Good Suggestion from Germany for Tsunami Relief

December 31, 2004

In his New Year’s Eve address to the German nation, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (a Social Democrat) made an excellent suggestion for helping those nations afflicted by the tsunami. Developed, western nations who can afford to do so should each take responsibility for (or essentially adopt or sponsor) one of the countries hit by the catastrophe. Then, federal states or national departments of the country could take the responsibility for political subdivisions of the same level in the sponsored country; cities for cities, and schools for schools:

Schröder sagte in seiner Neujahrsansprache nach seinem vorab veröffentlichten Redetext: “Ich stelle mir vor, daß sich die großen Industrieländer für jeweils ein Land verantwortlich fühlen.” In Deutschland könnten dann die Bundesländer etwa die Patenschaft für Bezirke des betroffenen Landes übernehmen und deutsche Städte entsprechend für Städte in den Krisengebieten. Schulen in Deutschland könnten beim Wiederaufbau von Schulen helfen, die von den Flutwellen zerstört worden seien.

I like this because it has the potential of mobilizing the assistance of sponsoring countries in a more complete way so that more individuals can participate.

On social and institutional separation of church and state

December 30, 2004

We have been discussing the separation of church and state on the previous post and I stumbled across a case, Treff v. Hinckley, 26 P.3d 212 (Utah 2001), that touches on the issue of social separation of church and state (as opposed to institutional separation). A total social separation, I posit, is neither possible nor desirable. At issue on the previous post was a statement by a University of Michigan law student in her graduation address that Utah is a “theocracy,” presumably based on the fact that many individuals holding public office in Utah are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (regardless of the fact that church and state are strictly institutionally separated in Utah). So is separation of church and state violated when a judge happens to belong to a certain church? This case doesn’t answer that question directly but holds that such religious affiliation is not grounds for a judge to recuse himself in a case that bears directly on something dealing with the Church:

¶2 On Christmas Day, 1986, Treff shot and killed his wife, Jennifer. The Treffs had two young children. After killing his wife, he took his children to a motel, left them there, and then drove to a coworker’s residence and firebombed it with Molotov cocktails. See United States v. Treff, 924 F.2d 975, 980-82 (1991). He was incarcerated the following day and has remained in custody since that time. He has been sentenced to serve twenty years for manslaughter for the killing of his wife, to be followed by a twenty-five year sentence on federal charges related to the firebombing incident. See id.

¶3 For several months immediately following the incarceration of their father, Treff’s children remained in foster care under the supervision of Susan Chandler, a Division of Family Services caseworker. Subsequently, the State placed the children in the custody of their aunt (Jennifer Treff’s sister), Sheila Doyle. Doyle resided in California and took the children to live with her there.

¶4 Treff asserts that in 1987 and 1988 he was misled into believing that his parental rights had been terminated. He maintains that he was so informed by a Department of Corrections caseworker, two public defenders, and an assistant United States Attorney General. Sometime within approximately a year-and-a-half following Treff’s arrest, both of Treff’s children were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.(1) Treff claims that in 1997 he discovered that his parental rights in fact had not been terminated.(2)

¶5 In 1998, Treff filed suit against Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust–who constitute the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“the Church Defendants”)–and a number of other persons who had undertaken responsibility for the care and custody of his children after his incarceration. Treff alleged that: (1) the Church Defendants and the other defendants responsible for his children’s custody at the time of their baptism had violated Treff’s parental rights by permitting the baptism; and (2) defendants Doyle, Chandler, Wendy Wright, Doris Wilson, and James Baumgardner had intentionally, maliciously, and fraudulently alienated the affections of his children by preventing them from visiting Treff or communicating with him.

¶6 In connection with these stated causes of action, Treff presented a list of six demands for relief. His first two demands for relief were procedural and were unrelated to his causes of action: he requested a judge who was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also asked that counsel be appointed to represent him.(3) His third and fourth demands for relief were apparently related to his cause of action for violation of his parental rights. Specifically, he requested “a declaratory order that defendants have violated the cited state statutes and concurring constitutional rights and protections of plaintiff,” and an “[o]rder that [the Church] defendants immediately withdraw the names of [his children] from the official roles [sic] and membership within the [Church].” The fifth demand for relief was articulated as relief for his alienation of affections claim. It detailed specific sums of money as compensatory and punitive damages to be assessed against each of the defendants. His sixth demand for relief was also apparently related to his alienation of affections claim; it requested that he be provided with the address and telephone number of his children and that the defendants be prospectively enjoined from “any further interference with the communications between plaintiff and children.”

¶7 Treff’s case was assigned to Judge David Young. Treff filed two motions to disqualify Judge Young, based on Treff’s allegations that Judge Young was biased because he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These motions were reviewed by the presiding Judge, Robin Reese. Judge Reese determined that Treff had alleged nothing more than Judge Young’s religious affiliation and his reputation in relation to certain other well-publicized cases as a basis for the motion. Because Treff had failed to make any specific allegations indicating bias in his case, Judge Reese denied both motions for failure to state facts sufficient to support the allegations of bias or conflict of interest.

