I have found that my children behave much better in Wal-Mart if we review the rules before we go into the store (no running, use inside voices, no pointing at morbidly obese people and saying, â€œLook, Mommy, that guy sure is fat!â€?). So, brief review: at Times and Seasons, we are polite, we avoid ad hominem attacks, we do not call into question each otherâ€™s righteousness, and we do not make comments about girth. (I will exercise no restraint in deleting comments that I feel violate our posting guidelines.)
Now then: Heber J. Grant Lesson 17. I donâ€™t normally read these ahead of time, but our RS teacher (who I like) went to the trouble to send a reminder email, so I thought Iâ€™d give it a whirl. Thoughts:
(1) Perhaps I am the last person to realize this, but: whenever the Church gives â€˜who to vote forâ€™ advice, policy issues are not generally mentioned, but rather the emphasis is on the personal integrity of the candidate. I think that I have heard this so many times that I have ceased to recognize how curious it is. We might expect the Church to say something like, â€œvote for the candidate who will fix the health care messâ€? or â€œvote for the candidate who promotes X, Y, and Z to fix the economy,â€? but instead, we are reminded to vote for those of good character. Do issues matter? And how, exactly, barring the announcement of major scandals, are we to assess the personal character of the candidates? Can I really know who is more likely to act with integrity?
(2) Excepting the lengthy quotation from D & C 134 (depending, of course, on how one interprets that passage) and the very last line of the lesson (â€œUphold the right, though fierce the fightâ€?) one could conclude from this lesson that a latter-day saint is to sustain and uphold her/his government in all circumstances, righteous or not. For example, during World War II, President Grant made the following statement: â€œOur brethren and sisters are found on both sides of this terrible struggle. On each side they are bound to their country by all the ties of blood, relationship, and patriotism . . .â€? I think the most logical interpretation of this statement is that the German saints owed a patriotic allegiance to Hitlerâ€™s regime, although I can hardly believe that Pres. Grant would suggest such a thing. Anyone?
(3) The narrative at the start of the lesson ends with this: â€œAt the time of President Grantâ€™s service as an Apostle and as President of the Church, the Churchâ€™s population consisted predominantly of people in the United States of America. Thus, much of what he said about government concerned the United States. However, his teachings are statements of truth that can be applied throughout the world.â€?
Really? Is this a safe assumption to make? The previous paragraph concerned the inspired nature of the Constitution. As far as a I know (and I am sure one of you will correct me if I am wrong), no other countryâ€™s founding document has been labeled inspired by the Church. I wonder if it is, in fact, true that Pres. Grantâ€™s statements would/could/should apply to the situation in other nations.
(4) I wanted to shout a big â€˜amenâ€™ to the statements in the middle of page 161. I frequently feel that the sentiment in many lessons and talks in the Church is a wink and a nod that we all really knowâ€“so we donâ€™t need to sayâ€“that all good Mormons are conservative Republicans. (Just in case anyone is wondering, I am a Libertarian.)
(5) That measles line was beautiful. Do you think he is saying that it is unseemly for a saint to become too involved in politics? That that might constitute choosing the things of this world over the things of a better?
(6) Finally, the concept that “being loyal citizens” is, in itself a gospel principle is curious. Religious thought has generally focused on placing our primary loyalty to God, and not to the secondary loyalty that we owe to a state. Why is this topic emphasized in the Church?
(Many of you are probably irked that I didnâ€™t link to the relevant parts of the lesson. I did this on purpose: go read the entire thing yourself.)