Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

The importance of forgiving yourself

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”  D&C 64:10.  I begin with this because it is the second half that I wish to speak about at this time.  My thoughts today are on the needs to forgive all men.  Not the point of forgiving others, but the need to forgive yourself.  President Hunter spoke about the importance of forgiving yourself just as much as forgiving your neighbor.

            Recently, I was pondering deeply on various things, and there has been for a long time I have not been able to forgive myself for things that I have done in the past.  I was thinking about various recent conference talks about the importance of forgiving yourself as part of the Atonement, and I found a need to say to myself that I forgive myself of my errors that I have repented of.

            After having done this, I have found that there has been a great burden lifted from me.  I was able to finally forgive myself of things, and I have never felt better about it.  We are constantly thinking of the importance of forgiving others, and the need to do so, but as stated in many talks and articles, there is an importance to find forgiveness in ourselves also.

            To truly obtain the fullness of the Atonement, one must not only forgive others of their faults and follies, but also to forgive yourself of the sins and missteps you make.  The importance of learning from your mistakes and working on not making them again is important and a key part of bettering yourself.

If you have ever had this longing point of stress, harm, feeling low, and you feel that you have repented, or that there is just something that seems to be hanging on you, and you can’t quite put your finger on it; I encourage you to look inside and ask yourself “Have I forgiven me for these things?”  If the answer is ‘no’, or uncertain; I say take it from me, forgive yourself.  It will make you feel better like you have never felt before.

The importance of forgiving yourself

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”  D&C 64:10.  I begin with this because it is the second half that I wish to speak about at this time.  My thoughts today are on the needs to forgive all men.  Not the point of forgiving others, but the need to forgive yourself.  President Hunter spoke about the importance of forgiving yourself just as much as forgiving your neighbor.

            Recently, I was pondering deeply on various things, and there has been for a long time I have not been able to forgive myself for things that I have done in the past.  I was thinking about various recent conference talks about the importance of forgiving yourself as part of the Atonement, and I found a need to say to myself that I forgive myself of my errors that I have repented of.

            After having done this, I have found that there has been a great burden lifted from me.  I was able to finally forgive myself of things, and I have never felt better about it.  We are constantly thinking of the importance of forgiving others, and the need to do so, but as stated in many talks and articles, there is an importance to find forgiveness in ourselves also.

            To truly obtain the fullness of the Atonement, one must not only forgive others of their faults and follies, but also to forgive yourself of the sins and missteps you make.  The importance of learning from your mistakes and working on not making them again is important and a key part of bettering yourself.

If you have ever had this longing point of stress, harm, feeling low, and you feel that you have repented, or that there is just something that seems to be hanging on you, and you can’t quite put your finger on it; I encourage you to look inside and ask yourself “Have I forgiven me for these things?”  If the answer is ‘no’, or uncertain; I say take it from me, forgive yourself.  It will make you feel better like you have never felt before.

An Unnatural Death

Why are so many young people committing suicide? What is it about today's society that seems to abet this act of anger and despair?

Read more

Guns and Carnal Security

Some thoughts about gun safety and how we choose to interpret the Second Amendment

About Guns and Carnal Security

I don't own guns. I have very limited experience with them. I am not an expert in Constitutional Law. However, I have read up on this subject and discussed matters with family members, some of whom are gun enthusiasts. I also have a nephew who is in law enforcement in California. A relative of my sister-in-law works for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency of the Federal Government. So, as something of an outsider, I nevertheless feel compelled to share my personal observations about this.

I personally do not worry if someone owns guns, anymore than I am concerned that the same person owns knives, bows and arrows, swords, chain saws, or a welding torch. My issues with guns include "strict constructionist" interpretations of the US Constitution, the responsibility entailed by gun ownership, and people's attitudes towards safety and security. I will address these issues separately.

