Romney and Reid

May 31, 2005

Over at Times and Seasons, Kaimi linked a Weekly Standard article that offered, in my opinion, an excellent analysis of whether Mitt Romney’s faith as a Latter-day Saint will permanently handicap him as a presidential candidate. Given what I know of the vindictiveness and prejudice of Evangelical Christians, I have consistently made the argument that neither Romney nor any other Latter-day Saint could possibly be elected as President of the United States because of Evangelical hatred of Latter-day Saints. But Terry Eastland’s analysis has influenced my thinking to be more positive.

Eastland brought Reid into the picture. In an earlier post over at United Brethren, I argued (in a tongue-in-cheek tone but in all seriousness) that the only way a third-party candidate could win the presidency would be if two Latter-day Saints ran against each other, since my foundational premise is that a Latter-day Saint could never be elected over the calumny sure to be offered by so-called “Christians.” But Eastland’s analysis of how Reid could play into the picture caught my attention:

If Romney ran and were in the lead or gaining ground, a desperate candidate, or more likely a political action committee, might bring up the church’s pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the priesthood, or the continuing exclusion of women. Or there might be an attack on Mormon doctrine–to the effect that Romney is a member of a cult. The evangelical leaders I spoke with said that such an attack wouldn’t work, as it would be seen as way over the line of what’s politically acceptable. It’s interesting to imagine who might rise to Romney’s defense, and it’s not inconceivable that Harry Reid–the Senate minority leader and a Mormon (one of just 4 Democrats among the 16 Mormons in the Senate and the House)–would protest, especially if his party or its allies were the ones lobbing the grenades.

In the first bolded portion, I must admit that I disagree with this part of Eastland’s analysis. Eastland claims that “The evangelical leaders I spoke with said that such an attack wouldn’t work, as it would be seen as way over the line of what’s politically acceptable.” I simply do not think that Evangelicals would pull punches when it came down to the wire out of a concern that disparaging Romney’s religion would be seen as “way over the line of what’s politically acceptable.” Instead, I believe they would resort to tired Evangelical methods of disseminating falsehoods or half-truths about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an effort to cast it as a dangerous cult. Evangelicals have been too consistent in taking this road to think that they would somehow lay off when the stakes are so high as to have a Latter-day Saint president of the United States.

In the second bolded portion, however, I find Eastland’s analysis to be intriguing. Having Reid as the Senate minority leader could go a long way in preventing a Democratic candidate from resorting to such anti-Mormon bigotry (which, without Reid there to cry foul would, I fear, be considered completely legitimate by both liberal and conservative alike). But as a faithful Latter-day Saint himself, Reid would hardly sit by and allow a smear campaign against Romney based on Romney’s faith. After all, what does the pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the priesthood have anything at all to do with Mitt Romney or his qualifications for the presidency? Absolutely nothing. In the first place, the exclusion cannot be imputed to Romney. In the second place, whether such exclusion was justified or not (and who is to be the judge of that?) the Church no longer excludes blacks from the priesthood (it also did not exclude them at the very beginning, in the 1830s and 40s). The women and the priesthood would be a red-herring, especially if lobbed by Ted Kennedy, whose brother was the first and only Catholic president, the Catholic exclusion of women from priesthood ordination notwithstanding.


Our Dead

May 30, 2005

Today, Memorial Day, we paid a much-needed visit to our dead. That is, we visited some of them in the SLC City Cemetary. We could have visited many others, and considered different day trips that would bring us to their resting spots, but we decided to go to Uncle Tom’s grave in SLC instead. It was pouring but it was worth it to bring our young children to see the resting place of two who make us grateful for our own blood.

On Memorial Day, we visit our dead and seem to focus specifically on our war dead–those who fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America. Thomas Richards Fellows died in the service of his fellow Americans as well, but not in the U.S. Armed Forces. Uncle Tom died as an LDS missionary to New Mexico on January 20, 1978. He was killed instantly in a head-on collision with a semi on an icy day on the freeway. He was the only son of my grandfather Walter Eugene Fellows, and the Fellows name (of this line) died with him. His was a great loss indeed for the entire family.

