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Nine Moons : 2004 : September » 2004 » September

“Little Utah”

Guest - September 30, 2004

In contemplating the Latter-day Saint’s admirable tendency towards saving money and being frugal (a value that can apparently overshadow regard to “no outside food and drink” movie theater signs!), I bring up another interesting phenomenon: abuse of governmental programs by Church members.

An upscale apartment complex in our Midwest college town has been dubbed “Little Utah” in local LDS circles, because more than 50% of their residents are LDS families. It is widely known, mostly among Mormons, that this complex accepts government subsidies to reduce or completely pay rent for those who qualify.

Some of these families are in need of these programs, but from what we’ve seen and heard, the majority probably are not. They are all graduate-level/professional students (mostly dental). They can take out more than enough in loans to meet their needs. Many come from very well-to-do families (children of dentists and doctors). And they will all likely be quite well off in a few years because of their chosen professions.

One has to admire the fact they are being frugal and saving their money. Most are simply trying to “avoid debt,” as we are so frequently counseled. However, we often see their savings and extra loan money go toward fun new toys, such as big-screen TVs and new minivans. They probably look at us, paying our rent (and food and health insurance, but I won’t go into the food stamps and WIC programs they are also on), and they might wonder why we don’t channel our funds more wisely.

What disturbs me most is knowing that this same abuse occurs at many universities among members of the Church. We have heard of other “Little Utahs” across the Midwest.

No one is breaking any laws here – what they are doing is clearly legal, because the numbers fit. But is this ethical? If there are loopholes, does that mean we should take them? What about all those self-reliance talks in General Conference? We could certainly work our numbers as they have, so am I being too prideful in paying my own rent? Perhaps the biggest question is, what does this trend say to non-members about us as Latter-day Saints?

Bienvenidos a Amy

Rusty -

For the two of you who read this blog and are not in my family, let me introduce my sister Amy Jones as a guest blogger (or permanent, it’s not like I’m going to deny her the almighty “privelege” of posting here). Being the peacemaker of our rather raucous family we will no doubt be calmed, cautioned, and humbled by her elegantly simple words. Buena suerte, Hermana Cleepstone!

Is it dishonesty or just “Mormon Culture”?

Don - September 28, 2004

I’ve owned $1.00 admission movie theaters all over the U.S., literally from New York to California. I presently own one in Utah.

Of all the theaters I’ve owned the one in Utah has by far and away more people who “sneak” food and drinks in without paying. It is clearly posted “No outside food or drink” and yet these Mormons bring in everything from sandwiches to 2 liter sodas.

They answer “yes” to the temple interview question “are you honest in your dealing with your fellow man”. How does that work? What’s the justification? Our high admission costs…I don’t think so, at $1.00 we are a lot cheaper than video rental. Our high snack-bar prices…maybe, but we are by far and away the cheapest in town…and anyway we’ve got to make a profit somewhere just to stay open.

Even if our prices are “too high” so what, paying $1.00 authorizes you to come in and watch a movie it doesn’t authorize you to have a picnic.

Obviously I can’t vent like this locally where the theater is located. The backlash from all the Mormons I would offend would probably close me down. I guess as a businessman, if I’m not profitable within the local “culture” then I should just take my business elsewhere.

Judgment Day…One question

Don -

Through careful study I’ve come to the conclusion that judgment Day will be very simple and concise. From my lifetime experience in the church, I’ve decided the Lord only needs to ask one question to see if we are worthy to enter the Celestial Kingdom…How many chairs did you stack?
If you think about it, there is more to this question then meets the eye. The answer tells a few things about you. For one, it shows how charitable you are. You have either faithfully served time after time or gone through life lazily and selfishly. Second, it shows whether you supported fellow saints and your local leaders by attending their meetings, baptisms, Christmas programs, etc. Finally, it shows whether you were diligent faithful in attending all the necessary meetings that proved you were an active member of the church.
So, if you have not already been doing so, go stack those chairs!

False “Doctrine” Again!?

Don - September 25, 2004

It keeps happening! I’ve read, studied, and taught the BOM for years. While preparing this week’s SS lesson I discovered that what I was taught and assume was right is wrong!

I was always taught the right after Christ was crucified and resurrected in the old world he appeared to the people in the new world.

3 Ne. 8:5 tells us that the signs of Christ’s death happened in the 34th year, first month on the 4th day of the month. Then in chapter 10 vs 18 it says that “in the ending of the thirty and fourth year” he did truly manifest himself to them.

WOW almost a year later than I had previously been taught or knew.

I don’t have a problem with the descrepentcy (other than I wish someone would have pointed it out before…or I would have better studied before so I would have noticed). I can think of a couple of reasons why it makes sense.

One, maybe He was too busy (tongue in cheek). Two, it gave the people time to repent. Three, it gave the people time to gather at the Temple from all over the land.

I just love the BOM, no matter how much or how often I study it, there are always new insights to be gained.