¶8 The defendants moved to dismiss Treff’s complaint pursuant to rule 12(b)(6) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Treff alleges a hearing was held on the motion that he was not permitted to attend. The court granted the motion to dismiss on the grounds that the asserted causes of action were not recognized by law, were barred by the statute of limitations, and would raise serious constitutional concerns if they were recognized.

1. Treff alleges that the baptisms occurred sometime before August 12, 1987, while the children were still in foster care. Defendants Hinckley, Monson and Faust assert that church records indicate that the baptisms took place on July 3, 1988, after the children were placed in their aunt’s custody. The precise date of the baptisms is immaterial to our decision.

2. The Appellees make no argument regarding the actual status of Treff’s parental rights. Because the district court dismissed Treff’s complaint for failure to state a claim, that issue is not before us.

This case, including the denial of recusal based on membership in the Church, was appealed to the Utah Supreme Court:

¶10 Treff’s first two demands for relief are without merit. First, Treff has shown no error in Judge Reese’s denial of his motions for Judge Young’s recusal. A litigant may move for a judge’s recusal upon presentation of “an affidavit stating facts sufficient to show bias, prejudice or conflict of interest,” see Utah R. Civ. P. 63(b)(1)(A), but an allegation that is based on religious affiliation alone or that pertains to allegations of bias in unrelated contexts is not sufficient. Treff had no right to effect the recusal of the judge assigned to a case based solely on the judge’s religious affiliation. Second, there is no statutory or constitutional requirement that counsel be appointed to assist inmates in prosecuting civil complaints that are unrelated to wrongful restraints on personal liberty. See Gardner v. Holden, 888 P.2d 608, 622 & n.5 (Utah 1994); see also Utah Code Ann. § 78-35a-109 (detailing criteria for appointment of pro bono counsel in certain habeas cases).

This case touches on the social separation of church and state in that the fact that a judge is religious, or even that he is affiliated with a particular religious group, does not constitute grounds for recusal in a case that directly involves that religious group. It follows also that membership in a given religious group does not offend notions of separation of church and state or create a theocracy, even if the person at issue is part of the government. What separates us from Saudi Arabia, which Kaimi posited as an example of a theocracy in a comment to the previous post and which Jeremiah J. noted was similarly not a literal theocracy, is our effective constitution which prevents institutional establishment of a religion by the state but in no way attempts to institute a full or even partial social separation of church and state, which is literally impossible.

On Stereotypes and the University of Michigan Law School Graduation

December 27, 2004

On December 22, Jordan graduated from the University of Michigan law school (see picture in his post below). I was fortunate enough to attend. I found it interesting that the University of Michigan lived up to its stereotypes of being a “liberal” school, even in the graduation addresses.

In one single graduation ceremony we heard an anti-Mormon epithet, an anti-Scalia rant (quite a long and partisan one), an anti-Bush-nominee rant, and an anti-large-law-firm criticism (although Professor Cooper, of Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure fame, did also present a good counter-argument to that particular criticism).

What I find amazing is the intolerance of liberals as expressed in these speeches given by supposedly liberal people. The remarks about Latter-day Saints were particularly offensive. Didn’t the speaker realize that there were numerous Latter-day Saints in the audience? She must have known that at least three of the other students in her (admittedly small) December graduating class were LDS and that their families were likely to be there. On a human level, not a political or religious level, where is the politeness that would, it seems to me, naturally disuade someone from slurring a particular religion in a graduation speech? Mere courtesy demands a softening of one’s views in such a speech to a general audience. I suppose that the callousness and intolerance exhibited by such behavior stems from the same “liberal” ideas that bring University of Michigan law students e.g. to spit on those who decide to interview with the Air Force JAG on campus. Very open-minded and tolerant, indeed.

Aside from these peculiarities (resulting, it seems, from the existential identity of the University of Michigan), it was a very enjoyable occasion and one of which Jordan should definitely be proud. After all, discourteous and intolerant or not, it is a top-ten law school with a very highly esteemed reputation and the mere name of which on a resume will open doors that remain perpetually shut to graduates of other law schools not so high on the list of rankings.


December 27, 2004

Here is a picture from my recent law school graduation. I graduated on December 22, 2004. My brother, John, surprised me with a visit from Utah, so he is also in this picture:

And I really like the Old Saxon Christmas story posted below, John!

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2004

Because Christmas as we know it is built upon the vestiges of pagan holidays, my mind turns to the ninth century Heliand poem (c. 830 A.D.) at Christmastime. This is a poetic translation done by a Saxon monk in Old Saxon of the New Testament. The poet does a superb job of translating the Gospel not only linguistically but also culturally into a language comprehensible by the Germanic tribes of more than one thousand years ago. And the story of Christ’s birth expresses some of the poetic license taken by the monk while still conveying something powerful about our Savior and about his Gospel. Enjoy.

