notes that the scriptures, as monologue, are dead.  He invites Michael to engage the scriptures in conversation via the questions, comments, and objections typical of dialogue.  Conversation makes the scriptures live.

Chapter 4: Ask "What?"

-When studying the scriptures, Al recommends looking up words and finding out the context of scripture passages, such as "my father dwelt in a tent."

Chapter 5: Wonder "Why?"

- Al says, "why include the detail that Lehi dwelt in a tent?"  Why not include the detail of who did the dishes?  Why the theme of Lehi's riches (Al notes several verses that establish Lehi's wealth) and leaving those materials?  Why is 1 Nephi begun as it is (with a reference to Lehi's wealth- 1 Nephi 1:1)?  Why this sequence, this emphasis? 
- I thought one reason Lehi's wealth is noted is because the Book of Mormon audience must be willing to leave wealth, and by analogy may also have to leave other possessions of value to follow the gospel/prophet/Lord, such as social standing and health and family.

Chapter 6: Look for Patterns

 -Al shows how there are types of the Restoration in Lehi and Noah's story, and shows how many Old Testament characters are patterns/types of Christ.

 Chapter 7: Ponder the Savior

- A good pattern or question to ask/look for is always: "What does this verse or story reveal about Christ and the Atonement?

Chapter 8: Apply to Oneself
-Noting Michael's lack of enthusiasm for the temple and his own confession that he used to share that lack of enthusiasm, Al points out that the story of King Benjamin's people illustrates how to prepare for making the temple a rich experience.

Part 2: Loving the Holy Sabbath

Chapter 9: Unrest
- The family unit should be oriented toward the temple.
- Giving thanks somehow for a deliverance (like Benjamin's people who thanked the Lord with sacrifice for the Jerusalem exodus much as the Israelites did for the Egypt exodus) is good preparation.  For me that'd be the exodus west to the Rocky Mountains.  Thank you, Lord, for so leading the early saints that the church, as a people, might live and be what we now are.

Chapter 10: A Meek and Lowly Truth

 -Michael comes back to Al after a hard day, and Al questions whether they should go on with their holiness discovery.  Sometimes I think it's lame that you have to be in a peaceful, distractionless state to pursue spiritual things.  Generally, life is not conducive to a lack of distraction and a plethora of peace.  Instead, an active life, a family life, an engaged life, is usually busy, stressful, and characterized by unrelenting distraction.  It'd wouldn't be terribly difficult to become an ascetic monk or an alienated mountain hermit, in which case you do have a lot less distraction: but, it seems the Spirit should be able to help those living a "normal" life have a rich spiritual experience, rather just those who isolate themselves from the pressures and stresses of immersion in a community.  Why must a peaceful condition precede feeling the Spirit, rather than choosing to engage a spiritual activity and by so doing create that peaceful condition?
- Al points out that the elder son in the Prodigal story was a sinner, contrary to his Pharisaical claim to have "never at any time" transgressed his father's commandment (no one's that good).  Hence, those who are prodigal, and are not deceived as the older brother was into thinking we're not prodigal, are rich because we must know we are broken before we can be fixed.

Chapter 11: A Mighty Need 

 - We're all doomed if we don't get our broken natures fixed.  Christ claims: "I can make you holy."  D&C 60:7

