Shut the door!

The intersection of LDS discipleship and conscious citizenship

Tired

I am tired down to my bones. Tired of trying to explain why I am tired. Tired of fighting all the little things that add up to a mountain and a constant uphill trudge.

This Steubenville rape case is just the last straw. If you haven’t heard the words “rape culture” by now, you must have been ignoring the whole thing, which I probably should have done, but I just couldn’t.

I’m going to soapbox here for a minute.

Rape culture is a society giving women a list of do’s and don’t’s that boil down to “make sure he rapes the other girl.”

Rape culture is a society where women are scared to go out by themselves at night.

Can we think about that for a minute? We’ve created a society where women are scared to be by themselves. Isn’t that horrifying? The ability to be alone, to be yourself, to choose to do whatever you want is limited because of fear.

I’m scared to go camping by myself. Not because of the wild animals, but because of the wild humans who are more terrifying than any bear or cougar. They will just maul you to death and then eat your corpse. It will hurt for a bit, but it will be over quickly, especially if the cougar manages to get the right bite on the back of your skull to sever the spinal column.

No, it’s the humans that do the real damage. It’s the humans that leave scars that last a lifetime. It’s the humans who play with your body and kill your soul. It’s the humans who think they have a right to your body because you chose to walk by yourself home from the library after studying for three hours for that physiology final you have tomorrow. Or because you wore your hair in a ponytail so obviously you want someone to grab you by it and throw you to the ground. Or because you walked by a construction site. Or a dorm. Or down the street in your neighborhood.

It’s the humans who say, “hey, she was drunk.” Who blame a girl, not even a woman, for “bad judgment” because getting intoxicated obviously causes boys to forcibly penetrate you repeatedly, take pictures of it, send them to their friends, laughing about what you did. It’s the humans who excuse this behavior because boys will be boys, and skill at sports washes away any “mistakes.” And then sentences you to less time in prison than you would get for pirating a DVD or possessing cocaine. What does that tell the victim? You are less important to society than a bootleg of Gigli. 

Rape is not a mistake. You don’t just fall over and end up with your penis in someone’s vagina or anus. You don’t accidentally rape someone. Rape takes intent. It’s an act of power over someone who you consider less than, non-human, the other. It’s not about sex and boys are horny and it just happens. It’s about perpetrators not thinking their victim is a person.

Stop teaching “boys are boys.” I have a son. He’s a total boy. But he’s not an asshole. Boys don’t have to be assholes. You have to teach them to be assholes. And really, when advertisements feature women selling everything, it creates a culture where the women are just objects that are for sale. The female body is something to be consumed, that is designed to be looked at, that exists to be looked at.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of a culture that thinks it is okay for you to come talk to me on the subway, and when I am not interested, I’m automatically a bitch or a lesbian. You know what? You don’t have a right to my time or attention any more than you have a right to my body. I do not exist for your ends. I am an end in and of myself and you do not own me. So if I choose to spend time with you, consider yourself lucky, and if I don’t want to spend time with you, that’s not my problem, because I do not have responsibilities to you other than to respect you as a person. And I’ll do that.

And if you bitch to your friends about how the girls never like the nice guy, because they are really selfish shallow status-obsessed bitches who always friendzone you, then you’re not really a nice guy, you’re a misogynist in nice guy clothing.* And if you think for one instant that anything a woman does entitles you to have sex with her other than her explicit consent, you are wrong. Because if you do, then I am going to walk up to you and hit you with a baseball bat. Because you didn’t say no, so that means you are consenting to it.

Unconscious means no.

Wearing a mini skirt means no.

Walking by herself means no.

Hair in a ponytail. NO.

Hair not in a ponytail. NO.

She’s had sex with you before. NO.

She’s had sex with your friends. NO.

She’s never had sex. NO.

She flirted with you. NO.

She drank alcohol. NO.

She did drugs. NO.

I mean, really. You learned no when you were a two year old. How difficult is it to get this through your mind, society? The default of “can I have sex with this woman or man” is no. NO NO NO. Just stop it.