Song 5
The Chieftan of mankind is born in David’s hill-fort.

Then there came a decree from Fort Rome, from the great Octavian who had power over the whole world, an order from Caesar to his wide realm, sent to every king enthroned in his homeland and to all Caesar’s army commanders governing the people of any territory. It said that everyone living outside their own country should return to their homeland upon receipt of the message. It stated that all the warrior heroes were to return to their assembly place, each one was to go back to the clan of which he was a family member by bith in a hill-fort.

That command was sent out over the whole world. People came together at all the hill-forts. The messengers who had come from Caesar were men who could read and write, and they wrote everyone’s name down very carefully in a report–both name and nationality–so that no human being could escape from paying the tax which each warrior had on his head.

The good Joseph went also with his household, just as God, ruling mightily, willed it. He made his way to his shining home, the hill-fort at Bethlehem. This was the assembly place for both of them, for Joseph the Hero and for Mary the Good, the holy girl. This was the place where in olden days the throne of the great and noble good King David stood for as long as he reigned, enthroned on high, an earl of the Hebrews. Joseph and Mary both belonged by birth to his household, they were of good family lineage, of David’s own clan.

I have heard it told that the shining workings of fate and the power of God told Mary that on this journey a son would be granted her, born in Bethlehem, the strongest child, the most powerful of all kings, the Great One come powerfully to the light of mankind–just as foretold by many visions and signs in this world many days before.

At that thime it all came to pass, just as wise men had said long ago: that the Protector of People would come in a humbe way, by His own power, to visit this kingdom of earth. His mother, that most beautiful woman, took Him, wrapped Him in clothes and precious jewels, and then with her two hands laid Him gently, the little man, that child, in a fodder-crib, even though He had the power of God, and was the Chieftain of mankind. There the mother sat in front of Him and remained awake, watching over the holy Child and holding it. And there was no doubt in the mind or in the heart of the holy maid.

What had happened became known to many over this wide world. The guards heard it. As horse-servants they were outside, they were men on sentry duty, watching over the horses, the beasts of the field: they saw the darkness split in two in the sky, and the light of God came shining through the clouds and surrounded the guards out in the fields. Those men began to feel fear in their hearts. They saw the mighty angel of God coming toward them. He spoke to the guards face to face and told them that they should not fear any harm from the light. “I am going to tell you,” he said, “somthing very wonderful, something very deeply desired. I want to let you know something very powerful: Christ is now born, on this very night, God’s holy Child, the good Chieftain, at David’s hill-fort . What happiness for the human race, a boon for all men! You can find Him, the most powerful Child, at Fort Bethlehem. Take what I now tell you in truthful words as a sign: He is there, wrapped up, lying in a fodder-crib–even though He is king over all the earth and the heavens and over the sons of all the peoples, the Ruler of the world.” Just as he said that word, an enormous number of the holy army, the shining people of God, came down to the one angel from the meadows of heaven, saying many words of praise for the Lord of Peoples. They then began to sing a holy song as they wended their way through the clouds towards the meadows of heaven.

The guards heard how the angels in their power praised the all-mighty God most worshipfully in words: “Glory now be,” they said, “to the Lord-Chieftain Himself, in the highest reaches of heaven, and peace on earth to the sons of men, men of good will, those who because of their clear minds recognize God!”
The herdsmen understood that something great had been told to them–a merry message! They decided to go to Bethlehem that night, they wanted very much to be able to see Christ Himself.

Song 6
The Baby is Brought to the Ruler’s Shrine

. . . .

Song 7
Three Thanes from the East, led by a the Workings of Fate, Follow a Star

Even though holy men there recognized Christ, still it had not yet become known at the king’s court to the men who in their attitude were not very inclined to Him–and it remained hidden from them in word and in deed until men of the East, very wise men, three strong thanes, came to this people, walking the long road over the land to get there. They were following a bright-shining beacon, and with clear mind were looking for God’s Child. They wanted to kneel to Him, to go an become His followers–God’s fate-workings were leading them on.

They found Herod there, the powerful man sitting in his hall, the slithery-mouthed king, angrily talking with his men–he always enjoyed murder. The wise men addressed him in his house properly and fittingly in the royal manner, and he soon asked what business brought these warriors out on a journey far from home. “Are you bringing wound gold to give to someone? Why are you traveling like this, walking on foot? I do not even know where you come from, earls of other peoples! I can see that you are of noble birth, clansmen of good family. Never before have such messengers com here from other peoples since I have ruled this noble and wide kingdom. You are to tell me truthfully in front of these people of our country why you have come to this land.”