His mother Helen Richards Fellows also lies there with him. She died in 1994 of cancer. She was a matriarch to our entire family who has been greatly missed for over a decade. We are Richards through her, as direct as anybody bearing the Richards name today. My daughters placed flowers on her grave and asked if she would be happy about the flowers. They also asked when she will be alive again to see the flowers. We told them that we are certain she is aware of the flowers right now and that she will be alive again with a body when she is resurrected. They are familiar with the idea of resurrection through the stories of Jesus that they love so much. They will be fortunate to meet Grandma Fellows and Uncle Tom at the Resurrection Day. What fun that will be!


In Preparation for the Evangelicals

May 30, 2005

Evangelicals are targeting SLC for a two week mission this summer. They will tell any Latter-day Saint who will listen that (1) LDS are not Christians because they don’t confess the (arbitrarily conceived) trinitarian creeds; (2) LDS are going straight to hell because they believe some kind of “work” is necessary in addition to faith; (3) Jesus Christ did not visit his followers on the American continent (although they will have no authority for such an assertion save their word only); (4) Joseph Smith was a false prophet from the devil. I have been proselyted by Evangelicals targeting Latter-day Saints before and have some preparatory thoughts in anticipation of this event.

Nearly six years ago, Baptists showed up on BYU Campus proselytizing and explaining to the BYU students how Mormons are from the devil and are bound for eternal damnation, together with billions upon billions of innocent men, women, and children who have died without having “accepted” the trinitarian Christ of the committee-created creeds in their hearts. They also had plenty to say about Joseph Smith–how he was from the devil and a liar and a seducer, false prophet, etc. (the usual Evangelical frothing at the mouth). They approached me as I ate lunch on the grass near the HFAC, after a summer-term philosophy class in the JKHB. Our discussion was unfruitful, as can be imagined, because I agreed with everything they said about Jesus Christ, but demanded honesty from them that they also believe in at least one salvatory work: accepting Jesus Christ in one’s heart. Absent that “work,” the grace spoken of in the New Testament is not exactly the “free gift” that they wanted to make it seem.

They came back to Martin Luther over and over and ironically ascribed to him some kind of authoritative voice that they denied to Joseph Smith (their basis for doing this was dubious and seemed to resort merely to the fact that ML believed in the creeds whereas JS saw them as unauthoritative given their genesis and speculative content). Their reliance on ML was interesting to me given their parallel insistence on biblical inerrancy. After all, in order to maintain his teachings on grace, ML needed to reject the Epistle of James. He very much disliked the Book of James precisely because its teachings were inconsistent with what ML wanted the Gospel of Jesus Christ to say exclusively.

In particular (aside from a general disdain for the Epistle of James), ML felt that James 2:24 (actually James 2:14-24) was inconsistent with his own interpretation of Romans 3:28, a doctrine of Paul which ML preferred over the doctrine of James, and thus ML desired to reject the Epistle of James. He settled for dismissing it intellectually as “an Epistle full of straw” (“eine stroherne Epistel“), and did not consider it scripture (so much for the tired and forced Evangelical interpretation of Revelation 22:18-19), together with Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation.

James 2:14-24 reads as follows (with an emphasis on James 2:24):

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

ML could not reconcile this selection with his preferred doctrine of Romans 3:28:

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The Romans verse is obviously referring to the Law of Moses, to which centuries of apostacy had added numerous needless proscriptions, such as the elaborate rules on Sabbath observance etc. It is true that such can be compared with what could be termed “dead works” of the Catholic tradition of ML’s time, such as purchasing indulgences or obtaining absolution by performing some bizarre task (after paying the determined sum of money) such as climbing a certain number of steps in Rome while reciting hail marries on each step. Thus, ML was justified in over-emphasizing Romans 3:28 to the extent of missing the obvious–that the doctrine there refers to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by which and through which alone all mankind can be saved. But Romans 3:28 does not mean that people can simply cease to live righteous lives or cease striving to emulate the countenance and teachings of Jesus Christ in their daily lives. Failure to do this requires repentance of such failure and renewed effort towards that end. Thus, understanding that true followers of Jesus Christ need to continually strive to live righteously and repent for their shortcomings in the process relieves the tension ML saw between Romans and James. That is, James is speaking of the need to lead righteous lives in addition to having faith in the saving power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The Epistle of James was very important to the prophet Joseph Smith (but not, like ML, to the exclusion of doctrines elsewhere in the New Testament). Rather, JS taught that leading a righteous life included following the Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel: (1) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins; and (4) the Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. All of this is strictly biblical. Other “works” are included in leading a righteous life, such as building up Christ’s Church and helping the needy, caring for one’s family, honoring one’s spouse, honesty in one’s dealings with others, purity of thought, chaste living, etc. Failures on any one of these points or many others constitutes sin, and that is where repentance fits into the picture. When we commit a sin, we repent to show God that we are sorry for what we did and that we accept the price Jesus Christ paid for that sin we have committed in his Atonement. To take advantage of the Atonement in our lives, we need to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit with regards to our sinful behavior. James is very clear that such righteous living is a part of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ–that the idea, apparently even around at that early time (likely before approx. 62 A.D.), that faith alone is efficacious, is a false doctrine. In truth, all people with a true faith in Jesus Christ (speaking here of all Christians and not just Latter-day Saints) will naturally exhibit such righteous living and will feel remorse at their sins and repent internally for them, making use of Christ’s Atonement in the process.