And yes, I know people will say, that focusing on changing the behavior of the rapist is unrealistic. You know what? I don’t care. According to RAINN, almost 2/3rds and 38% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. You know what that means? You aren’t safe with your friends. We’ve created a culture that means most people are not safe ever. And nothing about the way I dress is going to change that. So stop telling me that I should spend my life expecting to be raped, because that is wrong. You create that culture by saying it. And then excusing it by blaming the victim. And then creating a culture that is so misogynistic about the treatment of victims that only 3% of rapists actually spend any time in prison.

Women are people. Men are people. Stop raping people.

And, because I’m going to assume that the people reading this are the ones who wouldn’t rape someone, though statistically, who knows, I have some advice for you too.

Stop rape culture. Stop laughing at jokes that objectify and sexualize women. Stop consuming media that sexualizes women. Stop making excuses for men being assholes. Name and shame, people. Name the behavior when you see it. Point out how this perpetuates a culture that promotes a society that makes people into victims, and victims into the cause instead of the effect. I’ve read enough social construction IR theory to know that this works if people are committed to making a change. So put it into action.

Stop rape. Stop rape culture.

 

*I read this argument somewhere and can’t find it now, so I’m just going to say that it is not mine and if I can find it later, I’ll come back and link it.
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The Gospel According to Ruth

Was doing a little bit of though experimentation today about what the Scriptures would look like if Christ had appeared for the first time today and were being read two thousand years in the future. Instead of lepers and Pharisees and unclean women, what would the stories be about? It ended up looking like this.

“And he denieth none that come unto him, black and white and every shade in between, first world and third, conservative and liberal, rich and poor, male and female and those who don’t feel at home in their own bodies; and he remembereth the gays, and the transgendered; and all are alike unto God, both stay at home mom and working mom, and the stay at home dad while mom is working full time, and the single parents, both male and female, and the childless by choice, and the childless not by choice, and the ones with pioneer ancestors and the ones who will be the pioneer ancestors for their descendants, and the ones who lived their lives honorably to find themselves broken by the choices of others; the one who left, and the one who did the leaving; and the ones who have anxiety disorders so they sit out in the foyer during Sacrament meeting because it freaks them out to be around that many people, and the widow at 80 and the widower at 30. For the Lord looketh not on his countenance or her pink hair or her tattoos or his multiple piercings. All are alike unto God, for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. And the Lord gives us a commandment, that we love one another; as he has loved us, that we also love one another.”

The Gospel According to Ruth Chapter 1, verse 1.

I think verse two is something like, “You are the children of God, so act like it.”

On being a feminist woman in the Mormon church.

Be a Christian. I think at some point, you have to deal with the fact that while the Church was founded by Christ, it is run by men and by man. That means that what the church does sometimes is based on the understanding of man. And because of the patriarchal structure, it’s largely based on the understanding of men. And for the most part, they are good men, but still, they are men, and they have male experiences, and they are raised in a church culture that emphasizes the inherent, immutable, eternal differences between men and women.

So men and women are different. I’m okay with saying that. But I don’t understand how that difference plays out in the church. Why can’t women be a ward finance clerk? I don’t understand how a church that emphasizes the difference between women and men can then logically say that men can make all the decisions with a minimal amount of input from women. Ward Councils are overwhelmingly male, and the women who are on those councils are quite frequently the only woman on the council, and have been socialized to be subservient to the opinions of men.

So, how do you do it? You be a Christian. You take the doctrines of the Church – above all, love – and the ordinances – baptism, sacrament, temple ordinances – and you do the best you can. And you pray for patience. And maybe you get a tattoo of Sisyphus to remind you that others have fought this fight. And you read the history of the church – not the History of the Church – but the books put together by academics who document the role that women played in this church before cultural conservatism got grafted onto the root stock of the gospel.

