Thursday, November 8, 2012

Maybe the guy's a Republican ...

On the lighter side of things: this is one of my favorite scenes from Kelly's Heroes -- a 1970 film that, if the director had cut out at least 30 minutes of totally unnecessary fat, could have been a real classic rather than merely "pretty good."  Same director of Where Eagles Dare (155 minutes!) which was almost ruined by the same directorial idiocy.

Both Telly Savalas and Don Rickles were great in their day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The "Mormon Effect"


The Bradley effect "is a theory proposed to explain observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some United States government elections where a white candidate and a non-white candidate run against each other."

On a possibly related note, Republican voter turnout for the 2012 presidential election was substantially lower than 2008 and 2004.  Given the widespread perception, at least in conservative circles, of the overwhelming significance of the election in terms of the future of the country, many expected (as I did) a record-breaking turnout of the Republican electorate.

But it was not so.

Romney received 2.5 million fewer votes than did McCain in 2008.  This failure of Republicans to turn out in support of their candidate is the reason Barack Hussein Obama will now serve a second term as President of the United States of America -- a prospect that fills me and many others with an unprecedented sense of fear for the future of my country.

As I pondered this seemingly inexplicable statistic emerging from the piles of election polling data, I couldn't help but recall another shocking poll result from this past summer: Gallup poll indicates 18 percent of registered voters surveyed would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. 

I understand that there are many factors to which we could attribute this significantly lower turnout.  For example, I'm certain that the internecine beating to which Romney was subjected in the Republican primaries produced a persistent negative opinion of him that likely resulted in prejudice (and subsequent voter apathy) that could not be overcome, no matter how well he performed in the subsequent general election campaign.

We live in an era where racism is universally condemned, and tolerance is a virtue more highly regarded than chastity.  And yet one particular species of religious bigotry is so pervasive and acceptable that it is awarded the highest honors on Broadway, is a staple of the country's most popular comedians and talk show hosts, and is frequently preached from the pulpits of churches nationwide.  Is it any wonder nearly 1 out of 5 Americans surveyed would not vote for a Mormon for president?

Although I am confident that Romney's candidacy has served to eliminate some of it -- perhaps permanently -- I strongly suspect that this bias factored into the results of the recent presidential election.  I will be surprised if no one makes mention of this in the coming days and weeks as the political punditocracy performs a post-mortem of the 2012 election data.  If and when they do, I propose that the phenomenon receive its own Wikipedia entry: The Mormon Effect.



On the Road to Corregidor


So, all that's left is the hand-wringing and the internecine recriminations.

My friend Dan Peterson offers his lament here, wherein he posits that, had the so-called "mainstream media" held Obama's feet to the fire over the largely suppressed Benghazi affair, things might have turned out differently.

In retrospect, I don't believe media coverage of the Benghazi affair would have made any difference, nor do I believe Romney would have been any better off attempting to make the Benghazi affair a more prominent issue in the campaign. 

We blithely deceived ourselves that the pre-election polls were skewed on account of their assumptions about the composition of the electorate.  The election itself has proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the electorate of the United States is, in fact, permanently altered such that neither Mitt Romney nor any other candidate espousing similar principles could possibly be elected. 

We vainly hoped to persuade the country that we were standing at some portentous fork in the road.  The simple reality -- seen so much more clearly today than yesterday -- is that the fork in question was passed long ago.



Monday, November 5, 2012

The Last Best Hope of Earth


I want to add my voice to that of many others who believe we are at a crucial crossroads in the history of this country, and of the world at large.  Tomorrow, November 6, 2012, the American electorate goes to the polls to choose the next president of the United States of America.

I have been an assiduous student of American history since I was very young.  I was quite likely, as a 9-year-old, the youngest member of the World War II Book Club, and consequently I was the target of some good-natured ribbing by my friends and family.  Even so, I spent a significant portion of my childhood summer vacations reading history books, with a specific focus on American history.

