On Wheat & Tares we frequently get comments about how our posts are so negative towards the Church, and we fail to see the good it does. Just yesterday Buddhist Bishop found fault with the way the Church spends its money for buildings. I got to thinking about why some people seem to look for the fault in other people, organizations, possessions (my car is a lemon), etc. I have enjoyed reading lots of books on evolutionary psychology, and I remember reading in one of them the idea that we have a propensity to find fault as a survival instinct. I was unable to find the reference, but it was just one authors opinion (which is what most of evolutionary psychology is), so I’ll offer my opinion on the subject! (I wrote about a similar subject, the “Gift Of Fear” three years ago)
Lets suppose there are two men that lived 100,000 years ago in a hunter/gather situation. If you believe the earth is only 6000 years old you can stop reading, as none of this will make sense. One was named Bob, and the other Jim. (I tried to come up with some old sounding names, and even found a Caveman Name Generator, but I thought I’d just stick to something easy)
Bob finds fault in almost everything he does. It is just his personality. One day he trades some mastodon meat to a fellow tribe member for a spear. The spear looks good, but the person that made it did not let the plant fiber used to hold the rock blade to the wood shaft dry sufficiently ( he rushed it), so it was too pliable. When Bob used it on a rushing saber-toothed tiger (Smilodon), the blade twisted to the side when it hit the tiger, only partially penetratingly the skin. The wounded animal was still quite capable, and it took Bob much longer to subdue the cat, not without some danger to his life. When he returned to his cave, he let spear maker know his spear was garbage, that it didn’t work. Bob found a new spear maker after that incident.
Something similar happens to Jim who lives the next tribe over. But Jim only sees the good in everything, its just his nature. So when the spear fails, and he is almost killed, he does not want to confront the spear maker, figures the spear maker was only human (or neanderthal), and maybe the next one would be better.
On Bob’s next hunt, he has a much better spear, and kills a tiger without incident. Bob lived a long life (50 years), and had many children from multiple wives. Each of these children had their father’s gift for fault finding. Jim on the other had went hunting with another faulty spear, since he was giving the spear maker the benefit of the doubt (he was doubting his doubts!). Jim was killed this time when his spear complete failed him. He never had children, and never passed on his “look on the bright side of life” gene.
I think today we don’t need to have the “fault finding” gene, and it is slowly being bred out of us. We have Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), local building authorities, etc. It is usually not a life and death situation if we fail to find faults in people or things. The person without the fault finding gene is being saved by society and its safety nets, so that they can have children. But this will take several thousand years, so until then, you have me and the other writers on Wheat & Tares with the fault finding gene looking for faults anywhere we can find them, and saving the the human race!
You mentioned evolutionary phycology. That would be the study of algae. After reading your essay, it became clear that you meant to write evolutionary psychology. But honestly .. it would be really fun to see phycology or mycology worked into a W & T essay.
My own thought is people do not think or discuss things that are working well and serving their purpose. The foundation of a house does not get questioned until cracks are seen. Some people will assess a roof every few years, while others never do and they just assume it is functioning as promised and expected. A roof is trusted until water is found leaking into the house. Once one leak is found, the entire roof is then suspect.
Once something is seen as defective, like the spear in the article, people do react in different ways. As the essay stated, there are those who give feedback to the manufacturer or manager. They get mocked and are called Karens. There are those who attempt to just keep on using the defective product and modify their own behavior in order to make it work. Too often, they do often become injured and sadly, many see their own death or maiming as easier than complaining.
In the LDS church, good things happen on a level that is even smaller than a ward. The real caring is done by individuals caring for other individuals who happen to attend the same congregation. No one doubts those wonderfully kind gestures.
Many questions and much of the anger people have is about the church policy and culture of protecting the name and reputation of the LDS church at any cost. No matter what harm is done to individuals, there is a church cultural attitude that the church organization is never wrong. When people are hurt, the church organization and culture simply rolls forward while the individual is crushed.
The LDS corporate church needs to get back into the business of caring for people. Part of the process of caring is learning to accept blame for harm that has been done. Knowing how to apologize is important.
So much effort by the Church is spent on protecting God and the good name of the church. If we truly believe that God is all knowing and all powerful, He does not need our protection. He is quite capable of caring for himself. All churches are known by their works. The LDS church is known for hoards of young self-funded missionaries, tithe-paying members and a huge financial wealth. We need more church-funded works and less photos of yellow-vested volunteers. The world does not need more proselyting. People learn to admire others by the kindnesses they do — not by what they say.
If we assume that God can protect Himself, then the efforts of the church could be spent on caring for the most vulnerable. The entire story of Christ is about a social justice revolutionary caring for the lowest echelons of society. Let’s see more of that Christ-like behavior.
No fault-finding gene is necessary. Let’s just focus of taking excellent care of people.
We also are born with a pretty good BS meter. Unless we let religion or other philosophies override it, it should help us see things as they are. Without that meter we can be deceived by political doctrines like Trumpism or religious doctrines like divinely imposed skin color curses. An unsullied BS meter helps us see the Mormon church as it is. It’s not just the Mormons, it’s other churches as well. Negativity for negativity sake doesn’t work but negativity as a result of “seeing things as they truly are “will.
I think negativity comes out with these types of forums because….NONE is allowed in LDS church or community. …people want and need to vent issues. Valid issues will happen in every organization and place.
The purpose of a ward council….stake council….missionary district/zone meetings, and occasional class should be to discuss actual problems. In LDS it is all swept under the rug…..all is well in Zion…..what is your problem ? …the rest of us are fine with the way things are. That is why it comes forth on these types of blogs. The LDS church has NO place is discuss issues or decision makers who want to listen.
As to one’s BS meter, it is sometimes important to recognize that there can be observer bias on the part of critics of churches/religions/political positions as well as on the part of adherents of such churches/religions/political positions. I suppose everyone has a BS meter functioning at some level. I doubt that any, including mine, are free of observer bias.
