Category: Responsibilities

Answers to Questions You Should Have Asked

By , January 16, 2016 8:33 pm

From Tyler Cowen’s always interesting website Marginal Revolution:

7. Mormonism, and other relatively strict religions, can have big anti-poverty effects. I wouldn’t say I ever believed the contrary, but for a long time I simply didn’t give the question much attention. I now think that Mormonism has a better anti-poverty agenda than does the Progressive Left.

Next question?

From the Left and the Right on Argument and Collegiality

By , May 31, 2014 7:15 pm

Two recent interviews of two Supreme Court Justices, one on right–Clarence Thomas–and one on the left–Elena Kagan, both in agreement that you can disagree, yet be agreeable.

Here’s Kagan:

In the following video, Thomas also discusses civility on the Court. Because his comments come about 22:30 minutes into the video, I’ve cut and pasted that part of the transcript. Like Kagan, he praises the collegiality of his colleagues. A lesson for the rest of us maybe?

Thomas: You know, it should be mysterious. I can still remember the first time I set foot in that room and those doors closed. I mean, my goodness, it’s pretty daunting the first few times. Because that’s where the actual work and the decision-making takes place. It’s just the nine, there’s no staff, no recording devices. And we vote in descending order of seniority. It is a process in this city, normally when I was a staffer, you always had assistants around. And, people are engaged –they actually talk about the case. They actually tell you what they think and why. You record the votes. And there’s some back and forth– there’s more now. When Chief Justice Rehnquist was here, he moved it along very quickly. Now there’s more back and forth, more discussion. We normally have one break and there’s more discussion, off to the sides, about cases. And to see people who are trying their best to decide hard things and feel strongly about their view of it, is fascinating. And the thing that’s been great is, I just finished my 18th term, and I still haven’t heard the first unkind word in that room. And you think what we’ve decided–life and death, abortion, execution, war and peace, financial ruin, government relationship with citizens. You name it. We’ve decided it. And I still have not heard the first ad hominem in that room. It is an example of what I would have thought decision-making would be at the higher levels of civil government in all parts of our country.

SWAIN: What ensures that decorum?

THOMAS: The human beings on this Court, and people who, in one way or another, one degree or another understand that it’s not about them. It’s about the Constitution, our country, and our fellow citizens, that they don’t take themselves as seriously as they take the work of the Court.

SWAIN: We’ve learned a lot about the many traditions this Court holds and its processes that are passed down from Court to Court. And some of those happen in the conference room, such as the handshake. How important are symbols and traditions to the process that happens here?

THOMAS: I think the handshake, whether you’re in sports or church or other activities, it means something. It still means something. We can sense when somebody’s phony and they don’t mean it. These people, in this room, are genuine. It’s warm and professional. There’s always a handshake before we go on the bench. When we see each other and we haven’t– its the first time during the day– we always make sure to shake hands, whether it’s in public or in private. There’s sort of a sense of courtesy and decency and civility that’s a part of it. On the days that we work, whether we’re on the bench or we are in conference, we go to lunch together. In the early years when I first came here, we had that lunch in a small room off the main dining room. Justice O’Connor insisted that we have lunch every day when we were sitting. And she insisted, “Now Clarence, you should come to lunch.” And she was really sweet, but very persistent. And I came to lunch– and it was one of the best things I did. It is hard to be angry or bitter at someone and break bread and look them in the eye. It is a fun lunch; very little work is done there. It’s just nine people, eight people, whoever shows up having a wonderful lunch together. It is wonderful. So the traditions, I think, are important. It’s like traditions in our society, in our culture. They developed over time for a reason. And it helps sustain us in the other work that we do, I think. They help sustain us.

Here’s a link to the Thomas’s C-Span interview.

Cross posted from

Family, Fathers, Community . . . and Church?

By , December 6, 2013 11:16 am

You don’t have to be a believer to have a good family. And some families manage to get by without a father, whether because of divorce, death, or abandonment. Others seem all right and do okay without the interaction inherent in a vibrant community. But can I tell you how thankful I am for my membership in a church that stresses the importance of all three, not only stresses their importance but fosters their development?

Last night, for example, I sat in the basement of my bishop’s home with 12 or 13 other men and women–leaders of the various organizations in my church or ward–calendaring for the upcoming year. As we discussed in-service training for teachers, next year’s 4th of July breakfast, and a possible international night in the cultural hall of our chapel (food and festivities from a variety of nations and ethnicities), we also discussed the needs of people within our ward’s boundaries* and how we could help them.

Every year, we have a “Ward Salmon Fry” in early September. This year we changed the name to “Neighborhood Salmon Fry,” so people in our neighborhood of other faiths might feel more welcome to that annual gathering. In the early morning of virtually every holiday–Memorial Day, for example–the young men and women of our ward place flags on the lawns of any and all in our neighborhood. That evening, they return to retrieve the flags. And on and on.

