BY COMMON CONSENT
Vol. 11, No. 4 September 2005
For the first time in living memory, this is a general conference with no associated rumors --except for the one that the three-hour block is going to be reduced to two. And thatís not really a rumor. Itís just wishful thinking. And itís hardly a rumor that Joseph Smith is going to be huge at each and every session at this, the general conference closest to the 200th anniversary of his birth.
So in this environment of seething suspense, turmoil, and heightened angst, the semi-annual Mormon Alliance Conference Critique will convene at the usual time (6:30-8:30 p.m.) on Monday, October 3, Room C, Level 1, of the main city library, 210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City. C-1 is on the north side of the building, down one level, not inside the library itself. Take the elevator in the northeast corner of the mall or walk down the main mall staircase.
As usual, Janice Allred will moderate the discussion. So keep the TV set on, take notes, and come with informed opinions about trends, anomalies, and ties.
ABANDON INTERCOLLEGE ATHLETICS
Garth N. Jones
There are some advantages to an order and command system. With little fanfare, Church authorities transformed Ricks College from a two-year to four-year Brigham Young University--Idaho. Its highly acclaimed intercollegiate athletic program, particularly its perennial championship football teams, was summarily discarded.
I consider this decision nothing short of inspired, permitting university leadership to concentrate on establishing a quality academic institution. Among its advantages? An end to disgracefully low standards for prima donna athletes with low academic interests and ability. An end to recruiting Gentile mercenaries with little or no intent to respect their Honor Code pledge. An end to federal intrusions about equal gender opportunities in athletics. Money now available for a physical education program with students as participants, rather than spectators.
And thereís more! An end to the master-slave relationship with high salaries paid to coaches and small stipends given to the players. An end to the corrupting influence of commercialism. An end to worries about Sunday games and beer commercials. The Church need not compromise its religious character by covering up poor academic performance and moral violations to keep the athletic program going.
Now, I have no documented proof that any of these abuses have occurred at BYU-I, but thereís plenty of evidence that similar problems are more or less endemic at most universities.
And what is the next step? I think itís time to reassess the corrupting and exploitive competitive sports programs at BYU-Provo- -in other words, honestly determine the extent of the abuse. This moment is particularly timely. Maintaining a winning football team is falling afoul of the organizational conflicts in its jungle environment. (See "Y Study Targets Athletic Red Ink," Deseret News, January 12, 2004, A-1, A-8). Athletic administrators have unceremoniously fired athletic directors and affiliated staff, which is not an unusual personnel practice at BYU.
Their need for winning teams is clear, but why is that need so desperate? I think they are simply being realistic. The intercollegiate sports program is driven by rabid alumni whose egos need identification with bread-and-circus events. They enjoy seeing gladiatorial contests, even when the gladiators are imported mercenaries. (For one study, see J. Douglas Tomaís Football U.: Spectator Sports in the Life of the American University [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003], which makes a strong case that a sports program can be a defensible and important part of a university in spite of the high price tag, violence, and possibility of corruption.)
Hereís my proposal: A more sensible approach is to begin with academics. Letís posit a scenario in which a school recruits its athletes from among whoever matriculates. The scholarships are awarded solely on the basis of academic merit, not physical ability. In other words, athletes are recruited from students who come to the university for an education.
I also propose some new values that should receive emphasis:
1. Winning is not everything. How the game is played is more important.
2. BYUís Honor Code should be paramount in its academic culture. No individual should be admitted unless he/she understands the implications of this code and is willing to accept it.
3. Academics, not athletics, should be rewarded. Athletic trophies should be stored in back rooms, while a Wall of Honor should record high intellectual achievements. As much energy should go into winning Nobel Prizes and Rhodes Scholarships as now goes into conference sports.
4. Athletics should be for the many, not for the few, so that all can play, improve their skills, learn the give and take of teamwork, achieve their very best, and learn the type of honor that we call sportsmanship.
BYU-Idaho should be watched with keen interest. Relieved of the burden of intercollegiate athletics, it should make enormous academic strides. Church leaders should be commended for this sensible and courageous act.
A STUDY IN ANGER
Paul James Toscano
This is Part 2 of a two-part address presented at the Counterpoint Conference, University of Utah, November 6, 2004.
Anger oozes like sap from the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It arises upon our pain and loss and even more intensely upon our fear of pain and loss. Anger is the outward sign of our inward fear--the fear of injustice, of ignorance, of cruelty, of greed, and that most fundamental fear of all--the fear of death, which is rooted in the more fundamental terror of being alone--of being strangers and pilgrims and aliens in a hostile universe. Such fear is real. It informs the psyches and societies of humanity. It stems from our blindness.