I think Faith has it right as to why blogs such as this one seem to include a lot of negativity — there is for many no other “safe” place to express their concerns. But I’ve also been in bishopric meetings and ward councils where some such issues (far from all) could be discussed and, where they could be addressed at the ward level, addressed by the ward decision makers. Of course, that doesn’t get to the systemic issues that affect either that ward or others. On even rarer occasions I’ve experienced that at the stake president level — still not able to address the systemic problems.
“Fault finding” is a term that carries serious negative connotations to many. That’s too bad since literal fault finding is part of any legitimate quality control process. I wonder if there’s a term that would convey the meaning without the negative connotations.
Damascene, would you like a job as my editor? You job would be to get up early on Sunday, read my post, and then comment on my misspellings and typos. I can then fix them when I finally wake up on the West coast. Pay is nonexistent, but you keep your fault finding genes well exercised, and able to pass them on to your kids!
Predisposed I guess – for the last 15 years I have been a compliance officer for a Wall Street firm, so I am paid to discover problematic issues.
I also like to do more research after watching most “based on a true story” movies.
I must admit the I was amused that the first response to this post was fault finding on Bill’s spelling and then went on to say we don’t need fault finding, all we need is to be good to each other. No, as long as humans are human, we need fault finding, even if just to protect ourselves from thinking this post was really about algae. But as long as humans are human, we need to protect ourselves from deception, misunderstanding, fraud, lies, and abuse. Just being kind and giving to others turns one into a sucker to those who would take unfair advantage of our goodness. Nope, we need a healthy BS meter.
I have a daughter who is an example of a loving, giving, always see the good in others….and turn a blind eye to their faults. And she has been in seven abusive relationships with men, not that they beat her, more like they sleep with her best friend to hurt her. She lacks a healthy BS meter.
Fault finding does have a bad reputation, because there are people who can do nothing else. We have all been around the kind of critical unpleasant folk who can’t say anything good about anybody else. Evolutionary psychology would suggest they are unlikely to pass on their genes either, not because they are dead, but because no one wants to be around them. So, we should want to keep a healthy balance in our lives between fault finding and good finding. If we can’t find the good, then Bill’s example of the cave man looking for a good spear would not recognize a good spear maker and just fall for another slick spear salesman who wants to sell shoddy spears.
As far as this site being critical of the church, I admit that I come here to discus problems with the church that I can’t voice elsewhere. But I only want to discuss those things because I am tied to the church in a love/hate kind of relationship. (I love it and it hates me. I identify as all three of BKP’s enemies of the church, as an intellectual, feminist, mother of a gay child, so yeah, fair to say it hates me.) but try as I might, I can’t just hate the church and walk away, because of all the good things about the church we have no need to discuss on this blog. So, I imagine that most of us here see enough good in the church, but just feel no need to discuss it.
I find I am very much predisposed.
It served me well when I was employed – all you parent searchers out there back in the 90s – I was the one who flagged to my employers up a missing patent upload on the European patent classification database, insisted I was right, until they looked into it themselves and flagged it up to the database provider, who was then able to rectify it.
During the pandemic it is exhausting to try and keep people safe. Normally I’d just blog about stuff that ticks me off, but when actual lives are being put on the line unnecessarily I’ve been driven to stick my neck out more forcefully locally.
For background. As a brass player and engineering graduate I had been following the research being carried out by Dr Shelley Miller at the university in Boulder Colorado on aerosols, accumulation in rooms, and produced by different instruments, and forwarded the preliminary research reports to my teacher. I designed and sewed instrument bell covers for trumpets and trombones for students in schools.
Our bishopric was changed just as our ward was to begin some kind of voluntary in person meetings in the summer, so that whilst my husband and I hadn’t been planning to attend those meetings, we finished up having to because he was called as a counsellor. In the pandemic situation churches here in England are required to complete formal risk assessments for in person meetings. My husband finished up getting the task of completing these, and asked me to read all the government guidelines etc. Well the church area guidelines didn’t match the government guidelines over sharing a microphone. After all the reading I’d been doing about aerosols I was horrified that those at the pulpit were expected (church area guidelines) to remove their masks at the pulpit, and when the bishop indicated he wanted a full in person fast and testimony meeting, that was nightmare super-spreader event potential for me. And I emailed stake to express my concerns about shared microphones and removing masks. I was told those concerns had been escalated but no response has yet been forthcoming from higher up…
I emailed stake yet again to express concerns about in person youth activities, ward boundaries covering far too large a geographical area to qualify as local as per government guidelines, and rising local Covid-19 rates just 3 days before our city was moved from level two to level four lockdown just before Christmas. Was I really the only person watching the actual data? Apparently.
Anyway it’s just got so exhausting trying to keep people safe, and seeing that once in the in person meetings they simply will not follow the regulations to distance and not mingle. I simply cannot handle the stress of constantly seeing the dangers anymore. We’ve said we won’t be attending in person until 3 weeks after our second vaccine. I had my first Friday (And I absolutely had to point out that the poor woman filling in the cards had been putting the wrong year ). The second isn’t until the beginning of June…
*we were told by stake to keep masks on at the pulpit following my email though…
In Brene Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”, the author tells a story of someone she knew who was a proud Penn State alum and very active in that community. When the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke (which would eventually take down Joe Paterno), this person was vocal about demanding protection and healing for the victims, while seeking justice be done to the perpetrators. Immediately, that person was shouted down by fervent Penn State supporters, called a traitor, and shunned by alumni organizations for having the nerve to criticize what is seen as a sacred institution by many. The person was able to reframe the negativity by recognizing that when you see an institution you care about making poor choices or moving in bad directions, it’s going to make you sad and frustrated because you know they are capable of better. Criticism of an institution is justified if it is in the interest of improving the organization or fixing a problem.
I’ve been accused in my own LDS circles of being “too negative” and frequently critical of the Church. I lost a good teaching calling because of it (though I have also been privately thanked for saying things in Church that others would not). For a while, I thought it was because of some personality defect, but ultimately I realized that I criticize the Church because I care about it and I want it to be better. And I criticize it a lot more in recent years because it seems to take public missteps more frequently now. And the more I become aware of the problems in society for different groups and communities, the more fault I’m able to find with the Church that claims the name of Jesus Christ yet often fails to live up to that name.