The “Color Code” Divinci’s Revenge

Don - September 20, 2004

My wife has been fasinated with the color code for years. We are now reading the book together to supposedly help us better understand each other….and change for the better.

It has helped me to understand me, and her better. It has helped me to understand our motives better too.

Now the change part!! I’m a status seeking, always right red. I like who I am, I like being a red. My wife is a must be fair, judgemental blue…and I think she likes being a blue. Red / Blue relationships are the most difficult, we can both testify of that. I find myself accommadating her blue characteristics but I don’t know how interested I am about changing my red characteristics.

Maybe accommadating the blue is a step in the right direction, I just need to keep stepping that way.

Just to tie this in to my title: maybe the reason Christ is always pictured in white is because He’s a white…easy going, laid back, easy to forgive and get along. Then He’s dressed in red for His second coming when He’ll be aggressive and wreck havoc.

Colors, do they really matter?

There are some things God can’t do!

Don - September 15, 2004

I’ve always “loved” the reactions people give when you say that. And then give them some examples like: God can’t lie. God can’t be unjust. God can’t create a rock so heavy He can’t lift it (that’s one of my favorites). Got any others?

Jesus Art

Rusty -

I came across this website and couldn’t tell if I was supposed to be laughing or feeling the Spirit. I especially like the juggler. I can’t help to think that these are early sketches of Greg Olsen paintings.

When Does the Spirit Enter the Body?

Don - September 14, 2004

I think the “brethern” have avoided answering this question, and probably for good reason. Does life begin when the spirit enters the body, or does life begin at conception? We all recognize the fact the the embryo, depending on it’s stage of development, can move, feel pain, is sensitive to music and much more. Does that mean its spirit has entered into its body?

Many parents have been conforted by assuming (for whatever reason, personal revelation?, a statement by a friend, Bishop, or G.A.?) that they’ll have the opportunity of raising their still born baby in the Millenium. I’m not disputing that.

The reason the question entered my mind, I was studying my S.S. lesson and in 3Ne. 1:13 Jesus speaks to Nephi and tells him that the next day he will be born.

Obviously (at least to me) from this scripture Christ’s spirit had not entered into his body. His spirit was wherever it had been since the creation of the earth and he was still functioning as the God of this earth. So if Christ’s spirit didn’t enter His body until birth, does that apply to all of our spirits?

In My Own Fashion

Rusty - September 10, 2004

There is an interesting phenomenon in the Book of Mormon: almost every time it describes a prideful person/people, it also slips in a line about how they wear costly apparel (do a search for “apparel”, the results are staggering). Whether it is the cause or the result of their pride, expensive clothing seems to be the whipping boy. Strangely, The Book of Mormon is much more silent on matters of alcohol, R-rated movies, debt, pornography, and wearing white shirts to church. I don’t even think sexual sin gets as much ink (in The Book of Mormon). Nor did President Benson mention this phenomenon in his famous sermon on Pride.

This begs a couple questions:

1) Why don’t we ever talk about expensive clothing, even though Book of Mormon prophets emphasized it in most of their teachings on pride?

2) What is so bad about expensive clothing? Are we not supposed to appreciate and enjoy the finer things that God has blessed us with?

I think the problem of fashion is that we are dealing with something the world offers that has a capacity to make us feel good about ourselves. I often think of sin as a variance from righteousness. Beauty, confidence, fine materials are all good things God has given us. It’s easy to see how each of these things can be skewed into pride.

I have personal issues with fashion. I find it to be one of the most reprehensible, self-indulgent, wretched entities in existence. It encourages (mostly) girls to do unnatural/dispicable things to/with their bodies, it skews our perspective of needs vs. wants, and provides a platform for judgement. It also thrives on the selling of sex. And if Fashion is the devil, the Cosmetics industry is Cain. An industry that thrives on the message “how you look right now is not pretty enough, you need to buy our product to be beautiful and feel good about yourself.” Are they not pushing a product/lifestyle that is more addicting than alcohol or tobacco? (I submit that these appear to be a bit extreme, which might be the case, but I live in New York and am exposed to the extremes of this industry.)

Having said this, I must admit that I succumb to its devilish enticings as much as the next guy. I won’t wear pants that are an inch too short…or that have pleats. I find Banana Republic morally superior to Old Navy, however, thrift store clothing is morally superior to Prada. Black will always be the new black. I have too many clothes for a poor, straight, married guy.

Again, how do I find myself (and I presume at least a few others) in this moral quandary and yet we never talk about it?

How much leeway does God have?

Don - September 4, 2004

We all agree that God is bound by eternal laws. We all agree that blessing are predicated based on obedience to laws.

That being said, then when I obey a law I get the blessing, when I break a law or commandment I either get a “punishment” or the promised blessing withheld. Does that mean then I get what I deserve? I earned it? (this obviously doesn’t refer to the atonement which I didn’t / don’t earn and I didn’t / don’t derserve)

If I do get what I earned or deserved and it is bound to the law I kept then first: “Why do I pray for blessings?” and second: “Can God change, modify, increase or decrease the blessing associated with keeping that law?”

