Shut the door!

The intersection of LDS discipleship and conscious citizenship

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About Ordain Women

I want to talk about Ordain Women. Not for it or against it, because I know lots of lovely, intelligent, articulate women on both sides of the issue, and frankly, I’m not even sure if female ordination is a thing that I want/need etc. I don’t want to talk about their political tactics and whether or not they should ask to come to Priesthood Session. I want to talk about what Ordain Women did.

They took a prophet literally.

No. That’s really what they did. Now, you can argue about whether or not he was speaking as a prophet of God in that moment, or the president of corporate body known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the religious body that also has the same name) as long as you want.

What Gordon B. Hinckley, the prophet that I grew up with and love and cherish, said this, when asked what it would take to give the priesthood to women:

RB: So you’d have to get a revelation?

GBH: Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.

Compass Interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, Aired: November 09, 1997 

Well, now there is agitation. There is a group of women in this church who are asking for further light and knowledge, something that we have also seen done by prophets throughout time. Our church was founded by a young man who felt something amiss with the spiritual arrangements of his day and so he asked. And he got a revelation. Throughout the Doctrine and Covenants, we see Joseph repeatedly going to the Lord and asking for revelation, for understanding, for truth, and again and again he was answered.

These women are not claiming to have received revelation for themselves or for the church directing that they should have the priesthood. They are turning to the prophet and beseeching him to ask.

And why are they doing that?

I cannot speak for all of them, but as I have talked to women in this church, I have found that many share similar sentiments to my own. I would not feel comfortable speaking in numbers, because I do not know percents or have raw data. So I am just going to speak for myself.

I will never hold a position in this church where I can make a decision that a man cannot override.

There are many positions that I cannot hold because I am a female that have nothing to do with gender. I cannot be a finance clerk or a counselor in the Sunday School presidency.

Men can come and sit in on lessons in Relief Society. Women are not welcome to attend Elder’s Quorum.

These may seem like little things, and they may be, but they’re indicative of a larger issue in the church. I go to the temple and feel cut off from God. I see Eve silenced, and I am veiled, literally and figuratively from communicating with the Lord. I serve my husband. My husband serves the Lord. I am taught that I am eternally separated from him. I will always be one step removed from His presence.

We claim the existence of a Heavenly Mother and yet we know nothing about her. So we turn to Heavenly Father as our understanding of divinity, and as a male, we follow His example, and put men in charge. Mother is silent, and I’ve heard so many reasons why that may be the case but none of them have satisfied me and my soul-deep ache to know more about her.

We learn in the Family Proclamation that the family is God’s plan for his children and it requires a mother and a father and they both have different roles and this because women and men are different and gender is essential and eternal.

If men and women are different and gender is essential and eternal, and then we cut off access to the female half of God, we are denying women the ability to have a role model of divine womanhood. For whatever reason you want to concoct, because there is no official doctrinal reason, I’ve looked for one, we are telling women your ability to know a female version of godliness is less important than the male version of Godliness. Is Mother decorating Kolob for eternity? Is She perfecting her recipe for enchiladas or hummus? Is She canning celestial peaches? What is She doing? Does she work with Father to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of her children? I would hope so. And if the most crucial part of our eternal lifespan is spent on the earth, is She interacting with Her children in some way while they are here?

If women are eternally nurturers, and are responsible for the nurturing of children, then it seems really odd to me that we, as a church, are preaching the eternal nature of the family, and then effectively putting us all in a single parent home while subjecting the children to soul-crushing amounts of stress. It seems that this is the time when She would be most involved with Her children.

But no, we must not invoke Mother. We must not talk to Mother. We are pointed to Christ and we are told that Christ suffered not just for our sins in the garden, but also for our pain and our sorrow and that he knows the heartbreak of a miscarriage because he experienced it.

And then we are told that motherhood is equal to priesthood.

Well if Christ knows of the pains of motherhood as a man, and we are taught that we have the capacity to be like God, then is it possible we are overstating the necessary separation of the genders here? Motherhood is held up as the highest possible role for women in this church, and yet Christ showed that those pains are not unique to females. He, as a male, was able to experience that sorrow. We are to become like God. Christ is perfect, like unto God. Christ knows the heartbreak of women. He experienced the heartbreak of women. If we are to come unto Christ and be like him, then how do we separate out Christ’s experience of femininity with invalidating the universality of the Atonement? Yes, he is the Bridegroom that comes for the Bride, but he is also the mother hen gathering her chickens. Maybe the divisions we put up between women and men, and the distinctions we make between them, are as historically contingent and socially constructed as racist pronouncements about denying blacks the priesthood that the church had to officially distance itself from and state that they had no basis in doctrine, despite having been preached by prophets of God for decades.