I also acknowledge that criticism of institutions and criticism of individual people are completely different things with different sets of rules.
Is there an evolutionary psychology explanation for having a very low tolerance for hypocrisy? For me, that’s a huge part of why I can be so critical of the Church. I don’t think I’m generally particularly critical of other institutions / people but hypocrisy and hubris absolutely set me off. (That probably means I myself am a big hypocrite since what we can’t stand in others is often what we hate about ourselves … but that’s a discussion for another day.)
And I agree with much that has been said above – no other forum for discussing this, caring about Church and therefore feeling especially upset when it lets us down, etc.
I think the BS meter thing is more complicated than has been described in this discussion so far.
Spotting BS in the wild could be an evolutionary advantage sure, especially for a species that excels at willful deception. You’ve got to be able to spot a fellow caveman who wants to do you harm as well as camouflaged predators, etc.
However, wholeheartedly believing BS can also be to your advantage. Fighting a saber-toothed tiger on your own is basically a death sentence. Fighting one with a group, things are much more likely to go your way. So if believing the community-approved BS keeps you in the in-crowd, you are hard-wired to believe that BS. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, when I consider that I believed in Nephites for thirty years of my life—no offense to anyone who believes in Nephites, but to most people not part of the Mormon in-crowd, Nephites set off the BS alarm pretty quick.
Or maybe we are born with a healthy BS meter but also with the ability to ignore it as suits us. Every time we “doubt our doubts” we’re effectively tuning out our own intuition, right? We’re hitting snooze on the BS meter.
Like Tommy Lee Jones says in the film Lincoln, “The inner compass that should direct the soul towards justice has ossified in white men and women, north and south, unto utter uselessness through tolerating the evil of slavery.” What good is a compass if we get really good at ignoring it?
I was glad to hear that criticism toward an organization is not always done by those who hate the organization. It is also done by those who love the organization, know it can be better, and want it to be better.
PS. Loved the caveman name generator too! 😉
“we frequently get comments about how our posts are so negative towards the Church, and we fail to see the good it does.”
As a major source of some of those comments in recent weeks, I hope it’s okay to chime in. I stumbled upon W&T about six years ago (In later looking at posts before that time, I found there was another “Eli” who frequently posted up until about a year before I came, and had more liberal views than I do. My apologies to him if I’ve sullied his good username), and don’t entirely remember how, but found its statement (which may have been slightly different then) of “Wheat and Tares is a group of eclectic bloggers who like to blog about stuff. The stuff is admittedly quite random” to be refreshing and inviting, with likely broad-based appeal among Latter Day Saints. Within months (I’m a little slow at times), I realized that probably wasn’t an entirely accurate description, and maybe a borderline dishonest one. For a group of bloggers who frequently criticize the Church over transparency, among other things, it would be nice to see the About section be a little more open about its criticisms, and the safe place it has become for those largely disaffected or disillusioned with the Church.
Having said that, I still come here, though I’m trying to limit myself much more (the negativity, whatever ratio of perceived or real, has gotten a little depressing). I’ve said before I come mostly to gain sympathy and empathy, as well as understanding. But honestly, I also enjoy routinely venturing out of my own “safe space” or comfort zone, and will admit that occasional criticism of active Church members supposedly not being willing to make those ventures does get under my skin at times, leading me to believe the bubble(s) between orthodox and nonorthodox members looking at each other give both a more distorted view than either would care to admit.
The good does get passed over a lot, in my opinion. I’ve been in my current ward for ten years now. For seven of those years, either my wife or I have been on the ward council. This is a group of people very much concerned with the needs of individual members and families, and for all the council faults, it’s not for lack of trying. If any real fault, through my experience, I sometimes feel it’s because we too often take people at their word a little too quickly. You don’t want to talk about Church History? Okay, I’ll leave you alone. You say you’re okay even though your son committed suicide? Okay, I’ll leave you alone. These moves have come back to bite us more than once. But really, we’re just trying to honor your wishes. Just please help us know what those are, for real, and we’ll do our best. We don’t want to overstep our bounds, but it helps when we get an accurate view of what yours are.
And talking to some of those who have had somewhat of an insider’s view when it comes to top Church leadership, I’m convinced it’s no less true with them. Keeping all that in mind, we see so many posts here with the theme of “The Lord would never allow . . .” when I think there would possibly be even more interesting, inviting, and cautiously speculative discussion if it started out as “Under what conditions might the Lord allow . . ,” or something along those lines. I don’t know, just a thought.
As far as a genetic predisposition to find fault, I’ll admit a reflexive “But the natural man . . .” popped into my head briefly. But beyond that, though I won’t deny having learned a few things here, I think both the Church and many of its active members are more aware of some of these problems and criticisms than many realize. They just have different ways of going about it. I think the challenge of recognizing that someone reacting to a problem differently than we would constitutes an actual reaction is a challenge we all face, and goes well beyond religion. I fully realize not all “reactions” are equal or effective in many eyes.
The post took a shot at Buddhist Bishop. Spinning a defense of B2, I would suggest that he was suggesting that inside the Church there is a misallocation of funds. A simple but accurate observation. He then proposed an alternative allocation. You could argue that he sees a problem and proposes a solution.
Because the Church is a top-down organization, there is little opportunity for member input, as has been pointed out in above comments. The proposed route for member suggestions is to give it to the Bishop, he may or may not push it up to the SP, then maybe he passes it to Area Authority, etc. This process is like a parlor game. The odds of the suggestion going anywhere are almost zero. Even if it does, it is likely to be anything like the original suggestion.
The Church needs member input on such subjects as priorities (dead vs living), discrimination issues, financial expenditures, etc. But there is not a way for the Q15 to get a feel for member inspirations and proposed innovations.
Before retirement, I worked in the area of technology simplification and transfer. We wanted feedback. Otherwise, how could we improve the product? The lack of a feedback loop from members is hurting the organization. You can put a negative spin on member frustrations, but I prefer to describe it as constructive criticism. You can call them negative if you like, I prefer to consider them as frustrated with the status quo: little membership input on important decisions.