In my adult life, although I have also collected and read a lot of classic literature, my reading and my personal library continues to be very much dominated by works on American history, in particular the period preceding and during the Civil War.  I have been a very serious student of the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln.  In addition to the magnificent literary corpus of Abraham Lincoln, which I have read it its entirety, I have read the transcripts of the Lincoln/Douglas debates at least a half-dozen times.  I find them absolutely compelling.  In my opinion, we have not had such competent candidates for public office since then.  Along with the majority of scholars, I believe Abraham Lincoln is the greatest president in our history.

It is in this context that I have formed my judgment that the choice we now face is the most significant since the watershed election of 1860.  I believe many in the country share my sense of the importance of this upcoming election, and that this sense of its importance will lead to the largest turnout of the electorate in my lifetime.

I believe that if Barack Obama is granted four more years in office, the United States will never recover from the consequences.  If he is granted a second term unencumbered by the moderating concerns of reelection, and flush with the rather justifiable belief that he has been given a mandate for his effectively socialist agenda, it will result in both the destruction of our economy as well as our capacity to maintain the worldwide Pax Americana that has prevailed since the end of World War II.  Notwithstanding the occasional blunders of American leadership since 1945, the fact remains that the world has experienced an unprecedented period of global peace and prosperity as a direct result of that leadership.  Should the dominant position and leadership capacity of the United States continue to decline in the next four years as it has in the past four, I am personally convinced that the inevitable consequence will be the rupture of the tenuous threads that have held together the fabric of relative world peace that has characterized the era of the American superpower. 

Abraham Lincoln, in his December 1862 report to Congress, wrote:

"The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.

… We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."

Since that time, the majority of Americans has consistently manifest a willingness to shoulder the mantle that Lincoln presciently recognized as our national calling.  It is my hope and prayer that this generation of Americans will do likewise.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Better Man



Last night, as my wife, my 14-year-old daughter Miriam, and I knelt at our bedside for our nightly prayers, Miri (who had adamantly refused to watch last evening's Presidential Debate, repeatedly stating, "I hate politics.") inquired of us as to who had "won" the debate.  I replied to her: "I have watched one or more of the presidential debates in every election since 1984, and I have never seen a more decisive "beat down" than the one Mitt Romney administered to Barack Obama tonight."  I had no sooner offered my assessment of the debate than Miri immediately replied: "Well, I know I can't trust you (in the plural, looking at both my wife and me), because you are in favor of Romney."  Somewhat stunned by her statement, I replied, "If you can't trust us, who can you trust?"  She did not answer, but merely reverted to her previous comment that, "I hate politics." 

However, it became clear to me that she is trusting someone when it comes to these things, and she has been persuaded that, regardless of what her parents or anyone else says, Obama is good and Romney is bad.  Miriam just started high school this year, and I have already come to realize that she is coming under the influence of voices, at her school and via the media to which she pays attention, that have inculcated in her these notions.  As a concerned parent, I find these developments both discouraging and frustrating.

But returning to the topic of last night's presidential debate, a few things became clear to me, and I can only hope they became clear to American voters in this, the most important presidential election of my life.

Between the end of the debate and when I finally turned out the light just after midnight, I scoured the various news outlets, both online and on TV, assessing the various reactions to the debate.  Eric Schulzke had aggregated many of these reactions in a column he authored in the Deseret News, at the end of which he linked to a pre-debate piece (entitled Dubious Oraclesby Michael Knox Beran at National Review Online.  In his column, Beran made what I believe to be a very trenchant observation.  He referred to Samuel Johnson's anecdote concerning the greatness of Edmund Burke: 
"What finally matters about a debate is not the verdict of the pundits but the majority’s application of Dr. Johnson’s five-minute rule.  Johnson said that you could not stand beside Edmund Burke for five minutes while taking shelter from the rain without concluding that you were in the presence of an extraordinary man.  In the same way, you can’t watch two men talk in the glare of klieg lights for 90 minutes without sensing that one of them is, in some important way, better than the other."
And so it is.  Last night, for ninety minutes, Governor Romney and President Obama stood in the glare of the lights, with sixty million Americans watching, and debated the important issues of our day.  In my mind, and hopefully in the minds of a majority of the American electorate, Romney was—beyond any reasonable doubt—demonstrably superior to his opponent standing at the opposite lectern.