People are free to interpret the Constitution how they want, but the courts decide how these interpretations translate into the rule of law. While some have suggested that the Second Amendment was crafted to enable slave patrol militias in the South, this author suggests otherwise. I believe it was designed to empower state militias, and that these have been superseded by the National Guard. As people who have experienced crime and violence will readily concede, however, one would hate to not have a means of protecting one's loved ones and person when the National Guard, or the police, aren't there. I agree with Jason Johnson that the process of acquiring a gun should require rigorous licensing and training, more so, perhaps, than getting a driver's license. What these opinions suggest is that the Second Amendment doesn't spell out what the "right to bear arms" entails. As Johnson has observed, in his conversation with Collon Noir, an NRA supporter, the NRA is really a trade organization, not a guarantor of constitutional protections. It's interpretation is as tortuous as that of any ardent regulator. I am personally glad that our Constitution lends itself to amendment, and judicial review. For me, strict constructionists are like those who cling to scriptural inerrancy, in the face of abundant textual scholarship and archaeological revelations. I believe that Latter-Day Saints, who believe in progressive revelation and an open scriptural canon, should not treat the US Constitution as sacrosanct and infallible. The versatility of the Constitution is precisely why it has weathered attacks against it over the centuries. Some have suggested amendments to alleviate congressional inertia. I believe now that the Equal Rights Amendment should have been adopted. There are conduct and competency issues in the executive branch, which seem to be inadequately addressed by current law. It is notable that no president has been successfully removed from office, except in case of assassination or voluntary resignation.

When I consider gun ownership, I am reminded about my intermediate school shop teacher. While I wasn't the best student, I do remember his message about using tools properly, as they were intended. I still shrink from using screwdrivers as chisels or ice picks, for example. The rules applied both to preventing abuse to the tools, and to personal safety. I am also reminded of the example of my late father, who was in the First Infantry during World War II. He certainly knew about weaponry, and used it to take human life. While he had a service revolver, none of us was allowed to handle it unsupervised. I never played with it, as some children have with their own parents' weapons. He kept it in a safe place, so none of my siblings would get to it. I had toy guns, but I was not allowed to point them at another person. I believe if every parent kept weapons inaccessible to children, and taught them not to point even toy guns at other children, it would make a world of difference.

I served a mission to Switzerland, where every able-bodied male between about 19-34 is required to do active duty for a few weeks out of the year, and is required to pass a marksmanship test. There are shooting ranges in just about every town. Basic training is for 18 weeks and soldiers keep their weapons at home and equipment at home, though not ammunition, according to Wikipedia. Switzerland has very little crime, compared to the United States. However, ownership of weapons there is not necessarily what preserves the peace. I believe it derives from a strong sense of community values, and peer pressure. The Swiss are very aware of what goes on in their communities, and are quick to reprimand those in violation of even minor ordinances. While their confederation means that national laws are not always uniformly enforced by the respective cantons, their heritage of independence does not translate into disrespect for order and conformity. I am sure our gun homicide rate mystifies them.

As I said, I don't mind if someone owns guns, or other weapons. I just think guns, like any dangerous tool, or equipment, should be treated with proper respect. It is an awesome responsibility to carry a gun, because it is designed for protection and, if necessary, the wounding, or killing, of another person, or creature. Those who have served in the military, in law enforcement, or hunted, should know what that responsibility entails. It is not to be treated lightly. How someone can carry a loaded weapon about his or her person when judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs disturbs me. I am appalled when people brag about their willingness to kill someone, under the flimsiest of pretexts. Those who have had to take life do not brag about it. As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has pointed out in On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, normal human beings are not bloodthirsty or homicidal by nature. They must be drilled to kill. A friend of mine who served in Vietnam said his first "kill" was very traumatic. Like most combat soldiers, though, he got used to it. If one has to use a gun, or some other weapon, one must be sure that it is in working order, that one knows how to aim and fire, and must not be hesitant, if the situation requires it, to use it against other sentient beings. How many, indeed, are ready to assume that charge? I would guess there aren't nearly as many as those who actually own guns.

The final issue with me is the sense of safety that many believe owning a gun conveys. If one knows how to properly store and maintain a gun, fine. As before, familiarity with the use of one's tools usually equates with their safe handling. So, if a gun is going to provide protection, one should practice with it regularly. I have bought tools and camping gear, and only used them once or never. I like the idea of having them, but unlike insurance, they provide little security if they are neglected, and I don't use them. Once one has acquired a gun, one is committed to its use, and to constant vigilance, unless one intends to use it only for display purposes. One cannot assume it is unloaded, unless it is taken apart. One cannot assume the safety is on, without checking it. Having a gun, and being prepared to use it, still does not guarantee protection. I do not think anything in life guarantees safety for the body. I believe this is what Nephi means when he refers to "carnal security" in 2 Nephi 28:21 or trusting in "the arm of flesh" in 2 Nephi 4:34. Guns do not protect our spirits, if we are caught up in the pride of our hearts, or our own transgressive wills.