Personally, I’ve given up hope that whatever criticisms of the church if aired directly to the leaders will amount to much. However, I believe that collective criticisms over time, many of those expressed indirectly and passive-aggressively, have had a profound impact on the church. Change has been slow. It always has. But consider just how different the church is between 30 years ago and now. It’s a much different experience now than I remember growing up.
I have enjoyed Bishop Bill‘s post, and Eli‘s very thoughtful comment. Here are some thoughts that I hope are helpful. I speak as one who has lost a lot of patience with the institutional Church, but finds that the considerable good That exists in the Church, despite many efforts to make it Into a pharisaic club of too many rules, makes me want to stay.
As to Damascene‘s comment that people often feel the need to protect God and the name of the Church: Juanita Brooks‘ reply to people criticizing her for writing her book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre (people who wanted to forget the past of that horrible episode, because talking about it might hurt the Church) comes to mind: nothing but the truth is good enough for my church.
Anna‘s comment about her daughter hit home in a rather personal way for me: it is possible to see too much good in people and organizations, and thereby be taken advantage of. One of my daughters is in the process of extricating herself from a fraudster. Process almost complete, thank goodness. As Christ told us, we need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. At the same time, I would add. Hard to do. Especially when it involves protecting ourselves from the sometimes malign actions of some Church members and the sometime malign interpretations of Church policy.
As to the question of whether there is too much criticism of the Church on W and T. When I raise eyebrows at Church because of my comments, I simply reply that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Straightforward Saints.
I have always been fairly orthodox in belief, but my personality is a bit non-standard for the Church, in that I will raise awkward questions, though I try not to be a pain in the neck about it.
As to Eli’s comment, I have enjoyed W and T for several years because of the questions it raises (they are often the same questions I have), but I have recently become uncomfortably aware that there is a strain of what I would call dogmatic righteousness running through some of the posts and comments. I say this as one who is not above making flip and hyperbolic comments (I sometimes wish the Lord would send a revelation calling for the excommunication of Kirton and McConkie, for example). Progressive Mormons are not immune from the sins of the more rigid and conservative approaches to Mormonism (which sins are often quite real) that they dislike. If we truly believe in the free exchange of ideas (hard to find in Mormonism and the chief attraction of W and T), then toning down the rhetoric in some of the posts and comments a bit might actually help achieve that goal.
Eli, you said that you see this as a discussion group for people largely disillusioned or disaffected. I can’t speak for anyone else, obviously, but you couldn’t be more wrong about me. I am VERY active and committed. I have been the president of all three women’s organizations. My husband has been in multiple bishoprics and is currently a stake clerk. My commitment to the gospel is huge, my commitment to the institutional church is solid. But it is definitely not easy. I found this (and other “liberal” or “progressive” blogs) as part of a sincere effort to find ways of keeping the (for me) very problematic aspects of the institutional church from causing me to leave the Church. Pretending everything is OK doesn’t actually mean it’s OK. Acknowledging problems doesn’t mean I’m disillusioned or disaffected. I’ve never understood the “love it or leave it” attitude. If I love the Church, why wouldn’t I want it to be better?
Times and Seasons has an interesting post right now about how we don’t know how to disagree in the Church. You say you think the problem is that people like you too quickly take people at their word that they are OK. I think the problem is more that people like me know it’s not safe to be honest. No matter my current or past activity, I’m going to be labeled disaffected.
I have wondered why some people are progressive, and some conservative? Is one group more gullible than the other? Is this nature or nurture? Could the culture of the church, doubt your doubts, be grooming; so 70% of members could believe trump lies, or for that matter pre trump, republican lies? Like the democrats are baby killers lie. Are they the same people who are unquestioning members? Is there truth somewhere here?
I vote labor, which is to the left of the democrats, because their policies/actions are more caring of those that need support, the ones I believe Christ would be concerned about. There seems to be a correlation between political position, and obedience to church leaders.
It is good to question your position regularly, but I still believe my position is in line with Christs, and also the caring and moral one. I do not understand how so many members can support trump. That they are likely the ones who unquestioningly support the church leadership, is a problem.
If the prophet woke up tomorrow/ or had a dream in the night that said the members who support the church leadership are those with no moral judgement, would he be concerned? I believe we are here first to have joy, become a joyfull person, and also aperson of moral judgement. If there is a judgement bar, and you are asked about your moral judgement, and you say I was obedient to church leaders, and if they weren’t clear to republican leaders. Will the nuremburg defence work? Is that the kind of person on the fast track to exaltation?
Perhaps one of the more conservative types can explain how their moral judgement works better than mine?
You are right. Sometimes it is not safe to be honest. Sometimes it can be. I have had to learn to “know my audience.” I learned that with some people, even discussing the weather is dangerous. I gradually found whom I could talk to in an uncorrelated manner. I also learned to back up anything that I said in a group (like a priesthood class) with a quote from a General Authority.
My favorite example: when someone made the comment in Priesthood Class when I lived in Maryland, that there was always perfect unity in the Q12, I was lucky enough to quote back to them Russell Ballard, who had just visited several Church units in Maryland, and had bluntly said during his visit that it was very hard to get the Q12 to agree on anything important. Gotta love it!
W and T is one excellent avenue for being honest. There are several Mormon topics authors whom I have also found helpful, who discuss difficult issues in ways that have helped create paths for me to stay in the Church:
Terryl and Fiona Givens
But to be honest, the biggest thing that helped me navigate my Mormon questions was the developing of a thick skin when confronted with people who questioned my Mormon-ness. And even though I called in my earlier comment in this particular comment thread for a softening of rhetoric, there are times that bullies just need to be stood up to: I find that quoting Paul on faith, hope, and charity and the commandment to love God and neighbor as oneself usually works best.
When my husband was bishop and I didn’t accept the assignment to be a visiting teacher, I figured that my main contributions to the welfare of others in the ward was being independent, not asking for help from the charismatic RS president, or others. Also, in supporting my husband who used his time, compassion, and church resources for them. And independently reaching out to others (not as a church assignment).
It was a difficult period, but there also wasn’t much that anyone could do to alleviate it. The most difficult parts were private, not details that the family member with a chronic illness would want discussed at ward council.