Chapter 12: Knee-bending Rules
- It's a good idea to presume that the scriptures make sense.  Presume weird things (e.g. Moses making a graven image, namely of the serpent) will make sense once you fully understand them.
- Al notes how King Benjamin's people were good, diligent commandment keepers.  Yet, they still fell to the earth in fear when they realized their carnal state!
- This one hit me hard.  The commandments have two purposes- one is to let us in on the standards in heaven.  The other is to drive us to Christ!  Like the fiery serpents, when we become acquainted with the commandments we also become acquainted with our persistent failure to comply with them- which results in the "knowing you're broken" element prerequisite to going to Christ to fix you.  "Individual willpower, personal determination and motivation, and effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient to triumphantly complete this mortal journey." - Bednar, In the Strength of the Lord
- Al points out that if you harbor feelings of contention or anger, you're damned absent a change of your nature.  He's right, and I'm indicted as I feel contention and indulge anger fairly often.  For that matter I have frequently looked on women to lust after them, amongst other vices.  I've been broken and damned for a while it turns out. 
- Al notes that the mutually incompatible commandments in the garden, just as the impossible-to-keep-them-all commandments binding on us, turned Adam and Eve to Christ, who could take them beyond the naive innocence of the garden to a state of exaltation.  I've thought about this concept before- how Christ claims credit for our weakness (e.g. Ether 12)- and it seems to be a dirty trick.  It's akin to being the only foot surgeon in town, and going around breaking peoples' feet so they have to come pay you for getting their foot fixed.  If you're going to give them more than just foot restoration, say by giving them in addition stronger toe bones (think adamantium and Wolverine- an analogy to exaltation in excess of mere restoration to an initial state), why not just do the stronger toe bones operation in the first place and skip the whole broken/restored foot part?  In the surgery sequence, doesn't the restoration to initial condition precede the stronger toe bones anyway?  Why not just give a sales pitch to Adam and Eve, "Hey AdamEve.  So, right now you're immortal and innocent.  I can make you like me, innocent and immortal PLUS super powerful and filled with knowledge!  You want in?  Come unto me!" rather than going around breaking everyone's feet?  It all seems a bit contrived, presuming a starting condition of no carnal nature.  On the other hand, if the stronger toe bones state is only possible by breaking the foot first (i.e. the stronger toe bones sub-operation precedes full foot operation in the surgery sequence), it would be benevolent for the surgeon to offer to break your foot for you, providing you consent/voluntarily submit to the breaking.  This scenario seems more likely, and the voluntary submission is likely equivalent to choosing to come to earth (thanks Wolverine story!).  The previous scenario seems more like Satan's painting of the picture.
Chapter 13: The Sabbath Creation
- No notes

Chapter 14: A Day of Contrition

 -No notes

Chapter 15: Returning Home 

 -Christ is the Eternal Father because He gave me a body (resurrection), a name (baptism), and a spirit (the Holy Ghost)

Chapter 16: Burdens
-perhaps turning our hearts toward our fathers means being out of the box towards them, i.e. viewing them as individuals rather than placeholders for the title, "ancestors"

Chapter 17: The Beginning of Rest

-No notes

Part 3: Loving the Holy Temple

Chapter 18: Sacred Space

- No notes

Chapter 19: A Gracious Deal

 -Christ is teaching us piece by piece the "I agree to be a God" covenant
- to sacrifice is to know what it is I am willing to give up.  The reason God doesn't change our hearts once and for all is because we cannot agree to that which we don't understand.  It's not just to persuade a child to make a binding 80 year commitment, for she doesn't understand what that means- she doesn't "get" the consequences.  The Lord cannot agree with us beyond the scope of our wills, so we must time and again place our growing wills on the altar. 

Chapter 20: Preparing for Heavenly Brightness
 -the oath and covenant includes seeing His face and receiving the fulness of the Father

Chapter 21: Promises for All
-receiving the priesthood is a process, and not equivalent to being ordained
- will the Millenium be a terrestrial condition?

Chapter 22: Rethinking Responsibility
- We're partly responsible for our own bitterness and for being in the box (see Leadership and Self-Deception) toward people.
- I'm responsible for others' responses to my in-boxedness (e.g lowered self-image, in the box towards me, leading to a default setting of being in the box toward others)
- Everyone really is responsible to all men for all men and everything.

Chapter 23: In the Footsteps of the Great Proxy
 -In matters of eternity, influence flows both ways through time- via family lines
- Houses, not just individuals, are glorified

Chapter 24: The Lord's House
 -in post-Solomonic times, destruction of houses depended on temple attendance

Chapter 25: A Home Renewed
-the last page brought tears to my eyes

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sunstone Symposium: Reflecting on Maturing Faith

"THIS SYMPOSIUM is dedicated to the idea that the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ are better  understood and, as a result, better lived when they are freely and frankly explored within the community of Saints.

WE RECOGNIZE that the search for things that are, have been, and are to be is a sifting process in which much chaff will have to be carefully inspected and threshed before the wheat can be harvested.

WE WELCOME the honest ponderings of Latter-day Saints and their friends and expect that everyone in attendance will approach every issue, no matter how difficult, with intelligence, respect, and good will."