I am also not one to ignore public health and safety warnings, and expect God to protect me, if I refuse wise counsel. Even as one with the priesthood, if I do not take advantage of all the marvelous tools and services available to me, I cannot expect to be protected by angels, nor sheltered from harm. Not all of us are ham radio operators, or have EMT training. That doesn't preclude me from understanding about emergency preparedness, and becoming familiar with the skill sets of my neighbors, or how to contact them when the need arises. That doesn't excuse me from planning what to do if there is a break-in, or if my life is threatened, or someone else is endangered. That doesn't excuse me from consulting with local law enforcement and participating in neighborhood watch. I may not own a gun, but knowing those who do, and being able to trust their competency with one, will ease my mind a bit. I assume that law enforcement officers know how to handle guns. Just knowing someone has a gun, however, is not the same as knowing whether or not he or she is prepared to use it.

When people speak of arming the populace, without a reporting mechanism to determine whether or not that populace knows how to use guns responsibly and safely, it doesn't relieve my anxiety. Just giving guns to people is no more effective against crime and violence than giving money to beggars is in fighting poverty. If people speak of taking ownership of guns, rather than just having guns, then I am assured they are acting in the public interest, and not just marketing firearms.

In Harmony With the Church


As a response to a pervasive discussion about "white culture" and white supremacy, the LDS church issued a pair of statements condemning the behavior of groups and individuals advocating hate. There first statement asserted prior counsel from the President of the Church and advocated for Christ-like love. Somehow, this statement was taken out of context by the very degenerates it sought to address. As a result, they issued a follow-up statement clarifying the condemnation of race-based hate, but also including this phrase:  

Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church. 

Read more

Utah Blue 2016

In these critical last election days, here is a blog to share with Utahns (and anyone else) leaning towards Trump but still not comfortable with him or who plan to vote for a third party candidate. Written primarily for Utah's Republican / conservative leaning audience, blog topics topics include:

  • Precedent among the Founding Fathers for voting for your political enemies to prevent somebody truly unfit being elected to office.
  • What the three primary areas of responsibility are for the presidency and how Trump fails in every one and how Clinton excels in every one, even above all third party candidates.
  • How Brexit shocked and damaged the U.K. and how it could happen in the U.S. with Trump should voter turnout for Clinton not occur.

More relevant content will be posted in the coming days. The link to the blog is below. Please share through all your social media channels!

(the name of the pseudonymous author of the blog, Bloglius, is a play on the pseudonym Publius as used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in writing the Federalist papers)

Why I am an Ex-Mormon and a strong Decmocrat

Life teachs you to live with authenticity and always to be true to yourself. I couldn't remain as a Mormon member due to the fact that I am a mature gay man. I paid dearly when I came out of the closet. My point is I am a strong Democrat. I hold three different citizenships (Chilean-born-, American and Canadian). I lived in Utah, for 8 years, under the infamous Ronald Reagan administration. I saw first hand how people, sadly many members of the church, treated Democrats when passing every house to ask to join the Democrat party. These people cried when visiting us as they couldn't believe the treatment they got by their own brothers and sisters. Today, I am a strong "Democratico", Democrat and/or Liberal as it names in Canada. I hope that my vote will never allow Republicans to be in office. Thank You! Max.

The Story of the Gifts

Some years ago, I read Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (1983), which got me to thinking about the nature of hospitality. When one reads the Bible and other narratives of antiquity, one is struck about the importance of hospitality in the past, and how wicked it was to abuse one's guests. In our day, it seems like hospitality is understood more in terms of ingratitude, rather than in terms of one's obligation of being a good host. While I, like most, decry those who bite the hands who feed them, I feel that we have downplayed the moral obligation to help the less fortunate. I will be following up on the hospitality concept later. Right now, I would like to share a parable, or allegory, regarding what I perceive to be the root of humanity's discontent: our inability to recognize, or appreciate, one another's gifts. Please see this also in the context of Pioneer Day and the global refugee crisis.