(Additional insight that was revealed to JS was that only one who has received the proper priesthood authority through the laying on of hands by one who possesses such authority may so baptize and give the Gift of the Holy Ghost. God restored this authority to the earth when he sent the resurrected John the Baptist and Apostles Peter, James, and John to JS to lay their resurrected hands on his head and pass that authority straight to him.)


Positive Press

May 18, 2005

On my way to work this morning I heard a positive news story about Utah and the Church on NPR in their series on globalization. The story spotlighted the large numbers of foreign-language speakers concentrated in Utah and plans of Utah’s governor John Huntsman, Jr. to utilize these skills to bring jobs to Utah while integrating Utah more fully in the global economy. With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing in the background, NPR played interviews with returned missionaries living in Provo and who are using their foreign language skills in their jobs, e.g. at NuSkin etc. One of those interviewed was very impressive–by description a white girl with blonde hair who grew up in Salt Lake City but who was speaking fluent Mandarin in the background before she answered a few questions for the interview. The story reported that approximately 72% of BYU students speak a second language fluently. I can personally add that there are a significant number of BYU students who speak three or four (or more) languages fluently.

A fun part of the story for me was how NPR spotlighted classes that BYU offers through its Global Management Center in the Marriott School of Management to provide returned missionaries fluent in a second or more languages with a vocabulary and skill set in business and technical related areas of their foreign languages. I particularly appreciated this because it is a project I really believe in and, in the interest of full disclosure, I was an instructor of the Business German class together with Professor Hans-Wilhelm Kelling for four years, including the entire time I was in law school.

NPR highlighted some of Governor Huntsman’s plans to make use of Utah’s foreign-language and cultural skill base. (He also happens to be the nation’s only governor to speak fluent Chinese.) He wants Utah to look less towards Europe and more towards Asia, and is currently attempting to feel the waters to float an idea with the Utah public schools to begin offering Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic to kids at a young age. He is also reportedly in contact with the Pentagon about locating an elite Defense Department language training center in Utah.

Throughout the story, NPR consistently portrayed the Church as a global institution and emphasized that the missionary program is the reason for such a high concentration of foreign-language speaking American youth in Utah. It stated as fact, without making it sound absurd, that the Church believes it is the only true and living Church of God on earth, and that is the reason for its missionary program. It noted how many languages General Conference is broadcast in live every six months and how many languages the Book of Mormon has been translated into. It was nice to start the day with a non-negative portrayal of the Church in the media.


“Do What Is Right and Forget About It”

May 16, 2005

More than twenty years after Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania during the beginning of WWII, signed more than two thousand illegal exit visas for Jewish refugees from Poland, Sugihara, reluctant to grant an interview with the leader of the Jewish congregation in Tokyo, had a simple answer to the question of why he defied direct orders from the Japanese foreign office when he signed the visas: “Do what is right and forget about it. Do what is right because it is your duty.” Some resources about this story can be found at the PBS website here.