Then the men of the East answered him, those word-wise warriors. “We can easily tell you the truth of our business and say to you openly why we have come here from the East on this journey to your country. A long time ago there were noble men, men of good speech, who promised so much good and help in truthful words from the King of Heaven. At that time there was a wise man, a man of experience and great wisdom–this was a long time ago–our ancestor there in the East. There has never been since then a single man who spoke so wisely. He was able to interpret God’s speech, because the Lord of mankind had granted him the ability to hear the Ruler’s words up above from down on earth. For this reason, this thane’s knowledge and his thoughts were great.

“When the time came for him to depart, to leave the earth and the throng of his relatives, to give up the comings and goings of men and to travel to the other light, he told his followers, his heirs and his earls, to come closer, and told them truthfully in soothsaying, everything that would come afterwards, everything that has happened since in this world. Then he said that a wise king, great and mighty, was to come here to the middle world; he would be of the best lineage. He said that it would be God’s Son, and that He would rule this world forever, both the earth and the heavens, for days without end. He said that on the same day on which His mother gave birth to Him blessedly in this middle world, in the East there would shine a bright light in the sky such as we had never had before between the earth and the heavens nor anywhere else–never such a baby nor such a beacon! He ordered that three men of the people should go to do adoration–he told them to remember well that when they saw God’s beacon journeying upward they should get ready immediately. He said that we were to follow it as it goes before us, in a westerly direction, over this world.

“Now this has all happened, it has come true by the power of God. The king is born, daring and strong. We saw His beacon-light shining cheerfully among the stars of heaven, and thus I know that the holy Chieftain powerfully placed it there Himself. Every morning we saw the bright star shining, and went toward it, following the beacon all the time over roads and through forests. The greatest of our desires was to be able to see Him Himself, to know where we should look for Him, the King in this empire. Tell us to which clan He has been born.”

At that, Herod felt pain in his chest and in his heart, his mind began to reel, his spirit was worried. He had just heard it said that he was to have a more powerful king, of good clan, over his head, that there was a more fortunate person than he among his warrior-companions.

Then he called together all the good men in Jerusalem, the most learned and eloquent and those who truly held the most book-power in their breasts, and he asked them very carefully with words, that evil-minded man, the king of the people, where Christ, the greatest Man of Peace, was to be born in the earthly realm. The people then responded to him, men of truth, saying that they did indeed know that He was to be born in Bethlehem. “It has been put down thus in our books, wisely written, just as the soothsayers, very intelligent and learned men, spoke long ago by the power of God: it is from Bethlehem that the Herdsman of Hill-forts, the beloved Protector of the Country, is to come to the light–the mightly Counselor who will rule the Jewish people and who will distribute His gifts generously throughout the middle world to many peoples.”

Song 8
The Three Foreign Warriors Present Their Gifts to the Ruler’s Child.

I have heard it told that immediately after the cruel-minded king said the words of his soothsayers to the foreign heros, who were earls in their homeland and had traveled afar, he asked them when they first saw on the roads of the East the King’s star coming, the sign shining down cheerfully from heaven. They did not wish to conceal anything from him and so they told him the truth. He then instructed them to go on their journey and to investigate the matter thoroughly about the coming of the Child. The king himself, the lord of the Jews, commanded the wise men very sternly, that, before they left the West, they let him know where he could find the Child himself. He said that he wanted to go there with his warrior-companions to adore the Child. (He was hoping, with the edge of his sword, to become the Child’s murderer.)

But the ruling God thought about this: He [the Child] should accomplish more, do more in this world; His light must shine longer, making known the power of God.
The sign then moved on, shining among the clouds. The wise men were ready to travel. They decided to leave and go on, they were eager about their mission! They wanted to see the Son of God Himself. They had no other warrior-companions of their retinue with them; there were only three of them–they understood things, they were smart men, the ones bearing the gifts.

Then they looked up to the high heavens, where they saw in their wisdom how the bright stars which had been created by Christ for His world, moved across the cloudy sky–they recognized God’s sign. The warriors walked on after it, following faithfully–the Force helped them–until the road-weary men saw God’s bright-shining beacon, the white light in the heavens, stand still. The bright star shone brilliantly over the house where the holy Child willed to live, where the woman, the maiden, was taking proper care of Him. The thanes’ hearts became merry within them, they understood from the beacon-light that they had found God’s Peaceful Son, the holy King of Heaven. They then walked inside the house with their gifts, those road-weary warriors from the East, and immediately recognized Christ, the Ruler. The foreign fighting men fell on their knees to the good Child and greeted Him in the royal manner. They carried the gifts to Him: gold and incense as a sing of divinity, and myrrh as well. The men stood there attentively, respectful in the presence of their Lord, and soon received It [the Child] in a fitting manner in their hands.

