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I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Monday, December 23, 2013


I had a very good Sunday yesterday. It was my first Sunday back to church after 3 weeks off due to a bad patch of bronchitis. I wasn't sure I wanted to go back. I always look forward to and dread going to church in equal measures. That may be because I live in a very red county and my fellow ward members are even redder than most. It is very rare that I go to church and don't hear a political comment in Sunday School or Relief Society. 

It may also be because I was afraid it was one particular sister's turn to give the lesson in Relief Society. I love her dearly, but she is quite puritanical in her beliefs. The last time she taught she was only 5 minutes into her lesson when I just walked out on her. 

So, I was unsure about this Sunday. However, I prayed for comfort, acceptance, and tolerance both for me and my fellow church goers and decided to go. Many people don't understand why I continue to go. Well, quite simply, it's because I love the gospel. I love learning more about the gospel. I also love feeling the love that I do get at Church. Just because some people can be intolerant and judgemental does not mean they speak for God. It does not mean they are not capable of love and being loved. And, love, after all, is the center of this church. It is the center of Christ's message. We may forget that sometimes when we are faced with people that say they are followers of Christ. 

Two good things in particular happened at Church - well, three, if you count the Christmas music and Christmas lessons in Sacrament - but two that I want to focus on here. Firstly, I saw the puritanical sister that I reference earlier - I will call her M. I wished her Merry Christmas and she reciprocated. But, then she mentioned how glad I was back at church and how she was worried after I left her lesson the last time I saw her. This is what I like about M. We both know about how we each feel about certain political matters. However, we are still close friends and love each other dearly. It really cheered me to see that was still the same.

The second thing is even bigger. One of the things I always worry about is how opinionated I can be in Church. Sometimes I ignore some of the political statements that are made. Sometimes I groan. But today I made a statement. It was a little long. I don't really know how clear it was, but afterwards I was proud I made it. What had happened is that we were focusing on The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I cringed when I noticed this was our topic in the bulletin. You would think that family values are a nice easy topic. But not in this Church. Also many people look at it as a prophetic commandment. I look at it as guidance. After all, polygamy and racism were started and stopped by a prophetic statement. 

Well, full props to the instructor. He gave a very non-political lesson. I had been worried. I even asked him before the lesson. I had actually considered just skipping Sunday School. I lasted until halfway through the lesson when someone actually brought up the Church's recent guidance about homosexuality and gay marriage. They commented that some people outside the church think it means we were changing our attitudes. This is when  I spoke up. I really wish that I had recorded what I said. I will try to at least summarize what I said here. 

I raised my hand and told the class that whether or not we changed our attitudes was not the point. The point was what our actions are doing to people. I reminded them that there may actually be gays in our congregation. I asked them to think how they feel every time their brothers and sisters in Christ talk about how they feel and what they do is not only a sin but evil? I then pointed out that the next paragraph in the Proclamation teaches how vital marriage is to our exaltation. I said that this had always been a sore spot with me as a long time single woman. That I did not accept that God was going to ask for my wedding ring as a condition of salvation. I reminded them that there is a reason that the highest anti-depressant use is in the State of Utah. That what we do and say is hurtful to not only our fellow church members but the rest of humanity. 

Additionally, I told them that I believed that Christ's message came down to love. That there is a reason that we are not all different on this earth. We are different sexes, different races, different sexualities. We are born this way for a reason. I believe it is to teach us how to love one another. That if we were all the same it would be easy. 

I then took a deep breath. I had finally done it. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Wisdom of Prophet Muhammad and Why More Muslims (and Christians) Should Follow Him

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and/or Google+ know that one of the things that upsets me most is the hypocrisy and blindness of so-called religious people. People that claim to be living the lives of higher moral conduct and thought, yet reject and do not follow the teachings of their own faith. 