I don’t think the Ordain Women movement is necessarily about women wanting the priesthood, per se. I think it is about women wanting more opportunities to serve in the kingdom, to use talents that have been given them by God and that they have developed through hard work and effort. It so happens that the only way they see to do that as the church is currently constituted is through the priesthood. That is because the Relief Society has been systematically stripped of its independence, its finances, and its scope. Women used to anoint and bless other women in the early days of the church. They were independent, with their own finances and buildings and hierarchy. If you read the minutes of the early Relief Society meetings, they actually asked the brethren to leave so they could get down to business. There are times where I feel the modern corporate church is as far from the church that Joseph Smith established, as the churches that offered no comfort to Joseph were from the one that Christ established on the earth.

And so women ask for the priesthood. Not because they want to be equal to or greater than men, but because they want more opportunities to serve. They want more opportunities to help, to improve the programs of the church, to strengthen families, to lift up the weary hands that hang down. They are turning to the prophet, and saying, “Please. Please ask. We have faith that if you ask, you will receive. Please, let us know who we are as daughters of God, and what that means for mortality and beyond. Please, don’t let me be cut off from serving Him forever.”



I am fairly sure that I am going to Hell.

You know how I know this? Because I read the Ensign. And it wasn’t even the ‘rape culture’ endorsing line of “most women get the men they dressed for” article that’s pissing off so many women, and rightly so, because hello, women are raped in military uniforms and corsets and petticoats and the burka and when they’re still young enough for their clothes to be purchased in the little kids section, and sooner or later you have to stop saying ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘she was asking for it by dressing that way’ and admit that you’re excusing your own behavior and the behavior of a whole bunch of other people where we would justifiably put down a dog if he demonstrated that level of aggression. My dog understands no. My kid understands no. Your penis needs to learn to behave.  Please, can we just stop with this idea that women are responsible for the conduct of men? It’s insulting to all the good men that I know, and it excuses the behavior of the bad ones.

But that’s not the point of this rage. It’s the way we instill a specific set of feminine virtues by the narrative interpretations we impose on the very few women included with any detail in our scriptural accounts.

“From the rib of Adam, Eve was formed (see
Genesis 2:22; Moses 3:22; Abraham 5:16). . . .
The rib signifies neither dominion nor subser­
vience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to
work and to live, side by side.”

You know what, let’s change our reading of this. The rib is used to protect the internal organs of the body. The woman is necessary for life to be sustained. If you did not have a ribcage, you would probably die. So don’t piss of a group of women (ribs) because if you do, we will kill you. Just as logical an interpretation as the one given.

Of course, you have Sarai/Sarah whose entire existence boils down to her infertility and then ability to bear a son. Because what other purpose can a woman serve except to be sexual receptacles with no other purpose than to procreate and raise children. She couldn’t possibly have any other desire or role in her life.

And then Rebekah. Rebekah was moved by the Spirit to follow the servant of Isaac back to marry some dude she’d never met. Of course it was the Spirit who moved her, not the desire to get away from overbearing parents and the fact that every boy within a 25 tent radius had a face like a camel. And then when she finally sees the dude:

Rebekah veiled herself upon seeing
Isaac. This act, one writer observed, “was a sign
of her virtue, reverence, humility, and modesty
and showed respect for her future spouse.”
Such qualities indicated Rebekah’s “readiness
for a covenant marriage.” 2

I was thinking it indicated her thinking, “I’ve been traipsing across the desert on the back of this stupid camel for a month. I’m getting a bath and gonna wash my hair and fix my eyeliner before he gets a good look at me.” You know Rebekah could rock a cat-eye eyeliner.

And of course, what’s the big drama with Rebekah. Can’t have kids. You know what I’m thinking. Like father like son. I’m thinking the infertility isn’t the fault of the women. I’m thinking we’ve got some inherited low sperm count issues here.