Then the Wise Men decided, road-weary as they were, to go home to the guest-hall. It was there, as they were sleeping during the night, that God’s angel showed them in their sleep, in a dream, what the Chieftain Himself, the Ruler, wanted. It seemed to them that a man was telling them in words that they, the earls, should leave the place by another way when they went home, and that they should not go back to that loathsome man Herod again, that moodily violent king.
Then morning came shining to this world. The Wise Men began to tell one another their dream and they recognized the Ruler’s word themselves–they had great wisdom in their hearts. They asked the All-Ruler, the high King of Heaven, that they might be able to continue to work toward His glory, to carry out His will. They said that they had changed their minds and their hearts that morning–for every morning!

Then the men tranveled away again, the earls from the East, just as the angel of God had instructed them in words. They took another road, following God’s directions. The messengers from the East, road-weary men, would never tell the Jewish king a thing about the Son’s birth; rather they traveled on as they wished.

The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel, A Translation and Commentary by G. Ronald Murphy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 15-27

Collective Conscientious Objection

December 21, 2004

Conscientious objection, even en masse, is not a new concept. Many of us remember the vitriol directed at us by Jehova’s Witnesses in the mission field criticizing Latter-day Saints for, among other things, being beholden to nation states and participating in their wars. But a very interesting development in Japan has caught my attention and has turned my mind to the Book of Mormon’s own conscientious objectors–the People of Ammon.

With the question of Japan’s participation in the Iraq War looming large, many Japanese are uneasy with the prospect of supporting a military engagement, even if it is the engagement of an ally rather than their own war. This is understandable considering Japan’s Imperial and war-mongering past in the last century. The Japanese constitution–orchestrated by General MacArthur after Japan’s surrender occasioned by the devastation of two atomic bombs on their soil (talk about the fruits of war)–only allows Japan a meager defensive military force and disallows engagements abroad. According to an article in Le Monde, some Japanese are collectively maintaining a stance of conscientious objection based on this past and their now-ingrained commitment to pacifism. In fact, an entire town is seeking the status of conscientious objector, as 18,000 people in the town of Hirakata have supported a petition before the local assembly demanding discussion of their demands: if the municipal council votes for “non-belligerence” then Hirakata will be the first town in Japan to have collectively chosen a course of conscientious objection:

Alors que le gouvernement japonais renforce sa stature militaire en s’écartant de la position strictement défensive de la politique de sécu-rité qui fut la sienne, des municipalités entendent se proclamer “villes ouvertes” en cas de conflit et revendiquer le droit de refuser de participer à une guerre. C’est le cas de Hirakata (400 000 habitants) dans la banlieue d’Osaka dont 18 000 habitants ont déposé une pétition auprès de l’assemblée locale, demandant qu’elle ouvre un débat sur leur demande. Celui-ci a commencé le 9 décembre. Si le conseil municipal vote une déclaration de “non-belligérance”, Hirakata sera la première municipalité du Japon à se proclamer collectivement “objecteur de conscience”.

Not surprisingly, this movement is supported by the social democratic and communist parties in Japan, while the democrats and centrist parties are a little more cautious.

Le mouvement en faveur “de déclarations de zones de non-défense”, lancé en mars, regroupe une quarantaine de municipalités parmi lesquelles un arrondissement de Tokyo dont les habitants ont lancé des campagnes de pétition et ont constitué un réseau national. Cette nouvelle forme de mouvement antiguerre est soutenue par les sociaux-démocrates et les communistes ; le parti centriste Komei et la première formation d’opposition, le Parti démocrate, sont hésitants ; quant à la majorité libérale-démocrate, elle le dédaigne. Alors que la décision de maintenir les troupes japonaises en Irak a fait brutalement chuter la popularité du premier ministre, Junichiro Koizumi, cette campagne pourrait s’étendre.

This move is not wholly philosophical, but also highly practical for the inhabitants of Hirakata. That is because of Article 59 of the 1977 Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Article 59 of the 1977 Protocol defines “non-defended localities” and provides that “[i]t is prohibited for the Parties to the conflict to attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities.” The mayor of Hirakata explains his town’s “simple” motivations in doing this:

“Notre objectif est simple” explique maître Takeo Matsumoto, l’un des initiateurs du mouvement : “Le Japon est en train de renier l’article 9 de sa Constitution par lequel il renonce à la guerre comme moyen de régler les différents internationaux. Or, en tant que citoyens, nous refusons de collaborer à une guerre et nous entendons le faire savoir avant qu’elle ne soit déclenchée.”

Personally, I do not share the radical pacifism that animates this effort, but that is merely because of my belief in the possibility and periodic (unfortunate) necessity of just war. Believe me, I am looking forward to the Millenium when we shall learn war no more as much as any Jehova’s Witness. But right now we live in a telestial world; it is a Hobbesian world by its very nature and pretending to live in a Kantian paradise will only bring destruction because of the other forces at work out there. Hirakata will be able to pursue this pacifistic road (and I applaud them for their efforts and find it a very interesting and brilliant development) because some stable, well-meaning Western countries (i.e. the USA and England) are still cognizant of the fact that this is a Hobbesian and not a Kantian world and are willing to use force to protect themselves and their allies against the telestial elements in such a harsh Hobbesian world. (See Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power (2003) for my source as to this Hobbesian/Kantian dichotomy in views of the international use of force.)