In the paraphrased words of Willie Nelson, it wasn’t something we got over, it was something we got through. And still are.
I’m particularly disturbed with Eli’s comment, “ You say you’re okay even though your son committed suicide? Okay, I’ll leave you alone.” Yeah, with such an attitude, I wouldn’t be sharing with him, either.
A common refrain on W&T is that god gave us critical thinking skills, and expects us to use them. May I add that god (or Mother Nature)(or evolutionary biology) also gave us natural compassion and empathy abilities. When a family has a son die by suicide, can we just ‘know’ that they are hurting? Can we offer companionable silence if they are unable to discuss it with us? Is the casserole from a neighbor with a note “thinking about you, love you” a forgotten gesture? Or an offer to pick up the kids from school? A hug, while telling them, “No words” will go a long way.
Is Eli in complete ignorance of the many damning statements that church leaders have made regarding suicide? i.e., Church has a LOT of unsafe pockets when one faces complicated grief. And what kind of questions does Eli ask? Does he want details?
With that cruel statement, you deeply undercut your credibility, simultaneously illustrating the opposite of what you were defending in your otherwise fairly decent statement. I hope you never learn from personal experience why it is so very disturbing.
There’s an argument to be made that the proliferation of less-anxious dispositions, enabled by the industrial age, might actually hasten our species’s demise. Climate change is, on a good day, a “wicked moral problem,” with all sorts of perverse incentives and timescale problems that fool our evolved risk assessment skills. Add to this a genetic rising tide of optimism, and you get a hot soup of denial, avoidance, and whataboutism. Sounds like exactly what we have. Yum.
Of course, I’m one of the anxious ones. Which is why I read W&T.
@Geoff-Aus asks: “Perhaps one of the more conservative types can explain how their moral judgement works better than mine?”
As I was thinking about your request Geoff-Aus, I remembered a story from a General Conference talk about a very dedicated missionary paired up with a lazy missionary. I wish I could find the talk. If anybody finds it, please share.
Anyway, as I remember it, the dedicated missionary was getting more and more frustrated with his companion. He prayed for help. He complained to God about being paired up with this missionary because he was not able to do missionary work the way he wanted because of a lazy companion. Then one day he heard/felt a voice inside him say something like, “From my perspective, you’re both about the same to me.”
I think to a large degree, God sees Geoff-Aus and the “more conservative types” out there as about the same. Geoff-Aus has varied strengths and weaknesses as do the more conservative types. Geoff is doing the best he can, tries to be kind and charitable to his neighbors, volunteers for service projects, donates to worthwhile causes, loves his family and God and speaks out against evil. So do the more conservative types. There are, of course, some issues where they differ in opinion, but from God’s perspective, I think we are pretty similar.
There was some study that babies who were frightened or upset by loud noises were in later life much more likely to be political conservatives, and that babies who were comfortable with noise and clutter were more likely to skew left. Found the study: https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/03/block.pdf I’m not sure how accurate the study is, but this is in response to Geoff-Aus’s comment.
This post made me think about something I try to do once a week on Sundays: survey the yard. I walk around the yard, front & back, picking up any trash (for some reason, our house is a magnet for neighbors’ trash!), and determining if there are any plants in peril or others that are thriving. In my old house, we had owned it for 15 years, and I hadn’t done that in years. When we were getting ready to sell, I discovered that some plants had died, a trellis was loose on the side of the house from the weight of jasmine, the trees in the back needed re-painting (to protect them from the sun), and so forth. My parents used to survey the property weekly like this, making note of areas that were getting too much water or too little, where there were insects taking over, etc., and to me this is evidence of engagement and ownership.
As I walked the yard yesterday, I noted that one of the three rosemary starter bushes was completely dead (on a prior walk I discovered the bubblers weren’t working and needed to be reset). The other two bushes had come back and were doing well, so I felt good about that. My agave is flowering, and I was hoping that would look a lot cooler than it did. It’s more like a long green stick with tiny broccoli florets on it. I was thrilled that the rose bushes I cut back to stubs last month are now huge and thriving. I also found quite a few small weeds I pulled up before they became more serious. In our last house, we let one “weed” grow into a full-fledged tree that dislodged the cinderblock wall and required expensive stump removal.
You might think I never went into the backyard of my old house, but that’s definitely not true. I just let it die and decay all around me, blissfully reading a book or enjoying the pool. I’d just make my own space smaller and smaller until it was mostly just a lounge chair surrounded by chaos. Tending and addressing issues is definitely both a mindset, and also a sign of engagement and involvement. It’s also enjoyable when you see the fruits of your labors, which is why (IMO) the experience of being in the ward council is so much better (unless your ward leadership is terrible) than being a relatively passive congregant. In general, I think most of the posts pointing out issues are doing so for all the reasons listed above:
– so that whoever is capable of addressing these issues knows they exist (different blogs are read by different people, but these issues are raised more than just keeping them under your hat)
– to talk to others with the same views so I don’t feel alone
– to see if there are different perspectives that might inform my own
– because talking with all of you fine folks is the only place I can talk about these things
So the normal setting is progressive, and the damaged setting is conservative?
Bbarnett, what is the point of God and religion if you can choose to be wilfully immoral, or wilfully moral and God doesn’t care. Garbage
@Geoff-Aus: I’m always surprised with the way you interpret my comments. Did I say God doesn’t care? No. My point was that we all do things wrong in God’s sight. Your sins just happen to be different from mine. I’m hoping that the path you choose leads you to God eventually, and I hope you hope the same for me. I know God does care and hopes that we both make it back to Him.
One of the main points of God and religion is exactly what you are positing as garbage, minus the “God doesn’t care” part. We can willfully choose to be moral or immoral. That was the plan we were all in favor of prior to coming here – the cause of freedom. The cause of freedom is God’s cause. The cause of freedom is the cause of Christian religions.
I’m fully aware many active members come here for a wide array of reasons, such as yours. Unfortunately, the comments that most often live in my head rent free come from those who have made it clear they are not active or believing. Although I may be lessening my time here, your comment has at least pushed me to be a little more observant of where comments are coming from, so thank you.