And then

Jacob loved Rachel dearly, but she could
not have children for many years, a great trial
for her. Although Jacob had not first been
interested in Leah (her great trial), she was
able to bear him children. The sisters sought
Jacob’s love and attention through giving him

Leah’s biggest problem is she isn’t pretty enough for her husband to love her. Think about that. Jacob is an ass to Leah. Because she’s not pretty enough. And Rachel’s problem is that she can’t have kids. Again it comes down to the uterus, because how does Leah finally get Jacob to overlook her face? She starts popping out babies. Boy babies. Just think of how much hatred and anger and hurt could have been avoided if Jacob hadn’t been an ass to Leah, but treated her with love and respect and treated Rachel with the same amount of love, regardless of her infertility. But nope. Not gonna happen. Instead he manages to damage the relationship between two sisters. I swear I’m gonna write a novel called Leah and tell the story from her perspective.

And then we get to Deborah. Deborah, a prophetess, though of course we must quickly point out:

In her role as prophetess, Deborah
did not hold the priesthood or possess ecclesi­
astical keys but enjoyed the gift of prophecy in
a more general sense (see Revelation 19:10).4

How do you know she didn’t possess ecclesiastical keys or the priesthood? Women in the history of the modern church have had the power to annoint and to lay on hands. What makes it so impossible for her to have held some sort of keys?

She’s so powerful that the captain of the Israelite army refuses to go into battle unless she goes as well. I mean,  unless there was some hoochie coochie going on there, why would a general want her there? Possibly because she had some sort of ability? Maybe? Possibly? Seriously, just give my female eyes the slightest bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, a woman can do something else than just be a mother.

Now, I’m not saying that my interpretation of the Old Testament is accurate. I wrote those examples with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. But this is the thing. When you tell women:

All the purposes of the world . . . would be
brought to naught without woman—a keystone
in the priesthood arch of creation. . . .

and you also tell them

She was designed by Deity to co­
create and nurture life, that the great plan of
the Father might achieve fruition. Eve ‘was the
mother of all living’ (Moses 4:26).”

You essentialize them as mothers. And while mothers are awesome and wonderful and great and essential and I love being a mom, they are also one of many roles that women play. Yes, motherhood gets priority for a season, but a woman’s entire life is not spent actively mothering. But that’s what we’re told to prepare for. And that’s why infertility is so incredibly hard for women, especially women in the church, to deal with. It also leads to incredibly destructive behavior in women as their attention gets focused on competitive motherhood. And it leads to young women doubting the guidance of the Holy Spirit when they’re prompted to do things like go to graduate school or fulfill a different path than the traditionally followed one.

We also teach this message to men and boys. And what do they hear? Women are essentially for sex. That’s why they’re here. You need them for sex so you can procreate. That’s their purpose. Their only purpose. Sex and babies. Sex and babies. It’s no wonder when they look at a young woman, regardless of what she is or is not wearing, that they think sex. It’s what we’ve taught them to think about when they see a woman.

The fact that the article about women in the old testament leads right into the article about morality and women need to keep themselves covered so we don’t give men naughty thoughts is just symbolically resonant with the problems we have as a church discussing this issue. Maybe we should start thinking about not teaching our men (explicitly and subconsciously) that women are sex objects. Good moral after-marriage sex objects, but sex objects nonetheless.

(Yes, it’s a bit ranty. I know. I just get tired of ‘agency applies to everyone in the church except men in the presence of a mini-skirt.’)

Today I am a golf ball

So the story goes that golf balls used to be smooth and round until golfers realized that their older ones, with the dents and the scratches actually went further. There’s a lot of physics involved in exactly why that is, but the point is that now golf balls are designed with dimples all over them to mimic the effect of being beat up.

When we’re having struggles and trials, it’s easy to focus on all the bumps and bruises you are accumulating. It’s difficult to think about the purpose for those trials, or to be grateful for them. I have several chronic illnesses and live with constant, sometimes debilitating pain. I’ve finally found a treatment that is helping, but I’ve been in pain every day since June of 1998. It’s hard to be grateful for that, especially when I see how it affects those around me, especially my husband and my child. But today I am grateful for my bumps and dimples, because it has helped me develop empathy and patience and to take advantage of the good times. Sometimes I think I focus too much on trying to smooth myself out and make myself perfect instead of appreciating that sometimes, the dents actually give you character.

Just some clarification

I used to teach at BYU-Idaho. I no longer do. I retired, if that’s the word for a 37 year old, for two reasons. One, I developed fibromyalgia and could not cope with the demands of a full time career with the serious chronic pain that I was dealing with in a way that was fair to my family or my job. 

Second, Heavenly Father told me it was time to come home and homeschool my son, who would be entering into kindergarten. Teaching him to read has been one of the highlights of my career.