I mainly pick on those of my own faith - Christianity - and my own particular church - the Mormons. This week, however, I started listening to a series of radio essays on BBC Radio 3 called The Islamic Golden Age. The third essay was by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first Muslim member to sit on the British cabinet, on the subject of the Persian scholar Imam Bukhari. She believes Islam is at its best when it encourages scholarly pursuits and education. (I feel the same with the LDS Church.) During this essay she brought up a few quotes by the Prophet Muhammad that were highlighted by Bukhari and a couple teachings by Bukhari himself that I would like to highlight. These teachings and/or quotes seem to me to be universal in value and I wish that so-called "values voters" would follow them. 

Prophet Muhammad:
The one who engages with people and society and faces difficulty as a result of this is better than the person who isolates himself from society and does not endure any hardship.
Isn't that wonderful? So many times I get so fed up with evangelicals and others who insist that their children be home schooled. It seems like their objections are too much whining and too little trust in their own children's ability to judge right and wrong for themselves. It's almost as if they believe that Satan has more influence than Christ and the Holy Spirit. What kind of faith is that?

Fundamentalists of any stripe are guilty of this at most times. They believe their values are the only right ones and everyone should have to abide by them or else. 

The second quote from the Prophet in the program really leapt out at me. It was about the sanctity of humanity and how it exceeds the rules that your faith throws at you:
Shall I tell you of a status better than fasting and praying and charity? It is improving the state of friendship between people.
Incredible, right? How many so-called "values voters" do you know that are all about condemning and persecuting and attacking instead of reaching out in friendship? Pope Francis is a great example of a Christian leader reaching out instead of continually attacking. Look at people like Rush Limbaugh. Instead of showing us why he objects to a certain item, policy, or statement, he goes right out and calls a woman a slut. Pope Francis, on the other hand, when asked about gays - just opened his heart and his hands and said "Who am I to judge?" He praised them for searching for the Lord and didn't attack them for who they love. 

The next two quotes I got from the program were from Imam Bukhari. 
A man is not a believer who fills his stomach while his neighbor is hungry.
Anyone who does not have respect for our elders and compassion for our children is not one of us. 
He additionally taught "let not your enmity destroy anyone". Look at these quotes. They should make all so-called "moral" voters who vote Republican or who support the Tea Party or Libertarians blush with shame. Deep shame.

Look at all the so-called values voters who vote Republican because of abortion and gay marriage. Those who claim to "choose life". Yet, they support people who put forth policies that take food and shelter away from children and the elderly. Policies that encourage war and enmity between nations and take money away from the diplomats. 

I don't call myself a "values voter", but I do vote my values. I think I would really have loved to meet Imam Bukhari and think he was a true man of God, a lot more than many "Christian" men of God. I think Baroness Warsi for introducing me to him and hope I can find more about him. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Ethics of Minimum Wage

Conservatives like to talk about how dangerous raising the minimum wage would be. But they also complain about the social safety net. I believe that increasing the minimum wage would help reduce the money spent in social safety programs. Now, I am no economist, I don't know if there is any truth to all the scaremongering. However, I do believe there is an ethical answer to this. 

The federal poverty level for 1 person is $11,490/year. The lowest state minimum wage is $5.15/hour ($10,712/year at 40 hours/week) and the highest is $9.19/hour ($19,115/year at 40 hours/week). It is my belief that if you do not make over the federal poverty level and you work 30-40 hours per week then there is something significantly wrong with the American dream. 

Now, you can say that the minimum wage is not the right way to go. Well, what other answer is there? Perhaps you should increase social services for employed people. In many places, welfare and other social services penalize you for being employed. 

If a person works 30-40 hours per week (full time), they should not have a problem meeting their basic expenses: housing, health care, food and sanitation, phone and heating. In fact, I believe that any employer that pays less than poverty levels is not only behaving unethically, but criminally. 

Or we could go the way of price controls. Certain things that are needed for health and safety must be provided at poverty levels. 

I am not talking about redistribution. I am talking about being ethical. The conservatives like to think of themselves as the values voters. What kind of values supports not only not paying a living wage, but cutting the social safety net needed to provide basic subsistence? Forcing women to not have contraception and to carry babies full term in a world where you cannot even afford to feed and house yourselves is not a value I care to emulate.