I’m a little more tired than normal right now, so I’ll use that as an excuse to avoid a full on debate. I also have a bad habit of derailing. We’ve also discussed politics many times on other threads, but I still felt you deserved a response.
As a libertarian-leaning conservative who often feels liberals are morally misguided, I have always, with few exceptions, felt these were people with heart and compassion. I just feel my brand of compassion works better. I’ll admit that when liberals view it as the absence of compassion, it does annoy me a bit.
In recent months, I more and more have started to boil down conservatism vs. liberalism as little more than individualism vs. collectivism.
So a baker doesn’t want to bake a cake for certain people? Fine, that’s his individual right. It’s also the right of other individual customers to boycott the crap out of him and encourage other individuals to do the same. Using the collective government to punish an individual for the inaccurate assumptive benefit of the collective should not be necessary.
You want to save the planet? Fine. Recycle, hand out flyers (encourage the recipient to recycle those as well), and talk to people. Share the data that’s out there. If you’re right, people are more likely to follow, and the collective will take care of itself. If the collective is wrong in the first place, everyone suffers.
We could do examples all day, but at the risk of sounding arrogant and self-righteous, I think the Savior was clearly One who worked with the individual. He cared about each and every one personally. Granted, many of those individuals came together to form a Church (one that generally works quite well collectively, but mainly because it has a good leader). But that Church, at least for me, is largely about my personal relationship with Jesus. My goal, however, is that other individuals benefit from that relationship.
I know it may seem naïve, but that’s how my religious upbringing influences my politics. Let the individual take care of himself or herself so he or she is then free to take care of the next individual, and I think the collective starts to take care of itself. One size fits all answers from a collective government for a collective populace just seems wasteful and immoral.
Racism, white supremacy, making abortion illegal, opposing gay marriage, opposing equality for women, and creating the environment for abuse of women, opposing climate change, opposing universal health care, the idea that small government is better than reasonable sized government, religious freedom defined as the right to discriminate, redistributing wealth away from the poor toward the already wealthy.
I do not read the Savior promoting individualism, v collectivism. I do hear him saying to care for the poor and needy, and love our neighbours. All of the list above are about refusing to care for the poor. They are discrimination against the underpriviledged.
Individualism is great if you are already privilidged, but as for caring for those less priviledged, as Christ advocated doesn’t help. I see this explanation of individualism v collectivism, as an excuse for discrimination against those Christ said to care for.
This is what I see the right standing for, and I don’t see any moral defence?
Summer before last Australia had an incredible fire season. Last year the western states of America had fires, this winter you had snow on the gulf of mexico, this last week the eastern part of Australia has had unprecedented rain and floods, with between 750mm and a meter of rain in the last 6 days. Extreme weather is happening all around the world, and is the result of climate change. I am not aware of any climate scientist advocating recycling brocures as the solution, or that the result will be reduced standard of living. If there is not collective action though our childrens world may not be livable.
I find Eli’s 3/2 comment, “ You say you’re okay even though your son committed suicide? Okay, I’ll leave you alone.” troubling. With such an attitude, I wouldn’t be sharing with him, either.
A common refrain on W&T is that god gave us critical thinking skills, and expects us to use them. May I add that god (or mother nature)(or evolutionary biology) also gave us natural compassion and the ability to have empathy? When a family has a child die by suicide, can we just ‘know’ that they are hurting? Can we offer companionable silence if the person is unable / does not want to talk about it? Is bringing a casserole with a note, “Thinking about you. Love you” a forgotten gesture? Or an offer to pickup kids from school? A hug, while telling them, “No words” will go a long way.
Is Eli ignorant of the many damning statements that Church authorities have made regarding suicide? i.e., Church has a LOT of unsafe pockets when one faces complicated, deep grief. What kind of questions is Eli asking? Does he expect details?
With that unkind statement, you deeply undercut your credibility, simultaneously illustrating the opposite of what you were defending in your otherwise fairly decent comment. I hope you never learn from personal experience just what is so wrong with that glib line.
Correction: Eli’s 3/21 comment
@Eli individualism works great for privileged people. Not so much for the rest.
In every example you gave, individualism isn’t working / didn’t work.
“individualism works great for privileged people. Not so much for the rest. In every example you gave, individualism isn’t working / didn’t work.”
As long as that attitude gets propagated while the individual gets ignored, you will absolutely, always be correct. My view is just leave the individual alone and let the individuals make their own decisions. If enough of them together end up embodying more liberal views, so be it. If enough individuals form collective conservative views, so be it. The risk of individualism is that it won’t always work out the way we want. There are lots of conservative ideals I want the American populace to embrace. I am not about to encourage legislation of it. I will readily concede some base form of government needs to exist to protect the rights of the individual.
My examples were brief, and I fully realize recycling is just one tiny aspect of the climate change discussion.
Sasso? Maybe you have another comment in the queue that I’m not seeing.
I believe a person can be politically conservative or politically liberal and also be a good Christian and good Latter-day Saint. There are some who will disagree with me, saying that a true follower of Christ must agree with their political persuasions — I think they might be missing something, and I am dismayed whenever a Latter-day Saint of whatever political persuasion does this.
@Eli I also think we are defining things differently. You aren’t talking about individualism vs collectivism – you’re talking about government power. The examples you gave are actually examples of collectivism.
Me boycotting a baker because the baker won’t serve gay people is collectivism. It may be in my individual self-interest not to boycott the baker because maybe it’s the best most convenient baker, and I’m not gay so his prejudice doesn’t impact me, but because I care about the collective and define that to include gay people I am willing to take the collective action to boycott.
I am probably more politically conservative than you might think based on my social positions. I’m not a fan of a lot of government spending and I think empowering more local groups to solve local problems. But there are a few areas where I think local action just isn’t enough.
One area is where local individual (and corporate) actions in those individual’s and company’s self-interest negatively impact others, and where the impacts transcend local boundaries. The environment is a good example of this. It’s truly global and needs global solutions.