Now it only remains to be seen if I can persuade my 14-year-old daughter that my judgment in the matter is superior to that of the other voices whispering in her ears …


Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Meaning and Purpose of the Book of Mormon



The Book of Mormon is often presented, by both believers and unbelievers alike, as a "history" of a group of ancient Israelites who departed from Jerusalem about 600 B.C. and traveled by ship to their "promised land" in what eventually became known as "America."  As such, the Book of Mormon is frequently judged according to the extent to which the people, places, and events mentioned therein can be established as being authentically "historical."  There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach to establishing the "historicity" of the book, but I submit that it conflicts with the original intent of the work, as indicated by its putative authors.

            The Book of Mormon manifests many of the elements generally understood to constitute a "history," and yet I maintain that Mormon (and his son Moroni, who completed the book after the death of his father) did not mean for the book to be understood by its eventual readers as merely a history of their people, nor were they particularly interested in placing within its pages the kinds and quantity of information that future readers would be able to use to definitively establish its historicity.  To the contrary, their book manifests a purpose and intent far above and beyond the pedantic concerns of the historian, the archaeologist, and the anthropologist.

Had they been so concerned, it certainly appears that they had at their disposal the means sufficient to "prove" its historicity to future generations:

Helaman 3

13 And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people, by many of this people, which are particular and very large, concerning them.

14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.

15 But behold, there are many books and many records of every kind, and they have been kept chiefly by the Nephites.

16 And they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression and have been murdered, plundered, and hunted, and driven forth, and slain, and scattered upon the face of the earth, and mixed with the Lamanites until they are no more called the Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites.

Nevertheless, I believe that The Book of Mormon was very deliberately crafted by its authors as something far more profound and complex than any mere history.  They seemed to understand very well that "proving" the reality of their existence to future generations was irrelevant to their ultimate object.  Their intent, as described by Moroni and attached as a cover page to the work, is quite explicit:

… to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations

Or, in other words, God was intimately involved in the affairs of men anciently; He is also intimately involved in the affairs of men now.  He made covenants with men in ancient times and, in particular, the covenant made with Abraham is sure: Judah will inherit his portion; Ephraim and Manasseh theirs; the remainder of the tribes of Israel theirs.  In other words, there are, in fact, "promised lands."

It is no mistake that the words "JESUS CHRIST ETERNAL GOD" are deliberately rendered in all capital letters, giving emphasis to the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth—that He is the Messiah of the Jews; and the Eternal God of all mankind, who shall judge all men according the knowledge they have received.

This is the God of whom Mormon and Moroni bear witness.  He is not a parochial deity, to be known and worshiped by a relatively small tribe of nomadic Israelites, but rather the ETERNAL GOD; the Almighty God; the Ruler of Heaven and Earth, and Israel has been chosen to bear witness of him to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.  The Book of Mormon reveals him and the nature of his dealings with mankind, that all may be saved through faith on his name, which is Jesus Christ.

The simple fact, as conveyed by the Book of Mormon, is that Jesus of Nazareth is the God from whom all nations have received whatsoever truth they possess, even if they do not know it.  As Paul proclaimed to the Greeks in Athens: "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."  The Book of Mormon is written "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile (in other words, everyone) that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD."



The Book of Mormon is not just a "history" of a relatively small group of Israelites.  It is a witness to all mankind of the identity and personality of God, the Eternal Father of us all.  And those who receive its witness are promised more, as Mormon himself made clear when completing his account of the visit of the resurrected Christ to his ancestors:

3 Nephi 26

6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;

7 But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.

8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.

9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.


Since its initial publication in 1830, many have condemned the book for what they perceive as its flaws—things which, in their opinion, prove it cannot be true.  This is, in my judgment, a grave mistake on their part, for as Moroni warned:

… if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


The Calculated Suppression Of Mormon Apologetics:
The Case Of William Schryver

Redux


I initiated an online discussion of my previous blog post at the Mormon Dialogue and Discussions message board.  It can be found here: The Calculated Suppression Of Mormon Apologetics: The Case Of William Schryver.

To those interested in my defense contra the allegations made against me by the anti-Mormon mob at MormonDiscussions.com, I highly recommend this thread.