The Story of the Gifts


Once there was a family.  They were given everything they needed by the Lord of All.  They had bodies, they had a wealth of resources to sustain themselves.  They would have to work to use these resources properly, so they would be fed, clothed and sheltered.  But if they didn’t work, their bodies became sick from disuse.  They also became sick or hungry if they overly consumed resources, or didn’t clean up after themselves, or didn’t try to replenish the supply.  Somehow, that wasn’t enough for some, so they went elsewhere.  A brother who stayed behind decided that he wasn’t getting enough recognition, so he killed his brother and claimed his property.  He was sent away, but went around to the others and persuaded them that it was better to take than receive.  So, whereas people received their gifts for free before, they started resorting to force and deception.  People found all sorts of excuses to fight.  They felt they were disrespected.  They didn’t like how property was divided up.  They felt they were more deserving of ownership than the actual owners.  They felt that their beliefs were more important than someone else’s.  They thought they were simply better than the others.  So much better, in fact, that they decided some ought to be owned by them.  If they didn’t own them, they should at least serve their putative masters for the rest of their lives.

So, war became a strategy. It became the most important activity for a lot of people.  When they weren’t fighting wars, they were daily devising ways to keep people away from the gifts to which they were formerly entitled.  Soon, there were big gaps between what people owned, and what they didn’t.  Some had more than they could ever possibly use in their lifetimes.  Others never had quite enough.  Some became sick because they overate and exercised too little.  Others were sick because they didn’t have enough to eat, or to wear, or because they didn’t have adequate shelter.  People forgot that they used to all have just what they needed.  So, they thought that those better off deserved to be, that they were more favored by the gods.  Those who were poor, they thought, were that way because they were too weak, unambitious, inferior, poor managers.  The gods had accursed them.  If others brought up that this was unfair, they were condemned as being too weak or overly indulgent.

After fighting for a long, long time, people rediscovered faith.  They thought it would be better to help the less fortunate, to be less proud, to remember who gave them the gifts to begin with.  People became so convinced that this was a good idea, they decided that everyone needed to believe this.  If they didn’t, it was back to the battlefield. If people were robbed, maimed or killed, that was just an unfortunate consequence. The higher purpose was to convert people to the Truth.  

If other people did not understand the Truth because they spoke another language, or had a wholly different culture, that didn’t matter.  They deserved destruction if they didn’t convert. Fortunately, the conquerors didn’t destroy everybody.  After they ran out of heathen and infidels to convert on land, they went across the ocean and discovered people who had moved away long ago, who had so forgotten the ways of the Lord of All that they were sacrificing men, women and children to other gods.  The other people had done away with this practice long ago.  So, they converted them to the higher way of living.  It became easier to accept this, because they didn’t do away with human sacrifice altogether.  Instead of sacrificing members of their families to their gods, they sacrificed them to bondage, prostitution, backbreaking toil in behalf of their masters, addictions, and mortal combat in behalf of the state.

Over time, it became harder and harder for the powerful to be satisfied with what they owned.  Sometimes, the less powerful gained ground.  They now would be paid for their work, they began to own property, they began to have enough to eat, a roof over their heads. They even began to live longer.  The powerful began to be concerned.

What was always difficult for the powerful to understand is how someone who was less powerful could be beautiful, talented and even smart.  The powerful liked owning things.  They were frustrated that they couldn’t always own bodies, just people’s time.  If they did own bodies, they couldn’t own talents, beauty or minds.  So, in their dissatisfaction, they thought that if some couldn’t be owned, they might as well be eliminated.  It was no longer a question of converting or enslaving them.  It was becoming easier, after all, to get rid of people with greater and greater efficiency.

People got so good at destroying great numbers of their fellow men that they decided they couldn’t afford to live like this.  War was becoming too successful.  War didn’t go away, however.  It was just waged on a smaller scale.  Slavery didn’t go away, either.  It was practiced on a wide scale by landlords, pimps, and sweatshop owners who found ways to convince their employees that they owned them.  The powerful also found ways to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, convincing them if they just worked harder, they could be rich, too.  They gave the poor loans, which they found very difficult, if not impossible, to pay back.  But the poor thought this was generous, because they now had goods and services on credit.  Occasionally, a poor person would win at lotteries or at gambling ventures, which seemed to prove that the wealthy cared about the poor.  Poor people sometimes became famous entertainers or athletes, so this was proof the system worked.  The powerful also promised that if they just acquired more, it would be easier to share their surplus with the needy.

