Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy to the World

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." One of the most quoted scriptures from the Book of Mormon. When I was a kid, I remember hearing this passage quoted often by people using it to justify incessantly seeking after frivoulous fun. See? Men are that they might have joy. Proof that God wants us to be happy (or in other words, to have fun)—that the whole reason we exist is to have fun. I remember my dad teaching us that this passage could not be read without the following verse: "And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall." At the time, I didn't fully understand the connection.

It wasn't until years later that I started noticing that, in the scriptures, joy seems to be inseparably connected to redemption through Christ.

In Mosiah 4, when King Benjamin's people realized their need for a Redeemer, they "cried aloud with one voice saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins." Then, "after they had spoken these words, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins."

In Alma 36, as Alma the Younger was "harrowed up by the memory of [his] many sins," his mind caught upon the thought of Christ and he cried within his heart: "O Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me." His pleas were heard, and his pain was taken away and replaced with "joy as exceeding as was [his] pain."

Again and again throughout the scriptures, joy seems to connote a state of mind, spirit, and emotion that comes as a direct result of receiving redemption through Christ.

Understanding this has given added dimension to my concept of joy. Indeed, men are that they might have joy. When Adam and Eve are taught about the atonement, Eve proclaims, "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption."

The Christmas hymn means more now than before: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This Episode: Brought to You By the Letter "J"

Sometime ago I noticed a pattern in my life. 90% of the guys I've ever had crushes on or who have had crushes on me have names that start with the letter "j". It's weird. My very first crush that I can even remember was on a boy named Joel when I was in first grade. He had blond hair and could run uncommonly fast for a kid his age. He was dreamy...or at least as dreamy as a first grader can be.

And so it began. Since Joel, I've had a string of "j"-names to keep me preoccupied. I've been through a Jeremy, a Jared, a Jason, a John, at least three Jeffs (one of whom was actually a Geoff...but the "j" sound was still there...). There have been two Jordans, a Jim and a Jimmy. A Josh (a guy I knew in college who now, 10 years later, is dating a friend of mine...), a Joshua (who I actually professed my love to, and then wished I hadn't), and a José (where the "j" sound was lost but the letter remained).

Now, don't think I haven't given any of the other letters a chance. The more serious boyfriends in my past have not had names that start with "j". In fact, while there have been many "j"-names in my life, I've never legitimately dated any of them. It seems that the "j"s like to come around to keep things interesting. But boyfriend material for me, at least so far, has been found in other realms of the alphabet.

Nevertheless, I keep collecting "j"s. And who can blame me when they're so collectible?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Define "Separation"...

So, I've been meaning to write a response to the ridiculous display that was the Larry King Live show a few weeks ago. Enough time has passed now, that I really should just let this one go. But, I can't. That's how much it irked me. The program focused on the same-sex marriage issue. Joy Behar from The View was sitting in for Larry King, so I knew from the get-go I would likely be driven to yelling at my television before the hour was over. And Joy, bless her heart, did not disappoint.

There are so many things that deserve commentary from the hour-long show, it would be impossible to address them all. So, I'll focus on the thing I yelled the loudest/longest at. And that was this inane statement made by her first guest, lesbian/actress/gay rights activist Cynthia Nixon. This statement was made in response to Joy's question about whether the LDS church should lose its tax-exempt status because of its members' involvement in passing Proposition 8. And I quote:

"If they're doing the things they have been doing—if they're making robo-calls in favor of candidates or political positions, yes. One thing we really need to keep in mind here is that we do have a strong separation in this country of church and state. So, once a church starts advocating a political point of view, I don't feel like that's free speech on their part, I feel like that is mixing where they really don't belong."

She reiterated: "Separation of church and state—very important."

So, here...once again, we need to have a history lesson. People love to pull out the "separation of church and state" clause. But do any of the people who use it to defend their positions really have any clue where it came from? Doubtful. If they did, they would stop using it since it doesn't mean what they want it to.

The phrase "separation of church and state" is not, contrary to popular belief, in the Constitution. Rather, it was a phrase Thomas Jefferson used in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Again, I quote:

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

Thomas Jefferson was merely asserting that there should never be a State religion. In other words, a government should not determine nor define the faith of its citizens. He did not say that religious organizations should not be permitted to encourage their members to advocate a particular side of an issue which arises in the public square. In fact, he supported this.

Few things perturb me more than this claim by so many in our society that religion has no place in politics. When Sarah Palin was named McCain's running mate, everyone was concerned about whether her religious beliefs would influence her choices. OF COURSE THEY WOULD! Just as Obama's and Biden's fundamental religious views (whatever they are) will guide their actions. It would be impossible for them not to.

I love how people who don't consider themselves religious think that their lack of religion doesn't affect their they shouldn't have to stand for the religious beliefs of any other person or group being "imposed" on them through any established standard influenced by religious values. Do they not realize that their anti-religious views are being thrust upon those of us who consider themselves religious? Do they not realize that everyone has a religion—that the absence of religion is a religion?! There is no neutral ground here, people.

In his talk entitled "A More Determined Discipleship," given in 1978, Elder Maxwell quoted MJ Sobran. Try this on for size:

"The Framers of the Constitution … forbade the Congress to make any law ‘respecting’ the establishment of religion...; and they explicitly forbade the Congress to abridge ‘the free exercise’ of religion, thus giving actual religious observance a rhetorical emphasis that fully accords with the special concern we know they had for religion. It takes a special ingenuity to wring out of this a governmental indifference to religion, let alone an aggressive secularism. Yet there are those who insist that the First Amendment actually proscribes governmental partiality not only to any single religion, but to religion as such.... It is startling to consider that a clause clearly protecting religion can be construed as requiring that it be denied a status routinely granted to educational and charitable enterprises, which have no overt constitutional protection. Far from equalizing unbelief, secularism has succeeded in virtually establishing it...."

Elder Maxwell then said:

"Brothers and sisters, irreligion as the state religion would be the worst of all combinations. This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened. In its mildest form, irreligion will merely be condescending toward those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values. In its more harsh forms, as is always the case with those whose dogmatism is blinding, the secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments. It is always such an easy step from dogmatism to unfair play—especially so when the dogmatists believe themselves to be dealing with primitive people who do not know what is best for them—the secular bureaucrats’ burden, you see. "

This was 30 years ago. Are we there yet?