This is indeed reminiscent of the People of Ammon in the Book of Mormon. After this blood-thirsty and war-mongering people coverting to Jesus Christ, they “buried” all their weapons of war, refusing ever to take them up again, even in their own defense. This was not required of them from the outside but rather was something that they chose to do as a sign of their sincere repentance for “the many murders” they had committed. They chose collective conscientious objection, preferring death to the slaying of their enemies by their own swords. Lucky for the People of Ammon, the Nephites in the City of Zarahemla were still willing to take up arms in a just war and defend the People of Ammon so that the latter could remain true to the repentive covenant that they had made. This was even moreso a necessity in a day without the 1977 Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

I am thankful for the example of the people of Hirakata; equally, I am thankful that someone is out there protecting my freedom. True, I find it unfortunate that the United States is fulfilling this role. This is a truly thankless position to be in, as witnessed by the lack of support from Western Europe in recent years after the United States had spent its blood and treasure for the better part of the twentieth century to protect Western Europe and make it possible for that part of the world to create a socialistic Kantian paradise–a state of things only possible because a pragmatic democratic republic across the ocean was still living in the fallen Hobbesian world. But where much is given, much is required, and the United States has certainly been given much, starting with its heritage of Anglo institutions, rule of law, and free markets, and cemented in its precedential Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Beautiful Sunrise

December 16, 2004

This morning, as I sat on the bus from my apartment to the law school and then as I walked from the bus stop to the law quad, I had the privilege of witnessing an absolutely stunning sunrise. When I got on the bus, there was just the faintest bit of pink on the horizon. As the minutes ticked by, the eastern sky grew brighter and brighter, until light illuminated the clouds, painting them in brilliant reds and pinks. As I got off the bus, the whole sky had gone from dark to light blue, and the first rays of sun bathed the tops of the beautiful structures making up University of Michigan’s central campus- structures I will greatly miss seeing everyday. For me, the most amazing part was watching the sky go from being almost pitch black, to tinged with color, to bathed in brilliant sunlight.

It made me think of the way the Savior’s love brightens our sin-darkened lives. Indeed, as I watched the sunrise this morning, I felt extreme gratitude for the light of the Gospel in my life. I remembered the tender words of Elder Eyring who, reflecting upon the night of no darkness recorded in the Book of Mormon as a sign of the Savior’s birth, said the following:

In our little family Christmas pageant one of the children has usually played the part of Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, foretelling the sign of the Savior’s birth. This year was our most successful pageant, at least for Samuel, because at last we succeeded in persuading the people playing the part of the mob not to hit him with the tinfoil stones they threw at him. So this year we were scripturally accurate.

But something else was new for me this year. As I had never done before, I felt that I saw in my mind and felt in my heart the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecy that the sun would set without darkness. I saw it at His birth, as if I were somewhere among the people in these lands of promise. And I saw it as it will be when He comes to stand, in resurrected glory, on the Mount of Olives. The darkness is dispelled when the promised Messiah comes with healing in His wings. Knowing how much I need that healing, my heart nearly bursts with joy and love for Him at the thought of that light. I believe I will never see white lights at Christmas again or the dawning of a new day, as the sun banishes darkness, without the sight triggering love in my heart for Him.

Today, as I witnessed the glorious sunrise, the sight truly triggered love in my heart for Him. How lucky I was to have had an exam early enough to get out the door and see that beautiful sunrise.

(Of course, now the day has gone cloudy- it is a cold, gray, drab day like so many here in the midwest during the winter. But there is the memory of this morning…)

Turkey Pleases France, Almost

December 15, 2004

Notwithstanding any anti-headscarf laws to the contrary, Jacques Chirac is willing to concede that it is in Europe’s and Turkey’s interest to bring Turkey closer–perhaps even integrate it–into the EU. Specifically, he is pleased that Turkey is politically a secular humanistic country (using the terminology of French laïcité):

Répondant à ceux qui craignent de voir un pays musulman de 70 millions d’habitants rejoindre le grand ensemble européen, il a fait valoir que la Turquie était “un pays laïc” depuis 1923 et mis en garde contre “la guerre des religions, des civilisations, des cultures”.

Chirac has one problem: the French people and their government (whom Prof. Grace Davie, Chair of the Sociology of Religion and Director of the Centre of European Studies at Exeter University has described as a “fundamentally intolerant” people) are “hostile” to the idea.

Personnellement favorable à cette adhésion, Jacques Chirac est confronté à une opinion largement hostile jusqu’à l’intérieur du gouvernement. La position du chef de l’Etat crée une “difficulté incontestable”, a d’ailleurs estimé le président de l’UMP Nicolas Sarkozy.