As the needy grew more and more needful, it became harder and harder for the powerful to convince them to be contented with their lot.  When the needy started to rebel, the powerful convinced them that strangers were their enemy.  When they finally decided that strangers weren’t to blame, the powerful convinced the needy that there were some among them receiving more than their fair share.  This, too, worked for a long time.  Finally, the needy started to demand more of the largesse of the powerful.  The powerful had seductive storytellers and entertainers, craven rulers, all sorts of inane media distractions, mind-numbing food and drugs, and mighty armies at their disposal.  The needy had their anger, their faith, and their vast numbers.  It was time for a showdown.

The Lord of All had intervened many times in their history, to stave off the total destruction of the descendants of the first family.  Since people now had the means to totally destroy themselves, He paid them a call.  There was still a lot of destruction, but at least a lot of people were spared.  Some had been powerful.  Most had been needy.  After so much was lost, people decided once again that some things just weren’t worth owning.  They saw once again that the original gifts, such as having a body, having a life, having a family, having a home, food to eat, a roof over the head, a place to lay one’s head, responsible work to do, service to perform, were quite valuable indeed.


Grounds for Bitterness, for Gratitude, and for Mercy

Anyway I look at it, I have had a privileged upbringing. My parents weren't wealthy, but I did live in upper middle class neighborhoods in San Jose, California, before the place managed to price itself out of the reach of the middle class. I grew up healthy, with both parents, and with all of my siblings. I didn't think of myself as privileged, though some friends envied us our surroundings. I was the 5th of 6 kids, so my parents didn't pressure me like they did my older siblings. I was far from a valedictorian, but got good grades in school. I was a social misfit, but since my parents and siblings had a lot of friends, and we were active in the LDS Church, I never felt completely isolated.

My parents had some trauma growing up, including my father's parents divorcing, frequent moves, the Great Depression, World War II (where my father and several uncles saw combat), culture shock (my father moved with his stepfather and family to San Francisco in the Thirties from Salt Lake City, where he also learned to drive), and the vicissitudes of being part of a religious and political minority in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area. I was very shy growing up, but learned to flout my otherness as a Mormon and a conservative among friends and associates. There was certainly crime in San Jose back then, but we weren't personally touched by it. We had no security systems at any of our houses where I grew up. My father taught junior high school math for 25 years. My mother worked for Santa Clara County's welfare department and later for the California State Department of Health. In other words, they never led sheltered lives, but they did their best to keep us unspotted from the world.

Now, in my sixtieth year, I want to look back on what I have seen and experienced, and what I have learned from it (at least what I can halfway remember). I haven't always cared for my health, but at least I never got into promiscuity or substance abuse, as did many I have known. I could be healthier, but would not call myself ravaged by disease. I lost both parents to death between my thirtieth and thirty-first years, but they had at least lived to see their older children grow up and marry. My paternal grandfather, my father's stepfather, my maternal grandmother and grandfather were all gone before I was 6. My mother's stepmother lived in Salt Lake City, and didn't visit much. I knew my father's mother the best. She died a few years before my parents. In later years, I lost my father's sister, my father's half-brother, and three of my mother's siblings. I had a couple of unsuccessful marriages, and have experienced estrangement from my own children, stepchildren, and their children. Some of my siblings and some of their children have had bouts of ill health, which have caused a great deal of hardship for their families. Some nephews and nieces aren't participating Latter-Day Saints, which has been difficult for their parents. A few nephews and cousins have divorced, which at least made me feel less of an anomaly in the family, though I wouldn't want to wish a failed marriage upon anyone. In the last month, I lost two nephews to cancer and a traffic accident, leaving seven little boys for their widows to raise. This, I think, has been the toughest blow to my immediate family. My cousins have had much worse to deal with.

On the other hand, I have been aware of other people's lives for a long, long time. I got into history as a child. Though I read books adapted for a younger audience, my early fascination with war exposed me to some of the gruesome facts of life early on. I knew my father had been wounded in combat several times, as I could see his many bodily scars when he bathed me as child. I didn't know how athletic he had been before his military experience, until his half-brother shared some stories about him after his death. My mother would occasionally share some traumatic stories from work, with no identifying details, of course. My parents took people into their home from time to time, sometimes for longer periods. I heard some traumatic stories from them. Someone I knew committed suicide in junior high school. Our former bishop's 11-year-old daughter was abducted after school, sexually tortured, and strangled. My high school classmates knew about it before I did. I collected fast offerings from a family whom I later learned had been running a DIY pornography ring out of their home, featuring the wife, father, their underage girls and their school friends. I've known people who were either victims of domestic violence, or perpetrators. Personally, I haven't suffered much from the criminality of others, other than getting jumped once in junior high school by a group of toughs, being defrauded by a Redevelopment Agency employee, and sustaining false charges on my bank cards. So many others have.