Another is the rights of marginalized, disempowered populations. Blacks and gays in communities that are majority racist and homophobic can’t rely on local / individual action – they need protection. Hence civil rights. (And ditto for women, disabled people, etc etc etc). Labor is another example – while I don’t like unions, basic health and safety standards imposed on corporations is key to protecting human life (just look at the abuses in the 1800’s and early 1900’s to see what happens when the government doesn’t set and enforce such standards.
We probably agree on a fair amount. But just as you think it’s much too broad a brush to say government should fix everything, it is also much too broad a brush to say that government should stay out of everything and individualism / capitalism will solve everything. (And honestly, history is just not on the side of the argument that capitalism and competition will protect the environment and protect marginalized people.)
Essential earlier comment:
“You say you’re okay even though your son committed suicide? Okay, I’ll leave you alone.” -Eli on 3/21
With such an attitude, I wouldn’t be sharing with him, either. Does that reflect the viewpoint of his entire ward council?
On W&T the idea gets tossed out that god gave us critical thinking skills, and expects us to use them. May I add that god (or mother nature)(or evolutionary biology) also gave us natural compassion and the ability to have empathy?
When a family has a child die by suicide, can we just ‘know’ that they are hurting? Can we offer companionable silence if the person is unable/does not want to talk about it? Is bringing a casserole with a note, “Thinking about you. Love you” a forgotten gesture? A hug, while telling them, “No words” will go a long way.
Is Eli ignorant of the damning statements that Church authorities have made regarding suicide? i.e., Church has a LOT of unsafe pockets for those who face complicated, deep grief. What kind of questions is Eli asking? Does he expect details?
With that unkind statement, you deeply undercut your credibility, simultaneously illustrating the opposite of what you were defending in your otherwise fairly decent comment. I hope you never learn from personal experience just what is so wrong with that line you used so glibly.
[@moderators, I posted similarly using a different identifier. This morning at 7:27, and yesterday morning at 8:24am. If you can delete them, great. If not, meh.]
I only see two comments from you. Your correction to something I never saw previous, and your most recent (7:29 and 12:22 respectivity). Your remarks assume a lot and you seem a little too quick to strike (in this and other posts). But admittedly, I didn’t give you a lot to go off of. Most all that stuff you mentioned regarding the suicide was already done by members in and out of the council, but in hindsight, she clearly needed more. Could the council have done a little better and been a little more compassionate and initiative taking from the start? Probably. But whatever closeness council members have to the Spirit, they aren’t mind readers. Regardless, the council took it as a failure on its part, and learned from it. Whatever it may seem to you, the actions clearly were not flippant. My own attitude does not reflect that either, but I don’t expect to convince you one way or the other.
Yes, we’re dealing with a lot of semantics. I was trying to use “collective” in what I see in the liberal sense of it, in that “We the people are the government, government works on our behalf, therefore the collective is us the government.” I may have utterly failed attempting that “liberal sense” (given how often posters and commenters here often fail at trying to explain something in a “conservative sense” I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that my attempt to reciprocate would also come up short). I also realize any group of individuals working together makes up a collective.
We obviously both agree civil rights are important.
I’m very much aware of capitalism’s dark history. But as humanity has become more enlightened, has this marginalization been curbed because people have been forced to do it because of law, because the public at large wanted it, or because they recognized on their own the need to do it? I think many liberals would say it took law alone, but realistically, I think it was all three. The corporation I work for has sincerely convinced me they care about my safety over profits. They actually ago above and beyond law and regulation when it comes to the environment. If all safety and environmental laws were suddenly repealed, I don’t think they’d change, and I don’t think law alone got them where they are today. I’d concede federal government was needed in some of these regards, largely to protect the individual.
In addition to capitalism’s dark history, I also look at eastern Europe’s history. I will always err on the side of less government power.
@Eli I agree those are all levers but the law often paved the way for changes in opinions. And I also think my employer has a ton of integrity and ethics and cares about employees – mostly because they are good people but also because it’s a competitive industry and employees will leave if they aren’t taken care of – but unfortunately in my career I have seen many, many companies who will still go to the very furthest limits of the law (and beyond) for profit.
As for Europe – we aren’t talking at all about wealth redistribution. None of the issues we’ve discussed come close to “socialism” and it does discredit to your argument to jump to the socialism bogeyman.
“My view is just leave the individual alone and let the individuals make their own decisions”
Do you apply this to abortion, or gay marriage, and redistributing wealth away from the poor, toward the wealthy.
One of the problems with the right of politics in America, is that it is so much further to the right than conservative parties elsewhere. We have our conservative party in power in Aus for the last 8 years. We already had universal healthcare, they made gay marriage legal, abortion is a state issue here but has been removed from the criminal code, and put under healthcare, another conservative state government just passed assisted dying legislation. There is no talk of freedom of religion (we are free to practice our religion), and there is no talk of small government. The virus has not been politicised either. Just follow the scientific advice, and have less than half the deaths of Utah with 9 times the population, and no community transmission. The conservative party claims to be working on climate change, but has deniers in its back bench.
So pretty much all the things you see as political in US, are settled here. What are you defending?
I actually had no thought of socialism in that remark. Just those who enforced it, and the means they used, but I see your point.
But if we’re going consistently start bringing up what adds or subtracts “credit” to a conversation (I’m admittedly a little dense at times and am not sure how it works in this discussion), can you also see the irony of a group of bloggers and commenters who quite frequently criticize a group of men, many of which gave up illustrious careers for a salary dwarfed by what they could have had, only to have those same bloggers and commenters turn around to praise a government that, though often made of many men and women who also made those sacrifices, is also made up men and women who end up millionaires by the time they leave office? With all the lobbying going on, fairly blatant corruption (in both parties), and an accountability battle that often rivals what many here ascribe to the Church, can one also see a credibility factor in being able to distinguish what makes an organization good or bad? I suppose if no one can agree on the standards of what exactly makes an organization inherently good or bad, then we need to end this discussion. Your points, however many I disagree with, are well taken.
I really don’t care to be pulled into specifics right now, but I don’t like to leave people hanging either. I’ll be as brief as possible.