In the end, these efforts build community. In the end, such activities strengthen families and let people know they are not alone. And in the end, our little corner of the United States is a little stronger, perhaps a little safer, and possibly a better place to live. The efforts of other churches in our area to do similar things that increase that sense of community and belonging.

Then comes Sunday, and I get to sit in a pew and be reminded of my responsibilities as a husband and father. Once or twice a month, someone at church will ask whether I’ve done my home teaching (Mormon men and woman are assigned to visit members in their homes at least once a month to visit and to simply check up on their well being). Of course, the corollary is that my wife and I receive such visits into our home at least once a month. (One of the beauties of this “Home Teaching” or “Visiting Teaching” program is that we are assigned people to visit or be visited by. We don’t get to choose. Thus, I often spend time with people I might otherwise not associate with. The benefits of that should be obvious.)

I should mention that I live in a middle class and certainly not wealthy neighborhood. I’d be surprised if the average home price exceeded $180,000. It’s about as racially mixed as Utah gets, with a fair number of blacks, Latinos, and Asians, all of whom I know on a first name basis, many of whom have been in my home. I should also mention that I’ve seen and felt the same kind of support in wards in inner-city Lansing, Michigan and in some of the poorest parts of Brazil.

I was reminded of the importance of all this when I read a piece today by Walter Russell Mead, titled Obama Flub’s Inequality Message. The title is unfortunate because I not writing this to take pot shots at President Obama, though I agree with Mead that he and others need to focus more on the following:

. . . there’s plenty of evidence that unwed childbearing, father absence and fraying kinship and community networks exacerbate the problems of low-income people and make it incredibly hard for them to gain a foothold in the middle class. These are thorny problems that aren’t easily solved by the kinds of government measures Obama champions.

I often wish the President of the United States (all of them) would more often use the bully pulpit much like speakers in my church use the church’s pulpit. Use it to speak to the themes of family, fathers, and community; to tell (shame?) absentee fathers into shouldering their responsibilities; to plead with young men and women to marry first, have children later; to encourage young and old to get more involved in their communities. In church, we refer to this as a call to repentance, which is just another word for change. All of this would ultimately strengthen the family (families of all types) and thereby strengthen the community.

Yes, economics are important, but without a firm foundation of family, fathers**, and community, all that economic help is apt to trickle into a sink hole rather than help anybody.

*In the Mormon church, local congregations are called “wards,” each of which have defined boundaries. Approximately 10 wards make up a “stake.” Wards typically have around 250-300 members.

**To the women reading this, I speak of fathers not because they are more important than mothers but because to my knowledge, we don’t have an epidemic of absentee mothers.

Another Headline that Doesn’t Deliver

By , September 4, 2013 11:26 am

I am not an Obama fan. Never have been. But neither am I a fan of headlines and taunts that promise one thing and deliver another. Case in point, the headline at this link and the text beneath it. Compare them with what the President says in the video at the same link.

Note how he even refers to the press conference in which he originally talked about the red line: “When I said, in a press conference, that my calculus about what’s happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons . . . ”

Only someone who willfully tries to misunderstand what Obama is saying in that video–the press conference in Sweden–could write the headline and accompanying text. In short, the claims at the link are bald face lies.

Folks, we’re in serious times. We’re at the brink of possible war. Lives are at stake. So, sure, hold the President accountable for what he says and does about Syria, but don’t make stuff up. Now is not the time to score political points based on a willful misunderstanding (aka misrepresentation) of what your political opponent says.

And yes, I’m fully aware that the current occupant of the White House and his sycophants in the media have done similar things to his opponents. Shame on all of them, red and blue.

Now, Now Guys . . .

By , August 27, 2013 11:24 am

So I was involved in a little tit for tat last night and this morning on Facebook. Kind of a he said, he said thing, only all our Facebook friends could read what he said about what I said and what I said about what he said and so on. And the rhetoric became heated as rhetoric can on Facebook.

And then a mutual friend who had been observing the back and forth spoke up.

Greg, Rodger. Please. You are both intelligent, thoughtful people, and my friends. I enjoy these discussions, but not this one.

And that’s all it took. I shut up (okay, I didn’t shut up, but I started posting about other things) and Roger went his way. And our little Facebook corner of the world was peaceful for a moment or two–or three. Who knows?

Which reminded me of one of my proudest moments as a father. My son David was a student at Timpview High School in Provo, Utah and a member of the track team. Among other things, he put the shot.

Well, one evening a bunch of parents and I were standing around the shot put area as our sons competed. Must have been 10 or more of us. And there was this kid in the ring, and he foot faulted and let loose a string of profanities.

Nobody said anything.

Next time he was in the ring, same thing. Foot fault, profanity–F-words, S-words, and other words.

Nobody said a thing.

Next time, same fault, same flurry. But this time someone finally had had enough.

David. My son. He called the kid on his language. Told him to clean it up or go home.

And that was that. Peace reigned in our little corner of the world for a moment or two–or three. Who knows?

The power of one. In most circumstances, that’s all the power we need.

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