As a child, I was one of the first couch potatoes. Watching TV was more important to me than going out and playing. I was mortally afraid of social embarrassment. I was afraid of heights, afraid of ever being in a position where I wouldn't be in control of my actions, sometimes afraid to leave the house. So, I played it relatively safe, didn't get too involved with girls, didn't play dangerous sports, avoided confrontation. I was no one's champion, though I liked to speak up for obscure writers and recording artists. I wasn't bullied much, but neither did I do much to defend others who were tormented, sometimes siding with the aggressor. I admired heroes, but never thought of myself as one. I was a missionary in a safe place (Switzerland) and have lived in relatively safe places (Provo and Salt Lake County) for the past 37 years. Most of my career has involved working in library settings. I haven't shown much of a confrontational nature there, either.

So, I would say I feel the most penitent about my many sins of omission, of not speaking out when it was my opportunity, of not magnifying my talents. I know of so many who have taken considerable risk, who (like my father) have fired a shot in anger, who have been severely afflicted by others, who have suffered from horrendous personal reverses in life. There are so many who have been in toxic relationships, who have lost almost everything in catastrophes, or who have never known what it is like to live in a nurturing environment. So many suffer from poverty, disease, oppression, war, famine, drought. So many are in mental torment. So many waste away from slow, painful injuries and incurable illnesses. So many suffer, watching their loved ones slowly deteriorate from dementia, unable to arrest the destroyer of memory and bodily mastery. So many are refugees from loveless homes, economic and political security, or outright persecution. So many, who live on our streets, could benefit from psychiatric treatment if the lure of self-destruction weren't so powerful. So many are slaves to a host of addictions. Where is God in all this?

Why did I have it so easy, when so many others have been at the mercy of others' depraved fantasies? Why did I get to grow up unabused by my parents? Why did my parents not lose their jobs and homes, like others did? Why didn't my siblings or I have life-threatening illnesses? Why weren't my brothers and I drafted and sent to Vietnam, like so many other young men of our age group? Why wasn't I born in some gang-infested slum, or brought up in an outlaw subculture? Why didn't I have to grow up under totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorships? Why was I never a victim of colonial exploitation, of slavery, or genocide? Why didn't I have to be displaced because someone coveted my land and its resources? Why was God so good to me, and not to so many others?

I cannot reproach someone for being bitter about his or her life, since I haven't been in their shoes. I admire those who have survived a tough upbringing, who have succeeded against all odds. I try not to make fetishes of their misfortune. At the same time, I can only look back upon my limited experience and try to gain some perspective. It is easy to see some as whiners and murmurers. They don't know how good they have it, some say. We can always think of someone who has had it worse, who doesn't complain. What would it be like, if you grew up in a sheltered, affluent life and suddenly lost everything to disaster or human destructiveness? What would it be like to have a simple peasant's existence and then have to relocate to a modern urban metropolis? To have to leave a familiar home and live among strangers who don't speak your language or practice your faith? What if you are struck by crime, by disease, by forces majeures, with no prior warning? Would you hold on to your faith? Could we all be like Job, who, by the way, didn't submit mutely to his fate?

No, I can't fault people for saying they've lost faith in God, because He has seemingly proved He is sadistic, as C. S. Lewis posited in A Grief Observed. It is easy to question whether God exists, because He may seem pitiless, partisan or even impotent, in the face of so much evil, so much natural destruction, so much capricious "natural selection." It is the problem of theodicy; how can an omnipotent God be good and permit evil, unless He is also its author? Some people of faith rationalize God's omnipotence as proof that people must suffer because of something they, or their wards, did wrong. It would be blasphemous to assume that God is powerless to stop evil. If all are born with Original Sin, then all, including infants, are capable of wrongdoing. If your child dies suddenly, we have the example of God smiting King David's son in 2 Samuel 12 because of David's adultery with Bathsheba and precipitating her husband Uriah's death. You, or your child, must have done something wrong to merit this affliction. If your child is born with some chronic illness or deformity, you must have sinned, or the child did something in the premortal existence, to deserve this. Maybe it was in-breeding. You should have been more exogamous. Defective genes. If you believe in reincarnation and karma, on the other hand, then you don't worry about the suffering and injustice of life. It's all illusory, anyway; no matter how many times we are reborn, it will eventually work itself out.