Abortion-I see an unborn child as an individual unable to protect themselves, so I think others should fight for their freedom to live. I think it’s a way more complicated subject than any on the right or left would care to admit, and would fight for the utmost respect for women wherever possible. If you want to brand me evil in these regards, I’ll take it.
Gay marriage- Although dictionaries are descriptive, rather than prescriptive, I think marriage is still between a man and woman. Although part of me leans towards civil unions, I mostly just think government should get out of marriage entirely. Let two people make their own contract with or without a religion involved, and leave it at that.
Wealth distribution: I’m against it.
Climate change: I know few who feel the climate isn’t changing, but more than a few who aren’t entirely convinced this change is man-made (I lean toward the latter). I’m not entirely convinced of mankind’s ability to reverse the direction nature is going either. But assuming it’s man-made and can be reversed, I see government intervention as likely and inadvertently limiting the innovation that likely will be needed to make all the components of that reversal possible.
You know, I’m truly glad you’re happy with what Australia has accomplished. I really am. It must bring a lot of peace and pride. Some of the most far right rhetoric I’ve seen, however, has come out of Australia. One of the most conservative people I ever met was an Australian. Maybe they’re more plentiful in your country than you think. Or maybe they’re message is being a little more muffled than you might realize. Or maybe not. The moment I think most everyone in my country thinks exactly the way I do is the moment I’ve stopped being able to look outward. To be clear, I’m not trying to imply that’s what you’re doing.
The problem with “fault finding” and B.S. meters is that the fault finder and the person the well tuned B.S. meter are making the assumptions that their opinions are facts rather than opinions. I do not see Bishop Bills example of a person going back to his spear maker to report a defective spear as fault finding. I see that as constructive feedback. How the spear maker receives that feedback is another matter. So much of what we do, the way we see things is based upon subjective perceptions colored by culture, religion, politics, upbringing, etc.
As one poster noted, the church is a top down organization. It has to be. All one has to do is peruse posts from the different denizens of the Mormon Archipelago to find thousands of different comments on how the Church should be run. Those opinions run the gamut between policy decisions to doctrinal issues. It would be an untenable situation if the leaders were to try to run the church by common input rather than common consent.
I do remember something about a mote and beam scripture. But the beam is always in the eye of the other person, isn’t it?
@Eli I think everything you mentioned re corruption and lobbying is a problem. For sure. Again, I am not sure where “I think civil rights should protect the gay folks from discrimination” says “I think the government should do everything for everyone.” And I have never seen anyone on this blog suggest as much. So that seems like a bit of a straw-man, or else I am really missing your point.
I can say “I expect transparency from church leaders *and* government” and “I don’t like patriarchy in Church *or* government.” Those just aren’t mutually exclusive. But at least we can vote the elected officials out of office!
You’ve suggested an impossibility.
Your moral judgment is obviously superior to that of any other mere mortal.
Whether they be conservatives, liberals, libertarians, far-left, Australia Democrats, Labor, or Green party affiliates – you are top of the heap.
Nobody has a car as nice as yours.
Nobody goes on drives through the Outback as well as you.
Nobody hates Trump as much as you.
Nobody brings politics into any post comment – regardless of the topic – as gloriously as you do (well, almost nobody).
Nobody stands for the rights of others as firmly as you.
Nobody is as brilliant.
Nobody puts together a self-centered comment as well or as often.
Nobody is more condescending, pious, or self-righteous.
Nobody else has God ask for their opinion.
Nobody has built a more oversized, more magnificent pedestal than you.
And nobody casts stones as well or as far.
You are the world’s True North.
Good on ya, mate!
BTW, I love Australia and enjoy most Australians.
Perhaps, if I ever make it down under (or as you may prefer – up above) again, we can have lunch. Not in the same restaurant, but in separate ones at the same time?
I just wanted to quickly recognize your response despite the fact it was days ago. It’s been a rough week at work. Limiting my time online, rather than using it to wind down like I usually do, turned out to be exactly what I needed.
I guess what I was trying to get across was that while government does some good things, with enough power, it can also do some very bad things. Good people can make a great government, but they can also make a much smaller one as well. I can see I didn’t make that point very well.
In retrospect, my comparing W&T bloggers’ and commenters’ views of the Church and the Government was apples and oranges, but I like the consistency you pointed out. Thanks for the response.
Corporations also have “governments” within them that can also do horrible things (even resulting in mass deaths–the Boeing Max 737 comes to mind). The issue is not capitalism vs socialism, big government vs small government, etc. The issue is that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power can be held by both governmental and non-governmental entities. We should fear when any entity gets too powerful. We must put checks in place to counter this phenomenon.
The Citizens United US Supreme Court decision increased the power of corporations in dangerous ways (Google it but include the reading of interpretations of it from moderate to left-leaning sources and you will see issues raised that are not typically addressed in the right-leaning press).
Entities that hold power: governments, corporations, political parties, social welfare organizations (the NRA operates officially as a social welfare organization), political action committees, churches, and charities (the NRA, again, operates four “charities.” )
Historically corporations and charities, and even churches, unfortunately, have not been exempt from the temptation to engage in committing and/or covering up misdeeds.
Google the conversation dot com “Is the NRA an educational organization? A lobby group? A nonprofit? A media outlet? Yes” by Samuel Brunson, Loyola University Chicago (and, incidentally, a church member who often writes on issues of taxation).
The task is not to limit government size, per se, but rather to increase our checks on power both in and outside of government. The accumulation of power by both governmental and non-governmental entities is a reality we will have to face. Finding ways to place limits on their powers will be one of the greatest challenges of our times. I appreciate concerns about unchecked government powers but hope they are expanded to consider the unchecked power that other entities can hold and abuse.
Ranked-choice voting may be one fairly simple policy change that could work to begin limiting powers of various entities.
Read “Dark Money” by Jane Meyer to see some examples of powerful entities exerting power behind the scenes in ways that work to increase their power (or find a podcast or YouTube interview of the author for a glimpse into the ideas put forth in the book).
It is not the fault finding gene, it is the aggression gene. Look, for a million years we made our own spears. No spear store. We knapped our own knives. We learned to cooperate, almost. Fault finding is just a dimension of aggression.