And you pray. And you realize that God made you to be you, and the general counsel given may not apply to your life at this moment or ever. And you pray some more, and learn to listen to the Spirit and for the Spirit and you learn to trust in the path God has set for you. Because if you know that you are living in accordance to the will of God, then it is easier to get over the hurtful comments. And there will be hurtful comments. And you go to the temple and you pray for inspiration to make sure you are really doing this to be in line with God’s will for your life and not out of pride. And you pray some more. And you make girlfriends who feel the same way you do, so you can have someone to sit with in Relief Society and roll your eyes with, or to pat you on the back when you speak up and everyone else is rolling their eyes. And if you are dating, you make sure he knows what he is dealing with and that he is supportive of you. And if you’re married, you just keep talking to him with love, because eventually, if he loves you, and not just the idea of you, he will understand how much hurt is being caused to you by this church that you love, and he will learn why sometimes you have to get up and walk out of sacrament meeting before you call the speaker an idiot. And he will listen to you rant sometimes when you just have to get it out of your system. And he will eventually, if he loves you, start pushing for the changes that will make church a safer place for the woman he loves.

Not every man married to a feminist woman starts out a feminist, but usually they end up one. And it can take years, but know that other women have done this, and are doing this, and your effort will make it a little bit easier for women down the line.

There’s a theory in political science called the spiral of silence. The idea is that people in the minority fail to speak their opinion because they are worried about being discriminated against. That lack of representation makes others less likely to speak out because they think they are alone. It takes someone to speak up first to give others the courage to speak out. So be that person. Know that you are not alone. Even if you are alone in your ward, you are not alone in the gospel. And the countless unnamed women in the scriptures stand with you too.

It is hard to be a feminist or feminist-leaning woman in this church. I don’t mean doctrinally, but actual on-the-ground living the life in Mormon culture. It is an exercise in patience and perseverance. And it’s an opportunity to develop a sense of humor, because you have to laugh or you’ll cry. And sometimes you’ll cry. And that’s okay, too.

Above all, deal with all others from a place of love. Love is never wrong.

On the Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments regarding Prop 8 and DOMA

Dear Mormon Friends,

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s announcement that they will be hearing arguments over Prop 8 and DOMA, I would like to say a few things preemptively.

If the Supreme Court legalizes the right of gays and lesbians to be married, that does not mean that the church will be forced to marry them in the temple. Straight people can’t force the Mormon church to marry them in the temple. Gays won’t be able to either. The legalization of gay marriage means they have a right to be married by the state. It doesn’t mean anything for their right to force a religious organization to have to marry them.

Many people worry because of a case that was fought back on the East Coast where a gay couple sued a church about excluding them from being able to use a hall that the church owned for their wedding. There are some key differences here. First, the hall they were seeking access to was one that the church rented to people not affiliated with the church. At that point, the question is can you refuse to rent a space to people because they are gay that you do rent to straight people- basically a business contract question. Secondly, they were not asking the church/reverend/pastor/bishop/priest to marry them, just for access to a space they allowed other members of the public to access for a fee. The LDS church doesn’t even allow all members of the religion access to the temple, much less members of the community.I’m not telling you that you have to/should be in favor of gay marriage, but if you are going to have this discussion, please do not use faulty argumentation to support your case.

Also, if you are wondering where in the Constitution it even talks about gay marriage and why the Supreme Court should be hearing this at all, look at the 14th amendment, equal protection, and then the full faith and credit clause in Article V. Because my brother and his husband have different federal rights depending on what state they live in currently, the Supreme Court has to decide if Article V applies to marriage licenses. Also, they have to decide if DOMA was Congressional overreach and see where in Article 1 section 8 they are basing the right to define marriage.

Love,
Sister Arnell

P.S. My brother Jon just got word that the surgery his husband has undergone today went well and that he should be able to see him in about an hour. Todd’s been in surgery for around five to six hours, and will be undergoing another similar surgery on his spine on Tuesday. Even though Jon and Todd were married during the brief months when it was legal in California, they have to have medical power of attorney agreements in place so they are able to make decisions for each other and have the right to see each other. They have been together over a decade. Please, let us remember when discussing gay rights and marriage that “the gays” are a diverse group of people, and that they are people with histories and loves and dreams of their own. Please, let’s not treat them as a bogeyman out to get you and your and my religion. Jesus said love everyone. EVERYONE.

On Bacon – Part One of who knows

One of the things that I wanted to do in my dissertation was take the Most Affected Principle and apply it to animals. My adviser wisely told me I needed to narrow the scope of my discussion or I would never finish. In the back of my mind, and in classes I have both taken and taught, human relations to animals are something I have always wanted to explore in a more in depth manner.