-"Reflecting on a Maturing Faith" Symposium Motto

On Thursday, 5 August, I attended the Sunstone Symposium at the Salt Lake Sheraton.  Below, I catalog content and thoughts provoked by the seminars I attended.

Maturing Faiths: a Comparison Between Mormonism and Islam During their First Two Centuries

> Many other religions have in the past gone through the growing stage that describes the current LDS church in both A) size and B) age.  Thus, there is potentially much to be learned from the faiths (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Jewish) that have gone before
> With greater age and size, religions- The theme of the conference was "reflecting on a maturing faith."  The LDS church is nearly two hundred years old and 14 million strong now- and several comparable organized religions have gone through the church's current age and size.  Thus, there is much to be learned by comparison!
> Useful comparison questions for maturing religions:
1) How to govern the people
2) How to transmit revelation
3) How to interact with seats of power/gov't
> Like the aging Jewish faith in Christ's day, Islam has for a long time had a Talmud-like commentary on the commentary on the Holy Qur'an.  Similarly, commentaries and commentaries on commentaries on LDS texts (especially authoritative prophetic statements and canon) increasingly flower. 
> The greatest slaughter in America attributable to religious fundamentalism was the Mountain Meadows massacre. (coincidentally I had a lively debate last night with my strict divine command theorist LDS friend about the ethical dangers of not questioning your leaders, using the MMM as evidence)
> Joseph Smith has been called the American Mohammad (and with good reason in my view- the Joseph Smith/Book of Mormon story is comparable in many important ways to the Mohammad/Qur'an account). > One of my favorite quotes from the speaker in response to a Q and A: "Who can explain Shi'ites?"  :)

Joseph Smith, Matthew Philip Gill, and the Dynamics of Mormon Schism

> This ex-LDS, 30 year old British man named Matthew Philip Gill imitates almost exactly the Joseph Smith story.  Matthew translated a 115-page book (The Book of Jeraneck: a Further Testament of Jesus Christ) from 24 plates in 2006; claims that Peter, James, John, Joseph Smith, Moroni (who came to him when Matthew prayed about the B of M according to Moroni 10:4-5, see Matthew's testimony), and John the Baptist have appeared to him; used the Urim and Thummim to translate; translated in a short time frame with a curtain between him and the man he dictated to.
> Matthew's Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ follows the 1838 Nauvoo structure, and claims Joseph Smith never taught or practiced polygamy.  (Apparently there are more historical sources indicating that he opposed the practice than there are the contrary, and section 11 of the Book of Commandments forbade the practice- hadn't heard that claim before.  Apparently Michael Quinn has some scholarship on the subject). 
> Matthew blogs and has youtube sermons and an official website, and presiding elder's testimony.
> By report, it seems he was sent home from his mission for having visions.
> (tangent) - three translations of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon are available online.
> The LDCJC believes Stonehenge was an ancient Christian worship site. 
> Apparently Matthew still has the plates and you can see them if you get baptized.  Matthew's also opposed to gay marriage (the speaker chose to answer that subpart of a longer question I posed during the Q and A).   
> The LDCJC seems pretty chill and open: "If you wish to find out more you can contact us on the following email Alternatively you can call us by phone on 01283 735 705 or you can write to us at: 55 Sherbourne Drive, Hilton, Derbyshire, DE65 5NJ.  We hold regular Sunday meetings at the above address which are open to all they commence at 10 o’clock and end at one o’clock all are welcome so please feel free to come along."
> Insight: To me Matthew's story sounds ludicrous, but no more so than Joseph's likely seemed to many during his day.

Mormon Women's Forum

> For the first time in American history, this year, there are more women in the workforce than men.   Now, women earn 3 degrees for every 2 men earn.  The value of superior physical strength is much less important in the modern world than it has been historically.
> The question of women's rise coming at men's expense is a new feminist question- as is whether women will occupy a higher status than men.  The panelists favored equality over female superiority.
> Possible bias transparency: I remember in my family history an account of where my great great grandma, an LDS convert, gave a mother's blessing to her baby, whom the doctor had declared dead.  That baby is my great grandfather. 