This, of course, can extend to both justice and benevolence. We like God to take vengeance upon people for making poor choices. I have heard the saying, "Poor folks, poor ways." If people would quit expecting others to take care of them, then their condition would be alleviated, through their personal efforts, many believe. We like the idea of people getting what they deserve. In other words, those suffering from compassion fatigue, or who are unashamedly prosperous, live as much in an idealistic fantasy as those who believe working minimum wage jobs will someday lead them to riches. Or, that buying lottery tickets and gambling is tantamount to capital investment. Or, that lending money to the poor at usurious rates will teach them fiscal responsibility. Or, that an unregulated free market will encourage people to act out of rational self-interest, which means that they will play fairly, and not be susceptible to greed, fraud and mere rent-seeking.

No, in life, true justice doesn't seem to happen. There is an uneven distribution of wealth, which no government has succeeded in rectifying, without fostering captivity, capital cronyism, confiscation, corruption, capital punishment, and capital flight. I believe that all of what people might lump under misfortune comes as a consequence of being cut off from the direct presence of God, AKA the Fall of Mankind. Everyone experiences loss, pain, trauma of some sort, with the reassurance that it won't last forever. Evil people, as well as righteous people, die. I wish some people would live longer, but am grateful that bad people don't last longer than they do. I don't ask God for trials, because I don't feel entitled to counsel Him on what is best for me or anyone else. This recognition that we all need toughening up, however, does not excuse us from trying to lighten one another's burdens, when we can. Nowhere in scripture are people praised for their "benign neglect." People should no more be left to ignorance, inefficiency, wastefulness, addiction, illness, and incapacity because we assume "it is God's will" than that we should wear hair shirts, live in caves, starve, blind, whip, mutilate and burn ourselves to bestow piety. People learn from consequences, when they choose to be willful, and not teachable. I am not about to leave toddlers to wander in traffic, however, so they will learn what happens when they are in front of a speeding car. Sometimes, the lesson comes too late. I wouldn't want to play Russian roulette with my children's health and not get them vaccinated, for the same reason. One outbreak can be too much. So, it is up to me to warn, and do more, when necessary.

Those who come through their personal Gethsemane without bitterness, on the other hand, are in a much better position to comfort those facing similar agonies. Think how much more powerful an ex-convict's or recovered addict's counsel is to an inmate or addict, than what someone like I might say. Veterans prefer sharing their stories with fellow veterans only, because they have a shared understanding.

I prefer not to get too much into hero worship, because if we spend all of our time being in awe of pioneer forebears, of policemen, firemen, athletes, paramedics, soldiers, or of self-help gurus, we seem to just hold ourselves back from evolving. Learn from others, but don't hesitate to try doing them one better. I admire artists, thinkers, dissidents, martyrs, inventors, discoverers for making something new, for blazing a path to follow, for laying it all on the line, but I prefer using them as guides, not final destinations. In a sense, we are still collecting relics, still trying to buy indulgences, still trying to tap into that mythical surplus of past righteousness, still hoping that the zeal of present missionaries, apostles and past Saints will somehow rub off on us and mask our own inadequacy. While not all have been Great Men and Great Women, it is surprising how many of our predecessors were decent people. Even if they didn't live exemplary lives, they did something to ensure they would have posterity. They were more familiar with death in their communities than we are now, since so many of us live in communities with high standards of living, which are relatively free of violence, and modern in public health practices.

So, let's champion people who maintain sobriety, who are honest workers, who treat their families well, who serve in their communities, and who refuse to be captive to a dark past. Let's stop trying to say God picks winners and losers. Let us neither minimize what others go through, nor puff ourselves up because we think we merit God's favor. If we are going to envy anyone, envy those who have the ability to empathize, because they have already been there. Those who have lived to tell about it, without boasting, without desiring self-mortification. Let us be grateful for what Elder Maxwell called life's tutorials. Let us not try to justify what did, or did not, happen to us or somebody else. Instead, we need to mourn with those who mourn, comfort those in need of comfort, and be witnesses for Christ at all times and in all places. We need to protect society from predators, but should realize that we can forgive better than we will ever mete out punishment and restitution.



Subscribe Share


get updates