Reminiscent of Chirac’s imperialistic judgment that those Eastern European countries that supported the United States in the run-up to the Iraq war were “poorly brought-up” and missed “a good opportunity to keep quite,” Chirac notes that Turkey is still a long way from espousing European “values,” despite any progress they might have made in the last couple of years.

Toutefois, a-t-il observé, la Turquie qui a fait “un effort considérable” pour se rapprocher de l’UE, est “loin du terme de cet effort” pour se conformer aux règles et aux valeurs européennes.

This is why, ever the politician, Chirac goes on to say that despite his ostensible support of Turkey’s desire to become part of the EU, the time frame for the negotiations needs to be a period of between 10 and 20 years, and any single EU country, according to Chirac, should have the ability to completely stop the process of Turkey’s application:

Jacques Chirac a aussi insisté sur la longueur des négociations d’adhésion (“10 ans, 15 ans, 20 ans”) et sur le droit de chacun des 25 membres de l’UE de “tout arrêter” à tout moment.

This, I think, represents the true position of France towards Turkey: either erase your own identity and espouse French (anti-religious) values or forget membership. From my perspective in keeping up with the news on this and other related issues, France is deeply worried about the idea of circa 70 million Muslims joining the club. With good reason they are apprehensive about militant or fundamental Islam (which the French, like the fundamentalists themselves, blame on the United States) entering their society. But the problem comes in when their concern about the non-fundamentalist yet still pious Muslims surfaces, for example in the anti-headscarf law and resulting litigation that forbids schoolgirls from living their religion by wearing a headscarf to school. This is indeed a severe curtailment of civil liberties in a country where most behavior of any kind is allowed, as long as it is not overtly religious. It is true, apparently, that in France, a woman is free to go about naked but not to cover herself up (if that is her choice).

I think that Chirac disingenuously oversimplifies France’s posture towards Muslims generally (not just fundamentalist Muslims) based precisely on the fact that their religion determines much that happens in their lives.

danish traditions forthcoming

December 14, 2004

I should be coming out with a blog on danish christmas traditions soon. i am in the middle of finals so it shouild be a few days. i am excited to be on with you all.


O Tannenbaum!

December 4, 2004

The following are some musings I have had about how I and others could use the Christmas tree as another way to integrate Christ into our Christmas thoughts.

When my wife was growing up in the beautifully forested northwestern state of Oregon, her family had many wonderful traditions at Christmas time. She recently shared with me one of these traditions that I would like to share with you. Every year, about a month before Christmas, her family would journey to a tree farm and together they would scour the area for a tree that was just right. When they found one, they would chop it down, load it in her dad’s truck, and go home where they decorated it. This was a festive time of family togetherness and fun, one which has created in her many fond memories.

No matter where they are found in the world, many Christian families have their own Christmas traditions regarding a tree. I know in my family the Christmas tree occupies a prominent spot in the home from Thanksgiving until about a week after Christmas. A Christmas tree can be a wonderful symbol. Among other things, when we use an evergreen, it represents to me the everlasting life brought to the world by Him, even the babe in the manger grown into a man, who said: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26). Now, I wish to also reflect on some other thoughts that come to mind as I gaze upon the Christmas tree. I wish to reflect upon the “trees” of Christmas.

My first reflections take me back to a garden long ago which the Lord had planted “eastward in Eden. And out of the ground made [He], the Lord God, to grow every tree naturally that is pleasant to the sight of man.” (Moses 3:9). Specifically mentioned are two trees: “And I, the Lord God, planted the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and also the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Id.). Although I will shortly address the Tree of Life, for now I wish to dwell on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil of which the Lord commanded Adam and Eve: “thou shalt not eat of it…for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Moses 3:17). These prophetic words came to pass and Adam and Eve, having been tempted by that serpent and partaken of the fruit of that tree received the promise that they “would return to the ground- for they shall surely die- for out of the ground [they were] taken: for dust [they were] and unto dust [shall they] return” (Moses 4:25). Thus came death into the world, who, like the Lord, is no respecter of persons. Death claims all, from the infant child to the very old- it comes by what we call “natural causes” and through freak accidents. Nobody escapes! In fact, by the law of justice, that first judgment which came upon man by Adam “must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.” (2 Nephi 9:7). But the Lord, in His infinite goodness and mercy, “prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster, yea, that monster, death and hell, which [is] called the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.” (2 Nephi 9:10).

To comfort Adam and Eve in their afflictions after being cast out of the garden and given the knowledge that they would “surely die,” the Lord in His great mercy and tender love caused the Holy Ghost to fall upon Adam and testify to him the words of the Savior that “as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.” (Moses 5:9). And thus I think of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and with that I contemplate the consequences and implications of the fall of man as I gaze into the Christmas tree, as well as the Lord’s goodness in preparing a way for us to overcome death and hell.