> Panelist's noted:
- Mormon women are not encouraged to overcome society's valuation of men over women
-Bringing a child into the world, a strictly female act, is only recognized in the church when accompanied by a male-only baby blessing
- Many gospel truths contain female symbols.  Birth & baptism; atonement blood & the blood of giving birth; sacrament & breastfeeding.
- Women often aren't invited to Priesthood Executive Councils.
- Different decisions are made dependent on the inclusion of women (e.g. the temperature of the chapel- when the decision makers wear suits instead of skirts, the temp. will likely be lower)
- Wave ("a group of LDS women committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and interested in advancing gender equity within the LDS church.") and Feminist Mormon Housewives are popular internet resources for Mormon feminists.
- The "equal partners" language in the Family Proclamation is nice.
- The Mormon feminist movement and feminist movements more generally suffer from a lack of representation in their ranks of sisters in the developing world.
> If one were to go about trying to establish gender equality in the church, presuming that priesthood exclusivity tips the scales in favor of men, two primary strategies would be likely to succeed:
1) demean men in relationship to women, such that priesthood acquisition then brings the two into balance
2) exalt women in relationship to men
I have observed both in abundance.  Evidence:
Strategy 1) When I was in the MTC, I remember asking our middle-aged branch president why the idea persists that women are naturally better/more spiritual than men, noting how frequently I hear that idea expressed (the idea bothered me at the time).  He told me: "simply because it's true."  Another piece: the persistent theme in the church that men are most frequently the ones who cheat on or leave spouses, abuse and neglect their children, cause divorce, etc., so they must be the worse of the two sexes.  Further, polygamy shows that men are naturally worse since there are so many more righteous women than there are men: just take a look at current active women>men ratio in the church. 
Strategy 2) I have heard from LDS pulpits the idea that women, since they were created last, are God's "crowning creation," implying their superiority to men.  Also, women have the supernal role mother and wife, and are superior nurturers by nature. 

These relative to each other, men- denigrating and women-exalting themes are ill-founded and misleading if they aren't true.

-I would counter some of the pieces above by noting that though women on average are perhaps more emotionally expressive and use their MNS more frequently, this fact even if verified does not necessarily support a conclusion that women are more spiritual, since emotion is not equivalent to the Spirit.  To the contrary, the presumption that revelation reception rates for the two genders are very similar is a reasonable one- and if anything, the relatively greater stewardship sizes of men predisposes that gender to greater quantities of revelation ceteris paribus (all else being equal).
- Are baby boys in any way less than their baby girl counterparts?  When a mother gives birth to baby Matthew, does she bate her breathe until his ordination at age 12 for him to be equal to his sister Rebecca?
- I would note that if women were created last, men were created first, and Jesus was both male and the Firstborn.  If you're going to make a women>men claim on the basis of sequential creation, it seems that God makes His best creation first, so the crowning creation argument is at the least neutralized if not superseded.
- I would point out that focusing on nurturing and motherhood when addressing gender equality excludes the value of single and/or career-focused women.  Unless that focus is accompanied by a similar focus on providing/protecting/presiding and fatherhood for men which would also exclude childless and/or career-focused men, then the nurture focus leads to further inequality. 
- Since when are the roles of mother and wife more significant than the roles of father and husband?  Thus, focusing on the mother/wife role doesn't boost women relative to men absent a conclusion that mother>father and/or wife>husband.  As to the nurturing argument, I would argue that men nurture differently than women on average, but not necessarily worse or less (plus, the ultimate nurturing role model we have, Christ, is decidedly masculine).  Also, is nurturing more important than the male-associated roles of providing, protecting, and presiding, all identified in the Family Proclamation?  One must necessarily conclude as much to exalt women in relation to men on a nurture basis. (also see male nurturing article by BYU sociologist)
- See more of my detailed arguments in my Mormon feminist post.   Basically the conclusion is that, at the margin, men and women are equal up until 1) male-only priesthood, 2) male-oriented scriptural focus, 3) polygamy, and 4) patriarchal order tip the scales in favor of men.  

