Category Archives: Politics

Creating a World Without Poverty: Muhammad Yunus

In a speech titled “Becoming Self-Reliant—Spiritually and Physically” in the March 2009 Ensign, Elder M. Russel Ballard makes the following comment about economist Muhammad Yunus:

“…we need to appraise our own lives. How well are we listening to the Spirit? Are we living according to the eternal truths and doctrines of the restored Church of Jesus Christ? Can we effectively appraise the needs of others by the prompting of the Spirit? It impressed me that Muhammad Yunus must have been prompted by the Spirit when he organized a very unusual bank in Bangladesh, which some have said was the beginning of microfinance. When Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts to help the poor, was asked what his initial strategy would be, he responded:
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Filed under Personal Issues, Political Philosophy, Politics

Open Letter to Protesters of LDS Support of Prop 8

Dear Protesters,
It has been a frustrating week. You’re angry, maybe even irate. I understand. The courts recognized marriage as a right for same sex couples, and that right was lost in a close battle in the ballot box. Though Mormons make up a small amount of the total votes in favor of Prop 8, you hold them responsible for much of the fund-raising, canvassing, and phone-banking for the Yes on 8 campaign. Mormons seem like the easiest and most obvious targets for your anger. You have chosen to protest outside of Mormon temples and meetinghouses to express your anger, including petty vandalism, and to produce inflammatory commercials. I suggest that you seriously reconsider this doomed-to-failure strategy as accomplishing exactly the opposite goals that you intend.

It has been a long haul since Stonewall. Protests and marches have been a critical part of the gay liberation movement’s success. Though the courts have been an integral aspect of the movement’s strategy, public demonstrations remain a key element in consciousness raising and public relations. The problem in this instance is that protests only confirm the fears of the Yes on 8 vote.

I think that a major political miscalculation has been made by the No on 8 folks. While some, perhaps even a great deal, of the Yes on 8 vote can be reduced to homophobia or bigotry, the biggest reason for many religious groups’ opposition to same-sex marriage is the fear that they will eventually be forced to perform same-sex marriages in the future. This is quite likely an absurd fear, one not grounded in sound legal reasoning, but it is a sincerely-held concern. In this view, to vote in favor of same sex marriage is to vote against the future viability of religious freedom. Your job is to convince a majority of voters that this is not the case.

The problem with protesting Mormon places of worship is that it only substantiates these fears that homosexuals are out to destroy religious freedom. When you picket Mormon temples where marriages are performed, block the entrances, and yell at them as they prepare to worship, it seems to confirm the assumption that you are trying to tear down religious marriages and interfere with the free-exercise of religion. When you make inflammatory commercials, it raises the defensiveness of Mormons who have been vilified in American political life since their beginning. These actions are worse than ineffective in convincing the electorate to support gay marriage; they are actually extremely destructive to your cause. For years to come opponents of gay marriage will be able to point to the harassment of Mormons that has occurred over the last few weeks as definitive evidence that gay people oppose religion, seek to impose their marriages on religious institutions, and will choose to vilify religious people. This is a public relations disaster for you. Instead of being able to be the persecuted minority, you have begun to appear as the rabid haters of religion that many fear you to be.

I do not know who is organizing these protests, but I strongly urge any who will listen to stop and reconsider a cooperative approach that will ease the fears of religious people and institutions that same-sex marriage will infringe on religious liberty instead of enacting it.


[Added: This post is has some good coverage on the issue]
[Added: Some good news]


Filed under Family, Politics, Sexuality


This weekend Bill Maher’s movie Religulous will be released. I plan to see it. The title is a neologism combining “religious” and “ridiculous,” and gives you some sense of the tone the film will take. The trailer’s soundtrack is “Crazy” by Knarles Barkley. Of course, I haven’t seen it yet since no one has, but I’ve seen him appear on the talk show circuit promoting the movie. I have also seen the trailer, as well as years of Bill Maher on HBO and his appearances on other talk shows. (His website features the South Park episode about Mormons, incorrectly labeled “John Smith.”)

Maher has been a voice with the New Atheists long before they were new, and his fiery brand of anti-religious sentiment literally is the fulfillment of the concerns of right-leaning and moderate people about the indignant anti-religiousness of certain aspects of the Left. He is the worst nightmare of the Right as Sarah Palin is the worst nightmare of the Left. The film’s agenda is not really that subtle, and with the clips that I have seen I feel comfortable making some preliminary assessments of the quality of the work. I am unimpressed.
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Filed under Politics, Theology

Children and SSM: An Analysis of “The Divine Institution of Marriage”

As far as I know, FPR has never had a SSM post, and I think that we are somewhat proud of that fact. Despite this record, I am so confused by the document that the Church put out today, called the Divine Institution of Marriage, that I simply must break the silence about this for the purposes of clarification. This document suggests that as a result of the court decisions in MA and CA (the legislative decisions legalizing marriage and civil unions in other states are not mentioned), “The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.” The text continues: “traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children.” While there are a number of different arguments raised in this document explaining the church’s opposition to SSM, my question has to do with the relationship between SSM and the argument concerning the raising of children. The document explains that “if children and families are to be protected,” one must reject SSM. While I have heard this argument raised before by opponents of SSM, and church statements have alluded to this argument before, this document by far represents the most clear official statement on the subject of the threats to children. The threat to children constitutes the most prominent argument offered in this text.
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Filed under Family, Politics, Sexuality

Reject and Denounce: Obama and his church

Am I accountable for the crazy things that people say at my church? Luckily, I tend to disagree, and disagree strongly with most political statements made at church. Was Mitt Romney responsible for racist practices that existed with the Church during his younger days? I do not think so. What about Ezra Taft Benson’s delusional politics? While I believe that he was an apostle and prophet, his politics was nasty rubbish. Do I need to denounce him completely? No. His talk on pride (which I read later) was a turning point in my life that helped me decide to serve a mission.