Nothing I say should be taken to be the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Brigham Young University-Idaho or any other church affiliated institution. These are just my thoughts about trying to figure out how to live by the Spirit and be motivated by love as a member of this church.

I love you all.

Commenting policy

To quote Wil Wheaton: Don’t be a dick.

You can disagree with other people on this blog. That means me and the other commenters. If you are rude, if you deny the reality of others’ experiences, if you are more intent on harm than help, in destruction than dialog, I will delete your comment. If I had to do this more than once, you will be banned. There are real people attached to these names, and this will be a safe space for them

I have solved ALL the problems

I was going to write a thoughtful post about the history of secessionist movements and the social contract and Locke and stuff, but then I came up with a better idea!

Hunger Games: Secession Style!

Twelve states will be allowed to secede. All people wanting to secede will have their names placed in a lottery for the secessionists in that state. A fashionably dressed celebrity will be tasked with drawing a name for each state.

Lock them all in a giant arena, or at least that Greek-columned thing Obama used for his speech in 2008, and it’s a game of last person standing gets to have their state secede.

This will be repeated on a yearly basis for 12 years, or until people stop wanting to secede, which ever comes first.

Broadcast rights, commercial air time, and official sponsor licensing proceeds will be used to pay off the Federal deficit.

Genius, people!!



What I thought of the conventions

I was asked to talk about the conventions.

I didn’t watch the conventions. Conventions used to serve a purpose. They actually picked the candidate. They were important. But we’ve known for several months or years, depending on which party you are talking about, who the candidate was going to be. It’s like a giant commercial for three days that involves lots of glitter, balloons, cheesy soundtracks, lying about your own record and that of your opponent, and a carefully choreographed slew of speeches that stay on theme.

I am kind of sad I missed the post-modern farce of Clint Eastwood rambling at an empty chair. Watching that on YouTube though, I have to say it hurt my opinion of the RNC. I mean, at least the DNC had the good sense to keep their Hollywood celebrities on script and Joe Biden sober.

Personally, I hate the two party system. It doesn’t work with the Constitution. It fosters divisiveness. And I’m holding it responsible for 17% of Ohio Republicans thinking Mitt Romney is responsible for Osama bin Laden’s death. I mean, really people?

What it means to be LDS and a Political Scientist

This is the transcript of an invited speech I gave at our chapter of  Pi Sigma Alpha.

I stand here this evening, clad in what Hugh Nibley called “the robes of the false priesthood” as an invited speaker.

There’s a few reasons I chose to give this address wearing my doctoral robes. First, these things cost more than my wedding dress. And that doesn’t even count the tuition I spent earning them, that’s just the robes. With a cost like that I’m going to wear them whenever I feel like it.

Secondly, there are not nearly enough occasions in my social calendar that call for wearing a velvet tasseled hat.

Third, I wear these robes to symbolize to you that today, I talk strictly as an academic. I speak to you as Dr. Arnell, rather than as Sister Arnell.

The topic of my comments is What It Means to be an LDS Political Scientist. But Dr. Arnell, I can hear you all thinking, you said you weren’t going be Sister Arnell. I’m not going to teach you doctrine tonight, or what I think is my understanding of doctrine. I want to talk about experiences I have had that have shaped my understanding of how I feel called to combine my belief in LDS doctrine with my training as a political scientist.

I have told many of you of my experience reading a talk given by Dallin H. Oaks to employees at BYU-Provo. He told them that they weren’t getting paid fair market value for what their work, but it was okay, because this was part of their covenant keeping for the law of consecration. The Mormon part of brain nodded in agreement. The Marxist part of my brain – every good political scientist has a little part of their brain dedicated to Marx – started yelling about me being oppressed.

What does it mean to be LDS and a political scientist? To believe in revealed truth, but also suspicious of power and claims to power – how does one reconcile those competing claims to allegiance?

I have an intuition of the right answer, but part of my personality is to intuitively leap to an understanding of what is true for me, and then have to painstakingly figure out the path to get to and justify to myself what I know in my heart to be correct. This talk is part of that process for me, to see if I can elucidate something that I feel more than know.

Political Science is, I think, unique amongst the social sciences in that it explicitly endorses a normative aspect, through its inclusion of philosophy and questions of the good and the right. Michael Sandel has been teaching a class at Harvard on the question “What is Justice?” for the last 25 years. This is the same question Plato tried to answer 2500 years ago in his classic Republic. 2500 years and we’re still trying to define our terms.