> Juxtaposing the Duty to God with Personal Progress reveals some significant differences.  A greater relative focus on career compared to parenting if evidenced in one, as is a greater adherence to the Family Proclamation in another.  The mission first, marriage second compared to marriage first, mission second is another focus inequity.  This isn't necessarily bad, except for perhaps some unnecessary guilt some feel for deciding to forego a season of marriage prospects to serve a mission.
> Similarly, some feel unnecessary guilt for meeting their needs by working outside the home.
> Stay-at-home dads may experience unmerited disapproval from other members as well based on reinforcement of stereotyped gender roles in the church; because of the "individual adaptation" clause in the Family Proclamation and other principles, this disapproval is usually unmerited.
> I wonder if women could always do in the LDS church what they currently can (bless the food in public, receive and use spiritual gifts, pray, speak, sustain, partake of the sacrament).  If not, then there has been progress toward gender equality in the church over time- and it's not an unreasonable extension to then consider allowing women to bless their babies, assume greater leadership roles, etc. 

A Crisis of Faith in Newtonian Mormonism

This seminar left me intellectually reeling!  Wowza!  His paper is here. 
> Abstract:  "This paper will explore the marriage of Mormonism to the Newtonian paradigm of truth.  The Newtonian worldview orients all of our cultural thinking and the Church has fully embraced its values. In this paradigm, the ego can use the notion of truth to self-aggrandize. A compelling invitation to wake up from both the paradigm trances of our ego and cultural truth is needed. Truth and reality begin to look differently when we are no longer held hostage to their spell. When we awaken, the Church's narrative of history/ideology can take on new philosophical meaning while providing alternative options of faith."  He delivers on the compelling invitation piece!!
> The church has incorporated a Newtonian worldview.  I think that's a largely accurate claim.  
> Many people face inconsistencies with the church and feel they must either stay in the church or reject it- Michael Farnworth, the 30 year professor of family psychology at BYU-I, says perhaps a different paradigm is a third option.
> When can you throw a rock into a pond without making ripples?  When it is frozen.  Similarly, when our minds are frozen by a paradigm, ideas or truths will not cause any ripples.  
> Truth = scientific + religious knowledge.  Yes? Is this a black and white, all-or nothing view of truth?  Is staying in the ego trance more important than being Christian?  The ego seeks to discredit other paradigms through torture, war, excommunication, ostracizing, ignoring, etc.  Is your faith merely an instance of ego?
> Does a literalist interpretation (of, say, the Adam and Eve story or the flood) devalue the stories and myths, the types and shadows which help us to understand the undescribable?
> Christ calls us to the truth about our relationships.
> An apostate and a faithful LDS can have the exact same paradigm.> The ego is arrogant, even without support.
> The Pharisee is the poster child of ego poverty.
> I noticed similarities to Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements, which claims that most people are thoroughly domesticated.  I find his claims largely accurate.
> I could go on, but I'm not liking the flow- so you'll have to check out his 19-pager if you want more.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


“We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

At institute a couple months ago we discussed the last two paragraphs of the Family Proclamation.  Of course we will stand accountable to God for those actions, as we will stand accountable to Him for all we do (and likely what we omit as well) :1 Ne. 10: 20  20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into ajudgment.

The discussion caused me to reflect on what abuse is.  My friend in Ukraine pointed out that in her language there is no word for abuse- yes violence, but no abuse.  So how does one discriminate between abuse and non-abuse? 

First thought- abuse may be equivalent to objectifying others (same thing as being in the box/not personifying them/seeing them as objects such as means to an end or obstacles: see Leadership and Self-Deception, one of my top seven recommended reads).  Second thought- If not, perhaps abuse is a subset within the umbrella of objectifying defined by the additional element of:

a) harm (e.g. you smack your kid on the back in congratulations but it hurts him/her)
b) habitual harm (e.g. repeatedly telling your kid she's socially inept, not out of any malice, but nonetheless damaging her self-concept)
c) habitual harm and malintention (e.g. you tell your wife if she loved you she wouldn't complain about her daily workload, intending to get her to be silent even though you know her silence hurts her emotionally, but she complains a ton and it's driving you, the kids, and the extended family crazy and brings a negative spirit into the home)
d) habitual harm and malintention and lack of any justification (same as c but her complaining doesn't bring in a negative spirit or drive anyone crazy)
e) habitual harm and malintention and lack of correct justification (same as c but you're mistaken in thinking she's driving everyone crazy, in fact no one else minds and you've chosen to let it canker to the point that you're annoyed)

Note- the harm might be sexual, psychological, mental, emotional, physical, etc. and includes the harms that result from inaction, such as neglecting needs.