In short, Sugihara was assigned as the Japanese consul in Lithuania at the beginning of WWII. He interacted with some of the Jewish people living there and followed the development of Germany’s war and their actions against the Jews with interest. He even celebrated Hannukah with a random Jewish family in December 1939. The eleven year-old boy who invited him, Solly Ganor, recounts the story as follows:

It was a few days before Hanukkah, actually. … I walked into [my aunt's] shop and she was speaking to a very elegant, well-dressed gentleman. … That was the first time I saw a Japanese person. And he looked kind of strange. I [had] never seen a person with slanted eyes.

He kind of smiled at me. And so my aunt called me over … and she said, “Don’t stare.” You know? And [then] she introduced me to “His Excellency.” She said, “This is Sugihara.” And he looked at me and … I felt very comfortable with him. … There was a certain aura of kindness about him; I don’t know how to explain. You know, as a child, I guess you feel these things more. Your senses are more acute. … So I liked him immediately.

And then … I told [my aunt], “I want to go to the movies.” She says, “Oh, okay.” So she went to get some money. And [Sugihara] whipped out this … money, and he said, “So you’re going to see a movie and this is your holiday, little boy? Well, I’ll be your uncle for the holiday.”

I was kind of surprised, obviously. … I didn’t know whether to accept or not, but, finally, I took it. … I [felt] comfortable with him. And I said, “Thank you very much.” But then I had this crazy idea. And I said — a very impulsive thought — I said, “You know, if you’re my uncle, why don’t you come to our Hanukkah party on Saturday?”

And my aunt heard it, and she was kind of embarrassed. And she said, “Oh, His Excellency, you know.” But the way he was speaking to me, he didn’t, you know, … usually when you’re a child, … people have a certain way of talking to you. I won’t say condescending, … but, you know, a grown-up to a child. He was talking to [me] as if I was … a small person. … So maybe [that's why] I felt comfortable [with] him.

And he said, “No, no, that’s all right.” And she said, “Well, if you’re interested …” [And] then he said, “I would be interested, actually.” He [had] never been to a holiday like this, sort of [a] party, [a] Hanukkah party. [He had] probably heard of all these things before, because he was in Harbin and he was in touch with Jewish people, I assume. So that was that. She said, “All right, if you’d like to come, please do.”

[....]

… About 30 people were there, you know, aunts and my cousins and uncles. It was a big family. And it was my Aunt Anaska [who] walked in with this couple. Yukiko [Mrs. Sugihara] was well dressed, [with] a long dress, I remember, and she really looked radiant. … She was such an exotic-looking person, [and] I hadn’t seen [her] before; I [had] just seen him. So everybody went, “Ahhh … who are these people?” It was quite an event.

With them, [Sugihara spoke] Russian and German, and Mrs. Sugihara spoke German. … And so it was very successful, in this respect, that everybody was telling stories. And, of course, they offered him lots of food and cakes. And around 50 years later when I met Mrs. Sugihara in Yaotsu, she said, “Oh, I remember your family very well to this day.” … I said, “Why?” She says, “I was sick the whole night from the cakes that your aunts and mother fed me.” The Japanese don’t know how to say “No,” you know….

As 1940 wore on, the Germans were getting closer to Lithuania, pushing thousands of Jewish refugees ahead of them out of Poland. As the Germans pushed east towards Lithuania, the Russians approached from the East heading west. They ordered all foreign consuls closed in Kaunas, the Lithuanian city where Sugihara was stationed. This increased the difficulty for the Jewish refugees who had fled from Poland to Kaunas because gaining various transit, exit, and end visas was critical for them to be able to flee to safety across Russia (to avoid heading west into the advancing German armies).