And so, I’m going to start discussing that here. And I want your help thinking through some things.

The first question I want to address is whether or not animals have rights or if there is any philosophical basis for human to have limits on their acceptable interaction with animals. I’m entitling this series of posts “On Bacon” because I want to limit the discussion to those animals with which we have definite relationships of interaction. For that purpose, bacon, because bacon is delicious, and asking people to potentially stop eating bacon is a good way to bring home the impact of what we are exploring. So, for now, let’s limit our conversation to animals that we have domesticated, either for food or for companionship.

Do animals have rights?

Rights have two basic foundations in most political thought. First, is that rights are inherent in humans, typically given by some sort of deity or through Natural Law/Reason. The second is that rights are not inherent, but are politically necessary to keep us from treating each other like animals (hahahhaaaaa, i pun, i pun.) Both of these are problematic when it comes to animals. It is difficult to find a non-metaphysical foundation for inherent rights for humans that anyone can agree on, much less humans. Modern discourse when it comes to human rights in the international arena asserts inherent rights based on dignity of persons as holders of ontological value, though you aren’t going to hear Ban Ki-Moon use that language, but the justifications they give for the necessity of respecting those rights are instrumental.

This is where it gets problematic for animal rights. If human rights are only recognized on an instrumental basis, and just see what we as a society consider acceptable treatment for people we don’t care about, then how do we make an instrumental case for animal rights? Is society better when we consider animals as having some sort of rights to a certain level of treatment? I don’t see much evidence for the instrumental argument on a short-term accounting basis for the instrumental argument. Our food (and bacon!) gets cheaper and more plentiful the worse we treat animals. Humans have a right to 99 cent bacon double cheeseburgers, right?

Backing into an agreement on animal treatment

Most people in industrialized society have a certain emotional reaction to animal abuse. I’m not going to link to any videos, but when you see the denizens of the internet band together to identify animal abusers in anonymously posted videos, you know there is something at the core of that joint project tied to some sort of agreement that treating animals poorly is not socially acceptable. Why is it that we seem to abhor abuse of animals if they don’t have a right to some basic standard of treatment?

Obviously, this applies more to pets than to feed animals. It probably is because we have more immediate contact with pets, and that gives us the ability to sympathize with similar animals in negative situations because watching someone else’s cat triggers memories of your own cat. Is this emotional reaction based on a recognition of something in animals that we usually are able to ignore because of lack of familiarity, or is there something unique to the domestication process that grants special privilege to pets?

Pets are very much dependent on their human companions for survival. Does that grant them the right to certain standard of treatment? If so, what about food animals? Cows and chickens are highly domesticated. Industrially raised chickens are pretty much a genetic extreme with no capability to survive outside their carefully controlled environment. If we created them, do we have a responsibility to take care of them?

I’m interested in your input at this point. Please let me know what you think. Your bacon may be on the line.

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!!

 

 

A sermon for the day after

Election night is over. Nate Silver is probably a witch, but political scientists know better. Statistical modeling for the win!

However, the day after the election, I feel a need to sermonize a little bit.

I am disappointed by the amount of demonization that I am seeing on my Facebook page. Yes, we all have preferred candidates, and yes, we should be actively engaged in the political sphere, but there is a way that we, as LDS members, are supposed to behave, and I see very little of that actually happening.

Let my provide you with some examples of appropriate political behavior:

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/statement-on-election-result

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/instruments-of-the-lords-peace?lang=

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/the-mormon-ethic-of-civility

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/we-follow-jesus-christ?lang=eng

Don’t make me get all up in your business and start teaching St. Augustine at you, because you know I’ll do it.

There is a wonderful quote from John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist faith:

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:
1, to vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy;
2, to speak no evil of the person they voted against;
and 3, to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.
– October 6, 1774.

Let us remember that Christ is our true example, and he said in Matthew Chapter Five:

 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curseyou, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I like to refer to this as the “Even Voldemort has friends” scripture. Let us be better than Voldemort. Let us remember who is really in charge. To ascribe to any political person the ability to bring about the end of days is to display a complete lack of faith.

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?”

Sure.

“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.