A Conversation on Spouse Abuse,” Ensign, Oct 1999, 22 has a couple other definitional constructs:

"Anne Horton: Many experts define spouse abuse as the maltreatment of another in an attempt to control him or her. Spouse abuse may be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual.
John Nelson: Spouse abuse... may involve coercive acts in which an abuser forces a person to do something that he or she normally would not do, with no particular concern for the victim. Abuse may also include the use of threats, name calling, yelling, and intimidation."

Dictionary: "Abuse is defined as any thing that is harmful, injurious, or offensive. Abuse also includes excessive and wrongful misuse of anything. There are several major types of abuse: physical and sexual abuse of a child or an adult, substance abuse, elderly abuse, and emotional abuse."

What do you think?  What's the definition? How does one discriminate between abuse and non-abuse?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

9/11 Conspiracy and Tax Protestors

I've been reading and watching some literature lately centering on "secret combination" themes such as 9/11 being an inside job, the Lusitania and Pearl Harbor being intentionally orchestrated by those who stand to gain financially from world war, the gulf of Tonkin being fabricated, the immorality of the federal reserve, unconstitutional passage of the federal income tax, etc.  I watched a vid of Steven Jones, the BYU professor who asserts that explosives were likely used in addition to the 9/11 plane crashes.  I also saw some of Jack Monett's themes about Rothschilds and small banking groups.  Lastly, I've seen a few videos by Zeitgeist.  

My knee-jerk response is to reject out of hand these "conspiracy theories."  However, this preconceived notion to reject is unmerited because it reflects a closed mind.  An open mind always audi alteram partem "hears the other side."

"In the fall of 2006, amid controversy surrounding his work on the collapse of the World Trade Center, [Steven Jones] he was relieved of his teaching duties and placed on paid leave from" BYU. 

"On September 7, 2006, Jones removed his paper from BYU's website at the request of administrators and was placed on paid leave. [20] The university cited its concern about the "increasingly speculative and accusatory nature" of Jones' work and the concern that perhaps it had "not been published in appropriate scientific venues" as reasons for putting him under review. The review was to have been conducted at three levels: BYU administration, the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and the Physics Department.[21] Jones' colleagues also defended Jones' 9/11 work to varying degrees,[22] and Project Censored lists his 9/11 research among the top mainstream media censored stories of 2007.[23]
Jones' placement on paid leave drew criticism from the American Association of University Professors and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Both organizations are long time critics of BYU's record on academic freedom.[24] Jones "welcomed the review" because he hoped it would "encourage people to read his paper for themselves," however the review was abandoned (contrary to Jones' request) when Jones elected to retire, effective January 1, 2007".[25]

Placing him on paid leave is better than firing him, but still seems inappropriate.  Promoting one's  physics-based interpretation of a significant world event should be a discretionary rather than egregious, sinful, or criminal matter.  Perhaps there are other reasons besides sinful conduct to put someone on paid leave, though.  Bottom line: I don't know yet what to make of this set of claims, nor any one of them individually.  The scientist in me says to let the conspiracy scholarship have it's day in court, and evaluate the evidence on the merits rather than on a presumption that because an idea is labeled "conspiracy theory" it is laughable or likely false. 

Also, because I don't know where else to stick it, I include an unrelated piece:
I have a strong hunch that the Fall of Adam, which we classically think of bringing in spiritual and physical death collectively to mankind, is symbolic of a reality that applies to each of us individually.  I think that perhaps the Garden of Eden, in addition to being a place, is also a set of conditions that applies to each of us individually. Partaking of the fruit, though originally done by Adam and Eve, is also done by each of us.  The whole idea of fairness (those who consume benefits should pay the resulting costs/ those who inflict harm should pay to restore said harm, or at the least be punished to satisfy retribution) seems to argue against my spiritual and physical death coming as a result of Adam's choice.  If death is a negative, it is not fair that I should receive it as a consequence of other than my own misdeed.

Fall of Adam = consciously/voluntarily stepping into mortality where death/disembodiment is the only out, which is still a personal transgression if God commands us individually as He did Adam and Eve not to partake of the fruit of that tree.  My choice to come to earth results in my physical and spiritual death.  Garden of Eden = unembodied state.  Partaking of the Fruit = choosing to ensoul a physical body, the act of possessing a body, of going from unembodied to embodied.

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