From that garden and tree of so long ago, my thoughts then wander to another garden, this one of olive trees, where knelt in agony a branch grown out of the roots of the rod from the stem of Jesse. (see Isaiah 11:1). This branch was none other than “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning,” who, “dwelling in a tabernacle of clay, [had gone] forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.” (Mosiah 3:5-8). Yes, in the shadow of an olive tree in that Garden of Gethsemane the very Son of God underwent suffering so intense for the sins of the world that it “caused [him], even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit . . . Nevertheless, giving the glory to the father, [he] . . . finished his preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:18-19).

The preparations finished in the Garden of Gethsemane that great and terrible day were in direct fulfillment of the Lord’s afore mentioned promise to Adam after his removal from the Garden of Eden that he could be redeemed. Indeed, we read in the New Testament that “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). This “being made alive” comes in two ways. First of all, every man, woman, and child who ever lived will be resurrected. This includes everybody, no matter how good or wicked they may have been. This will be a restoration, even a restoration of “evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish- good for that which is good; righteous for that which is rigteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.” (Alma 41:13). The second way in which we are “made alive” is through redemption from spiritual death or sin. That Book of Mormon prophet Jacob tells us that “He cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.” (2 Nephi 9:21). Because of His atonement in the shadow of those olive trees, all men can be saved from their sins and because of His death and resurrection all men will live again.

Pondering this idea in my heart causes my thoughts to wander from the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane to still another tree- a tree this time of sadness and darkness, but one also of such hope! Our prophet, President Hinckley, has said of our Christmas celebrations:

We honor His birth. But without His death, that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the redemption which He worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting . . . Because of Him all men will be raised from the grave.

(Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Season for Gratitude”, Ensign, Dec. 1997, 2). Thus the third “tree” I reflect upon as I gaze into the Christmas tree is the cross (see Acts 5:30).

It was on this “tree”, the cross, that the Savior willingly gave that which was most precious, His life, making Him above all others our truest friend (see John 15:13). Yet awful as was that terrible day, three days later that same “Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” (1 Cor. 15:20). Indeed, we read in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon that after He was resurrected, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, …and went into the holy city and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52-53, see also 3 Nephi 23:11). This may all seem very abstract, but when we realize what it means for us personally, it becomes very poignant and the “sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8, see also Mormon 7:5). Let me illustrate with an example from my family. When I was about 2, my Uncle, Thomas Fellows (whose name I bear, for my name is Jordan Thomas Fowles), was entrusted to the care of the Lord as went to serve a mission. He was my Mother’s only brother and the pride and joy of his father as the only son. About midway through his mission a tragic accident occurred on the highway which took his life. While my family was very sad because they would miss him terribly here on earth, they were comforted because of their knowledge of the atonement and the resurrection. For them, the sting of death had been swallowed up. I am grateful that Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate, was willing to give his life for us that we may all live again in spite of “Adam’s transgression.” (2d Article of Faith). Surely, the “Love of God” is manifest in this act. (see John 3:16; see also 1 Nephi 11:22).

The love of God brings my reflections to still another tree- the Tree of Life. The “Tree of Life” was the other tree specifically mentioned by the Lord in the Garden of Eden, whose fruit stood in “opposition to” the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (2 Nephi 2:15). We learn from Alma in the Book of Mormon that “if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life, there would have been no death.” (Alma 12:23). To have partaken of the Tree of Life after having partaken of the forbidden fruit would have caused Adam to “live forever, having no space for repentance.” (Alma 42:5). Thus we see that the Tree of Life is akin to eternal life, which as the greatest of all gifts our Heavenly Father can bestow. (see D&C 14:7), is indeed “a representation of the love of God,” (1 Nephi 11:25).

We are taught this truth by Nephi, who after hearing of the Tree of Life from a vision seen by his father, inquired of the Lord to know its meaning. To teach him the meaning of the Tree of Life, an angel takes Nephi to a place which for him is still 600 years distant. Nephi describes this experience is his own words:

And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins…And he said unto me: The virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh…And I looked and beheld a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold, the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

(1 Nephi 11:14-22). Yes, in the very instant Nephi saw that pure and fair virgin bearing the Son of God in her arms, he felt in his heart and soul what the Tree of Life and its fruit represents- the love of God.

Therefore, as I gaze into my Christmas tree this year, it is intricately and intimately woven together with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, the tree of the cross, and the Tree of Life by the thread of Christ, reminding me undoubtedly that “there is no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17). As Christmas time has indeed become a time of trees, it is imperative that we remember Him who is called “the Lord of the Vineyard,” (see Jacob 5), as we gaze into our Christmas trees during this festive season.

If you have read/skimmed until this point, I congratulate you. I have more thoughts about this, but will spare you of them. Suffice it to say that although the Christmas tree certainly was not originally meant to be a symbol of all those things, what’s to stop me from so associating it to enhance my joy in Christ this season?