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Archive for June 2008

Banality of Evil

The Death of Yugoslavia is an excellent BBC documentary on the causes and course of the wars in the former republics of Yugoslavia. It is primarily told through extraordinary interviews with those in power. I am amazed that they got so many leaders to speak so candidly about the war. It reminds me that the power to do great evil is in the banal hands of democratically elected political leaders. (via

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Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

For what it’s worth, I wore a rainbow ribbon to church yesterday in support of same-sex marriage.

Rainbow Ribbon

I realize that I don’t live in California where the letter from the First Presidency was to be read, but I wanted to do something. I’m probably motivated a bit by the my regret for having supported the amendment to my state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. For whatever reason, I couldn’t sit quietly as the LDS church works to force its view of marriage on all citizens of this nation.

I didn’t expect any overtly negative responses. Except on the internet, Mormons are generally too polite for that. If anybody asked, I had a few practiced answers:

  • I’m wearing the ribbon in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots which jump started the movement to recognize the rights of people of all sexual orientations.
  • I’m want to promote recognition of the human right to same-sex marriages and equal protection under the laws of the United States.
  • I’m celebrating the diversity that makes us as human beings so beautiful.

A few people cast furtive glances in the direction of my ribbon. I assume most people had no clue why I was wearing it. I might consider wearing it again if in the future the LDS church goes beyond just sending a letter to California congregations.

One moment toward the end of church beautifully captured what the rainbow ribbon represented to me. I was sitting in the foyer reading The Dharma Bums. An elderly man shuffled into the foyer to attend the Spanish-speaking ward that meets after my family’s ward. After a minute or two, he approached me and asked—through gestures and broken English—if I would help him put on his tie. I took the tie from his tremoring hand, tied it loosely on myself while he fumbled to button his collar, took the tie off my own head, slipped it down over his head and around his neck, turned his collar down, and straightened the tie. He thanked me and sat down.

It was a simple gesture but to me it illustrated people coming together despite differences to help meet our needs and make the world a more humane place.

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It’s funny the things you get famous for. More people have linked to my blog for this image of Bob from the movie Black Hole than anything else that I’ve done. I checked it out and (at least for me) my image was the first result for an image search for “bob black hole”.

[Bob from Black Hole]


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The Downfall of Civilization

In furtherance of my note about the irony of LDS church members seeking to restrict same-sex marriage, I offer some quotes about what early church leaders thought was the downfall of civilization:

This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,…

It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome … was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.—Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, pp. 195, 202

Since the founding of the Roman empire monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this monogamic system which now prevails throughout Christendom, and which had been so fruitful a source of prostitution and whoredom throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious.—Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 128

… the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.—Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227

We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they [non-Mormons] envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices; and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations.—Apostle George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 291

I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business. I do not know what we would do if we had only one wife apiece.—Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22

Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife.—Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, page 262

Thus we see that according to the prophets and apostles of the church founded by Joseph Smith we should lobby for a constitutional amendment which mandates that all capable men take more than one wife. Our civilization is at stake.

(Thanks to Talking to God for the inspiration.)

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Religious Motives

It’s interesting to take a step back from the comments to a Deseret News article about the First Presidency letter to members of the church in California and take a look at the kind of arguments made. In my unscientific survey, it seems that the majority of those arguing for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage are making primarily religious arguments. This isn’t surprising, but it is disappointing. It belies the other arguments that this is about preserving civilization. It makes it all to obvious that a lot of the supporters of the ban are religiously motivated; they are seeking to enshrine their religious values in the laws of a pluralistic society.

It never fails to amaze me that Mormons are now on the side of government deciding who can and cannot be married. The irony of the descendants of those who were jailed for practicing polygamy now wanting to ban another non-traditional form of marriage is too much. Can’t they see how funny that is? (funny in a sad kinda way)

I wasn’t going to say it, but I just have to say that much of the Mormon hoi polloi commenting come across as uncaring, self-righteous, narrow-minded, bigoted blowhards who are so sure that God is on their side that they feel no need for humility. It’s sad because I know a lot of good Mormons who these people are making look bad by association.

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