For a group of LDS political scientists this debate gets even more interesting. It adds in an entirely different set of commitments. Additionally, there is a cultural orthodoxy in Wasatch Front Mormonism that can be, at times, in conflict with different ways of interpreting doctrinal matters when it comes to political and economic theories. When you add in the conflict of your professional training as a political scientist, it can become quite unsettling to figure out exactly what you are supposed to do with your life, and how to reconcile what at times seems to be fundamentally irreconcilable.

As the comic Calamities of Nature recently pointed out, modern science basically understands the history of the universe back to when it was .000000000000000000000000000001 seconds old, and on the other hand the majority of the world’s population lives in poverty and doesn’t have the luxury to ponder such issues. That’s because science tends to focus on the easy problems.

Political scientists focus on the hard problems. We focus on things like injustice, poverty, war and genocide. We study abuse of power, corruption, and terror. Coercion is the raw material of our theories, and power enlivens everything we do. And that could be really depressing, but I prefer to offer a different perspective on it.

Political scientists see the world differently. You cannot feed the hungry, until you see hunger.  You cannot uplift the downtrodden, until you recognize your own role in their oppression. You cannot bring peace until you know the causes of war.

Political science was recognized by Aristotle as the master science because it “determines which of the sciences should be in the communities, and which kind individuals are to learn, and what degree of proficiency is to be required.” Political science studies all human actions to determine the good life for all. What could be more noble or enlightening than dedicating your life to bringing about the good for all? We need more political scientists in this world, not fewer.

A lot of you have been asked recently, “What are you going to do with a degree in Political Science?”

Some of you have struggled with that question, seeking to come up with an answer for the questioner but also for yourself. May I suggest a possible answer for you?

I’m going to change the world. I’m going to fight for truth, justice and the pursuit of the good. I am going to keep my covenants and build up the Kingdom of God.

We are so strict in our classrooms about not letting you justify your answers with “because God said so” that it may seem hypocritical to evoke Him now. But what I want you to consider is how your career, your skills and training, your passion for some aspect of this program that made you suffer through me teaching you statistics, can contribute to building up the Kingdom of God.

Aristotle – yes, back to Aristotle – said that there are two types of knowledge: theory and praxis. Theory is what we’ve taught you, what you’ve studied, even some of what you’ve learned down in the Taylor building. Praxis is applied knowledge. How are you going to apply what we teach you in a way that honors the covenants and commitments you have as a person?

The Jewish festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) celebrates the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and falls 50 days after the second night of Pesach (Passover).  The Christian feast of Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles in the book of Acts, ushering in the beginning of the church. Fifty days after Jesus’s resurrection (10 days after His ascension), the apostles were gathered together, and on Pentecost a flame rested upon the shoulders of the apostles and they began to speak in tongues by the power of the Holy Spirit.

At the giving of the Torah, there was an outpouring of Spirit as well, but instead of hearing the message of the Apostles in their own tongue, during the receiving of the Law, rabbis tells us that the audience all heard a message as well, but it was communicated by the Spirit, and each person was given a different message.


He hung back after class. “Sister Arnell, can I ask you a question?”


“How do you balance all this” he waved around the classroom, “with what you know to be true?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question, typically of a bright young mind that is sincerely honest both in their belief in God, and in studying in a discipline that doesn’t really have a place for God anymore.

“Because, I want to share my testimony, but I’m not sure if I can say ‘I know’ any more. I believe, but can you really know?”

And I told him. Yes, you know. I know through the Spirit. It’s confirmed to me the truthfulness of God being our Father, and Jesus is our Savior, and in Joseph Smith and in the Book of Mormon. I know those things are true. And I leave the rest of it up to God.

I don’t really think God cares what you believe about dinosaurs, and geological time tables, and Glenn Beck. He cares whether or not you’re keeping the covenants you have made with him. The gospel has existed in a lot of different places and a lot of different times, and sometimes the revelations that were good for other generations don’t work today for some reason. I can cut my hair short and eat a cheeseburger and I think that’s okay, and I think God’s okay with that too. Doctrine doesn’t change. Cultural practices of a doctrine does. So, we have to figure out what is doctrine from what is culture.

“Well, how do you do that?”

I said, this is where it gets tricky. You and I both believe in modern day prophets. We sustain them as prophets, seers, and revelators. They receive guidance from the Lord about how to administer his church. Does that mean that every utterance they make is Scripture? No. Sometimes they are just men. And sometimes they get it wrong. And they admit that they got it wrong.

We then talked for a while about how different practices of the church have been disavowed, and where apostles have admitted publicly that they were mistaken about statements they have made.