The right and left have some shady religious figures. James Dobson, under the guise of pro-family Christianity, is one of most hateful and disgusting characters in American politics. Is he any different from Jeremiah Wright (Obama’s preacher)?  Mostly just in ideology. A major difference is that Dobson is willing and able to rally large amount of people to his cause, in a way the Wright cannot.

As Mormons, it we are going to expect others to look past our religion and the history of our religion, we should be hesitant to blame political actors for everything that their pastors say or think. Do we want to constantly be in the position of having to condemn polygamy and past racism? If Obama was Mitt, what would you say given the controversies of the last week?


Filed under Politics, Uncategorized

Mormonism and the State

Many skeptics of Mitt Romney on both the right and the left are concerned that he would impose his Mormonism on the State, constituting a dangerous mixing of religion and political power. I am confident that there is no basis to such a concern and represents either bigotry or ignorance. However, the more interesting concern for me is not how Mormonism will affect the State, but how the State will affect Mormonism.
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Filed under Political Philosophy, Politics

Our Muslim Allies?

I have been increasingly annoyed by the misinformation and accusations about Mormons in the media during the Romney campaign. The brief summaries inevitably do injustice, the history is constantly misrepresented, and what is important to Mormons always takes back seat to the obscure. I am particularly dismayed at the sins of our past that are constantly trotted out. At the same time, I have noticed that I am also dismayed by the way that Muslims are misrepresented in the media, and that this kind of prejudice far outweighs in both scope and frequency any discussion of Mormons. Through our relatively short history, Mormons and Muslims have been similarly compared and similarly misunderstood, maligned, and taken as symbols for what is violent, secretive, oppressive to women, and politically dangerous.
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Filed under Politics

Wanted: A Running-Mate for Mittt Romney

So who should it be?

Since it’s just a matter of time before Romney passes Giuliani and becomes the uncontested Republican front-runner, we should start thinking about who would be a good match for Mitt. 



Filed under Guests, Politics

I know that Mitt is true.

In testimony meeting this month, a good sister bore testimony of Mitt Romney. She stated that she knew that God had prepared Gordon B. Hinckley to be the prophet is these days. Then she said that she knew that God had also prepared Mitt Romney for this day. She went on to talk briefly about having recently read the Hugh Hewitt book on Romney and how much she liked it (“…and he is not even a member…”).

The best part was watching the bishop squirm. It obviously made him nervous. Of course, it is nothing like the time when a high counselor went on for 30 minute about secret combinations plotting to destroy our national sovereignty and bring about world-wide communism. The bishop was ready to jump him, though all ended peacefully.

I expect that talk about Mitt at church (and in testimony meeting) will become more common. Maybe I lack faith. Do I need to pray and find out for myself whether Mitt is really true?


Filed under Marginalia, Politics

“My Husband is a Socialist”

Here is another post that does not fit in with the normal FPR post:

I am taking an independent reading on political economy with a member of the economics department at the institution where I am working on a doctorate in political science. The readings focus on theories of capitalism and socialism with a particular focus on socialist critiques of capitalism. While I am very much on the socialist side of the capitalist-socialist divide, I officially label myself as a liberal because of my joint commitment to individual liberty and economic justice. Yet, my belief that a redistribution of wealth is vital to ensuring liberty to all makes me in many ways fit within what many might call socialism.

I often refer to myself as a socialist when talking politics with my wife. I also refer to myself as a socialist around others both for shock value and to emphasize that I really am on the left and not just another “Democrat” (though I am one of those too).

I mention all this because a few years back my wife and I went to stake center for the stake portion of our temple recommend interviews. I was interviewed by a counselor in the stake presidency and my wife met at the same time with the stake president. The stake president is an active conservative Republican in Utah and a former speaker of the House of Representatives in the Utah State Legislature. He knew that I was Democrat and that I was in graduate school at the Univ. of Utah studying political science. He often stopped to exchange political small-talk when we ran into each other.

As we walked to the car, I asked how her interview went (we both passed). She said that politics had come up while discussing my schooling and then she said “I told him you are a socialist, just like my dad.” I was a bit stunned. While she was more or less right, about both her dad and I, neither of us would have presented it that way to the stake president (my father-in-law was a bishop in the stake at the time). This left me with an appreciation of my wife’s candor. I feel ashamed that my reaction to my wife’s comment was one of embarrassment and not pride.

The Canadian political philosopher Wil Kymlicka, states in his textbook on contemporary political philosophy, that most Marxists and Socialist today are in many ways more liberal egalitarians than they are Marxists. I tend to agree with him. Yet I feel that the socialist voice is an important one. Is it a label that I should try to revive and wear with pride? I will let you know what I discover over the next semester.


Filed under Marginalia, Personal Issues, Political Philosophy, Politics