I needed some comfort food this week, so I read Truman G. Madsen's "The Prophet Joseph Smith." Growing up, my dad could quote these lectures like scripture. I think this book perhaps most closely captures why the saints loved him so much. But the saying is definitely true: "Catholics say the pope is infallible, but don't really believe it; Mormons say the prophet is fallible, but don't really believe it."
Just as Jim Crow replaced slavery as a means of racial control in America, mass incarceration of people of color has replaced Jim Crow. The really harsh thing isn't the prison time-- it's the label that comes along with it for the rest of your life that bars you from jobs, government programs, and even the right to vote.
"Tabernacles of Clay" hits so hard, because for me it is personal. For LGBT Latter-Day Saints on the ground, living our faith is a practical matter, not a theoretical one. Yet ecclesiastical guidance and even doctrines change with political winds.
"If slavery is a manifest and universal evil, why did no one seem to realize this until relatively recently? What does that mean about our traditions of moral reasoning or divine guidance? Why do our scriptures condone slavery and why did our prophets practice it? How can we venerate people and texts-- the prophets, Founding Fathers, a scripture or founding document-- that considered slavery valid or normal? And, if we see clear and egregious moral wrongs that those people and texts so conspicuously missed, why are we venerating or honoring them in the first place?"
Are billionaires like Bill Gates giving their billions to public causes out of the goodness of their hearts? The short answer is, no. They're not. The one who holds the purse strings dictates policy. And educational policy and priorities have largely been dictated by the Gates Foundation, effectively bypassing democratic processes.
The killing of George Floyd was a tragedy. I am grateful that it has sparked meaningful conversations, but at what a cost. Black lives matter. I'm doing what I can to educate myself so I can best help those who are vulnerable. This is my start. Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle, has some powerful insights into police reform, including how to combat systemic racism.
The Silmarillion has been sitting on my too-intimidating-to-read shelf (right next to Les Miserables and War and Peace) for too long, but I finally took up the challenge. Mind. Blown. The thousands of years of back story make you read Lord of the Rings on a whole new light.
If you thought Hunger Games was Hobbesian, the prequel Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes makes it explicit. Check out where President Snow became got his mean streak.
Like self-quarantining, but you'll get shot by the KGB if you leave the house. But seriously, a beautiful work of historical fiction. "The surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness." Count Rostov, once-aristrocrat and Former Person in Soviet Russia, embodies this life lesson of his on every page.