My thought on the first question is: shouldn’t I be praying to keep the commandments, to have the knowledge and strength to do so. If I pray for the blessing am I putting the cart before the horse? Or is it I don’t know what commandment to keep to bring the blessing sought after so I pray for the blessing instead? Really shouldn’t I be asking to know what I should do to bring about the blessing instead of just asking for the blessing?

The second question is even more interesting. Can God bless me more / less for keeping a commandment than someone else who keeps that same commandment? Does God have to be “fair”? Or does God have some leeway in how much or how little to bless us? Is there a range from say 1 -10 depending on exactness, attitude, circumstances, previous performance or other criteria?

Blessings have always perplexed me. I can’t tie specific action with specific results, they aren’t always logical. They can be immediate, or deferred which contributes to my difficulty. For me I just try and keep the commandments having faith that I’ll get the blessings I need (and God knows what I need obviously better than I do).

Are we really where we “should” be?

Don - September 2, 2004

Bret’s post and a recent conversation got me to thinking. I’ve done it and I hear it all the time. “I’m glad for the choices I’ve made because they helped make me what I am, and have brought me to such and such point in my life.” To me this is almost a fatalist point of view. “No matter what I choose it’s ok because it makes me what I am.”

I think God loves us so much that he will help make the best result for us from any choice we make. If we make a bad choice, we suffer the consequences but God not only tempers those consequences as much as mercy will allow. Sometimes I think He can even cause greater benefit to come from that choice if we are humble and seek His help.

So we put all these bad choices together with the good choices we make and we end up where we are at….which is better than we deserve because of His mercy.

We thank God for what we have “learned” and the “experience” and the “growth”.

My question is where should we be? Doesn’t it seem logical that we would be a lot better off in our experience, growth and who and where we are if we had made more good choices?

Those people who are grateful for going thru the consequences of their sins seem to forget that they could have been better if they would have made a better choice.

Why be thankful for making poor choices?

Opposition and Moderation

Don - September 1, 2004

When Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he learned a very simple, however complex truth: “There must needs be an opposition in all things…” (2 Ne. 2:11) In order for him (and in turn, all mankind) to experience one thing, he had to experience the other. Virtue/vice, health/sickness, pleasure/pain, light/darkness, etc. All of us know this principle to be true because we’ve all experienced it. In order to truly know happiness we have to be truly miserable at least some time in our life.

Where it gets complex for me is understanding and finding this thing called moderation. Philippians 4:5 states “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” Being that we need to experience both sides of everything, how do we know how much of each side to experience? This is clearly not an open invitation to sin (to gain said “experience”), but how do we know? One of the things that makes Christ perfect is that He has experienced opposition in all things. Are we not perfected until we experience all as He has? Does the Atonement also somehow make it possible for us to gain opposition experience? So, how can we truly know the happiness of being a free people in a free country if we’ve never lived in bondage?

I feel that this is a very important principle, because all around me I witness the foolishness of living to extremes. I find this true, even if applied to a single aspect of a person’s life. For example, we are often counseled to not adopt gospel hobbies (the Joseph F. Smith manual talks specifically about this). How many of us know someone who has done so and has since fallen away? There are those who spend an excessive amount of time with non-profit organizations, community theaters or other wholesome activities and leave no time for their own families. Conversely, there are some who elevate their family above the Gospel and discontinue their living of its principles because of an offense.

I’m not sure if there are any definitive answers to these questions but I’d love to hear any advice or personal experience that has helped any of you achieve moderation. The more I ponder and study this subject, the more I’m convinced that experiencing opposition and (perhaps more importantly) finding moderation is one of the basic reasons we come to this earth and one of the most essential things needed to achieve godhood.

I am Pro-Choice

Rusty -

One of the clients of the design firm where I work is Planned Parenthood. Per my request, I don’t work on any PP project. That, however, doesn’t mean I don’t hear their ideas and thoughts that are put forth. Of those ideas, the concept of “Choice” is, of course, paramount. It is this idea that our principal pushes the most, that it’s not about abortion, it’s not about sex, it’s about the divine right of “Choice”.

I agree that our opportunity to have a Choice is the most important gift God has given us. According to Neal A. Maxwell, it’s the only thing that is truly ours. However, I find that Planned Parenthood conveniently overlooks Choice’s intimate spouse: Consequence. It is impossible for one to exist without the other. They want to have a “choice” after previous poor choices have been made. It’s like the guy in jail who demands his “right” to freedom. He lost that “right” the moment he knowingly broke the law. When girls choose to have sex, they know there is a chance they could get pregnant. They forfeit their future choices based on that choice.

Many, of course, will say, “what about rape/incest or mother’s health?” Those aren’t choices made by the female.

Planned Parenthood is right. It is about choice. But it’s about the choices that are made before the girl is late for her period, not after.