“So, how do you tell the difference?”

The Spirit will tell you the difference. When someone says something that is incorrect spiritually, the Spirit will let you know that it is incorrect. God trusts you enough to receive confirmation by the Spirit of the truthfulness of any message.

That’s not a standard LDS viewpoint. We tend to just accept whatever the brethren say as capital T Truth, but there are times where they are factually inaccurate, or that the message they are giving as a general guiding principle doesn’t apply to you, or needs to be practiced in a non-standard way. This is the point to me of the parallels between the giving of the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Law. Both involve God speaking, through the Spirit, to each of His children in an individualized personal manner. Whether it is literally in a different language, or if he is just speaking the language of our heart, we should be prepared for and seek after opportunities to feel the guiding influence of the Spirit in how we live the Gospel.

And I ended with, when in doubt, act out of love, and you’ll never be wrong.

That is my call to each of you tonight. Practice a political ethics of love. How you practice that may be different than how I would practice that. The church believes in orthodoxy of doctrine, but not of implementation. The technical name for that sort of variety is heteropraxy. The important thing is that we are acting out of love.

So, if you go home tonight, and your roommates ask you what you talked about at your social, tell them “The Heteropraxy of Love.” And then they will leave you alone. So you can finish working on your homework. Because most of you in this room have projects due to me next week.

If they are made of braver stuff, they may ask you to explain what that string of syllables that just came out of your mouth means. Then, turn with them in the Bible to Luke, and reading the following passage.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

That’s the call I hear in the Bible, from Jesus Christ, to those who would be his disciples.  Love those with whom you disagree. Bless those who hurt you, and hate you, and use you to evil ends. Give to those in need, regardless of whether or not they are deserving.  Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Why?  Because even sinners can love those that love them in return.  Even Voldemort has friends. But we, as believers, are called to live a higher law.  We are called to love those who hate us.  If we only give to those who can pay us back, we are a sinner.  If we only serve those who are capable of serving us back, we are a sinner.  If we only love those who love us back, we are a sinner.

It’s nice to think that the world is so clear cut that poor people are poor because they made bad choices or are lazy or are evil.  That’s nice to think about, because that means that I am rich(er) because I am a good person, or made good choices, or worked hard.  Rarely will anyone admit that they are rich(er) because they won a genetic lottery that rewarded them with a beneficial socio-economic portfolio that pays dividends that seem, to the recipient, to be rewards for their supposed labors rather than systemic privileges to which they have no moral desert. Self-congratulatory narratives may make it easier to sleep at night, but they are detrimental to our ability to treat other people with the respect and dignity to which we claim they have an inalienable right.

And so we have a special call as LDS political scientists. We need to put a stop to hate in this world.  We need to put a stop to hating people based on political disagreement.  Even if you are adamantly opposed to the policies they propose, the people they have sex with, the color of their skin, the taxes they pass, or the wars they get involved in, there is no room for hate as an LDS political scientist.  We are too great for that.

We need to put a stop to tolerance. Yes, you heard me. We need to stop tolerance. I have often heard the word tolerance used to describe our attitude towards those who engage in behavior the gospel denounces. We tolerate those who disagree with us, or who live lifestyles different than ours. The word tolerate is not used in the scriptures. The word love is used 564 times. There is a difference between tolerance and love. I love my cat. When he gets mad at me, he pees right outside his litter box. I tolerate that behavior because I love my cat. I do not tolerate my cat. How much more greater is the command to love one another than my love for my cat? No one wants to be tolerated. We do not hope for a valentine’s card that says, “I tolerate you.”  I do not tolerate people, if I am following Christ’s example. I love them.

We have in this gospel and in this discipline a legacy that should shine forth like a city on a hill, but instead of burnishing the flame of freedom that we have inherited, purchased by generations of effort at so great a cost and immense an effort, we need to be wary of tarnishing it through our actions with a thousand little jealousies, and a million petty acts. Selfish demagogues have used that flame to light the torches of an angry mob, rather than candles of example that should illuminate the good within themselves and in each other.  They should be ashamed.

But we are not ashamed. We are LDS political scientists. And the next time someone asks you what you’re going to do with a degree in political science, just smile and say, “I’m going to change the world.”

Why bad political discourse hurts our economy

You should all watch the vlogbrothers. These guys are fantastic.


The Things I Do for My Students

By popular request, I am starting a blog to continue the “shut the door” tangents I would get off on during class.

So, what should I talk about?