Some of the Jews did some research and found out that no formal entry visa was required for the small Dutch colonial island of Curaçao (Dutch Suriname) in the Caribbean. The Dutch consul was willing to sign transit visas for Jews indicating that no formal visa was required to enter those colonies, but leaving off the other part of the formula, namely that the written consent of the Dutch territorial governor of Curacao was also necessary. That was the first miracle for these Jews. The second miracle involved Sugihara, consul to Lithuania of Germany’s ally in WWII. In July 1940, thousands of Jews sought Sugihara’s help, lining up in front of his consulate, to sign end visas for Japan. Sugihara wired Tokyo for permission to do so, but was denied. Knowing the immediate danger in which he was putting himself, his family consisting of his wife and three young children, and his career with the foreign office, Sugihara went ahead and signed the visas anyway. For nearly six weeks after that, Sugihara signed close to 2,500 visas for Jews to escape Lithuania via Russia and Japan with the end destination of Curaçao (not a single Jew ever actually went all the way to Curaçao). By the time he was forced to leave for Berlin in September 1940, Sugihara was exhausted but still fervently signing the visas. He was even signing visas from the train window as his train pulled out of Kaunas station. He was reassigned to Prague from Berlin and signed close to 100 more visas during his tenure in the consulate there. As the war drew to a close, he came into Russian captivity and he and his family suffered as Russian prisoners of war for over a year before being allowed to head back to Japan in 1946-47. When they finally arrived in Japan, they were greeted by the bombed wasteland that was once Tokyo. There they lived in squalor, Sugihara forced to work menial labor because they foreign office had terminated him, telling him that he knew why they had done so. Of course, they were referring to how he had singed the thousands of visas against the direct command of the foreign office. Eventually, Sugihara found a job with a Russian trade company in Moscow and he moved there and changed his name so that no Russian bureaucrat would recognize him as the one who signed the illegal visas to help Jews escape through Russia to Japan. In 1969, Sugihara was found by someone he had helped (although many people who survived because of him had sought for him earlier but hadn’t been able to find him because he was living in Russia under a different name). It wasn’t until 1985 that he was formally recognized by the Jews in America and Israel for his efforts during the war, as he was given Israel’s highest honor and named one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem, the only Japanese person to carry that honor.

As for the Jews, those who had Sugihara visas who could finance the 6,000 mile train journey across Russia and on to Japan were able to escape the horrible fate of the European Jews in general and the Yiddish culture in particular. They congregated in Kobe, Japan, and were tolerated by the Japanese government despite demands by the Nazis to exterminate them. Eventually, the Japanese government relocated them all to a ghetto in occupied Shanghai, which helped them evade the efforts of Gestapo chief Josef Meissenger, the notorious Butcher of Warsaw, who was in Japan to address the Jewish problem there and other matters of interest to the Nazis. The Jews lived out the war in Shanhai and elsewhere and survived because of Sugihara. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 people are now alive because of his efforts. He signed approximately 2,400 of the Curaçao visas, and only perhaps half of those who got them actually escaped the Nazis and Russians through Russia (for example Jews who were Lithuanian citizens were denied passage through Russia by the Soviets to Vladivostok and from there to Japan; many were sent to Siberian gulags for even applying for exit visas based on the Curaçao and Japan transit visas.) But those who survived have had children and grandchildren, all of whom can be eternally grateful for the humanitarian efforts of one Japanese consul. The rest of us can also be grateful to him for his courageous example to us all to do good with no ulterior motive. We must do good simply because it is our duty; we must “do what is right and forget about it.”


New Teddy Hall Website

May 13, 2005

It looks like St. Edmund Hall has a new look to its website. (I am not sure how long the site has had this new look, nor am I sure that I haven’t already posted about this before–it seems familiar, but my memory fails me.) Am I the first or only Aularian to prefer the old look? One advantage to the new website is that you can shop at the bursary online for Hall memorabilia. But it looks like you still can’t buy kit through the bursary, but have to place an order on site in Michaelmas Term. Oh well. . . .

The new virtual tour of college is really cool, though. For all of you who didn’t have a chance to come visit us while we were over there, check it out for a visual experience. Teddy Hall is quite the quaint place! But they could have done a bit more (visually) on the library page. After all, St. Peter’s in the East is a unique setting for an undergraduate library.

Not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I really don’t like the style of the new MCR page. I would have preferred something more . . . sophisticated or . . . I don’t know, just different. I liked the idea of the photo gallery though.


Chirp

May 13, 2005

Following the lead of T&S, I chirp.


Congratulations!

May 4, 2005

The news is just in: Jordan has passed the Texas bar! Congratulations, Jordan, we knew you would do it.


Private Property in Law I

May 1, 2005

Is the Anglo-American notion of private property, as encoded in the American constitutional system of rights, biblical? If so, does that mean it is of divine mandate or preference? Put another way, even if biblical, does it harmonize with principles of the restored Gospel, which Latter-day Saints believe reveals the will or preference of God on issues to which it speaks?

Read the rest of this entry »


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