We have eyes, but we do not see. Noses, but we do not smell. Ears, but we do not hear. We are blinded by consciousness. Our minds are opaque. Our hearts are egocentric. Our point of view is singular. Our imaginations are inadequate. Dust we are and unto dust shall we return.
It pisses me off--it really does--to have eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. What kind of equipment is this? To stare into the starry sky and see directly into eternity, into the pith of the mystery, and see nothing. My dog ZoŽ thinks Iím an idiot. I canít smell or hear or see anything from her point of view, and I can sit for hours gawking blankly into a flashing screen that emits strange noises. She at least can see ghosts, apparently--for what else could she be barking at when no one else is there?
No, the equipment is no good. It never was. And frankly itís deteriorating. Meanwhile, the Hubble telescope is improving and showing us that in nearly every little rectangle of the sky, a rectangle you can measure with one eye open and cover with a playing card held at armís length--in that small area, way out in space, there are hundreds of millions of galaxies.
That pisses me off, too. What is God up to? Thereís too much stuff. Nobody can keep track of all this. Omnipotence and omnipresence were easier to believe in back when there were only a few galaxies and some gas. Billions and billions and billions of galaxies? That idea, I think, finally killed the astro-poet Carl Sagan.
The Pearl of Great Price recounts the story of Enoch, an antediluvian prophet. His preaching resulted in, first, the creation of the city of Zion, and then the cityís being taken out of the wicked world. But the rest of the story is that, in a vision, Enoch saw the vast expanse of eternity, and it shattered his belief. He was undone. He couldnít believe that its Creator could care about the microbial humans who inhabited this small speck of earth. He couldnít believe it, even when he was talking to that Creator face to face: Let me read this most fascinating account:
"And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.
"And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
"And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
"And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
"And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
"The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
"And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
"And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them. " (Moses 7:27-34).
Well, there it is. Hot, scary anger erupting from the highest source of truth and ultimate mystery. Full of threats to kill. And not idle threats either. The Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother are out to kill us. Surely youíve noticed this. Some of our friends are missing. No doubt God has reasons for anger, but so do we.
Of course, Jesus did not counsel anger, although he occasionally got angry himself. No, he recommended love. He said love casts out fear. He said" "Fear not! In the world you shall have tribulations, but I have overcome the world." He said he would somehow find all the missing and bring them back again.
Iím not telling you what I believe--only what I have read.
Jesus said love casts out fear. He didnít say love casts out anger. Perhaps sometimes love kindles anger. Perhaps sometimes fear and anger and love overlap in complex and confusing ways that make us uncomfortable--like those billions and billions of galaxies that swirl in the far reaches of time and space, like those infinitesimal photons, nutrinos, and quarks that shimmer in an incomprehensible quantum reality unbounded by space and time.
Perhaps mortals are meant to live short lives without closure, without a unified field theory. And in this short breath of life, perhaps our faith must embrace our doubt; our hope, our despair; our love, our fear. Perhaps mortals are meant to suffer the mystery that is God, the mystery that is humanity, and the mystery that is the universe, even as you with polite patience have here suffered the ramblings of an angry, aging man.
THE PLIGHT OF THE SINGLE SISTER
Our substitute Gospel Doctrine Class teqcher graduated from BYU. So I knew he must be awfully smart--smarter even, perhaps, than our local graduates who attended Ricks College. He advised the single sisters to marry priesthood holders, so they could get to the Celestial Kingdom.
I asked him if unmarried single women could get there; and he said, "no," but that they would all have a chance to marry priesthood holders.
Yet I was not comforted. I worried. Shouldn't single LDS women be warned about their perilous predicament? I thought of ways to encourage them to be always marriage-ready. They could wear special buttons reading, "Shoot for Celestial." Instead of mezuzzahs on their doorframes, they could put counted crossstitch hangings announcing in gingham: "Single Men! All hope abandon, ye who enter here." Special fans could be arranged in their foyers to blow across a freshly baked pan of brownies and entice the worthy to enter.
But it might not be enough. I checked out the plight of these single women with a higher priesthood authority, a former mission president. He assured me in tones of ringing authoritativeness that true-to-the-faith single women who are unsuccessful in attaching themselves to priesthood holders in this life will be assigned to worthy men for celestial cohabitation. This greatly relieved my mind. Why, after these sisters had done all that they could do, they would be saved by priesthood grace.
My heart swelled with emotion. What generous men we have in the Church--brethren who would self-sacrificingly offer to take care of these temporally crippled unfortunates for time and all eternity, redeeming them from their curse and covering them with the mantle of their own glory.
Mormon Bodhisattvas! Then I realized that it was just a continuation of the great plan of female happiness that Mark Twain has testified to in the nineteenth century when he visited Great Salt Lake City. He was "touched," he said, by the willingness of Mormon men to take into their families so many plain-looking additional wives.
My heart was stirred as I realized that just this principle alone proves that the Church is true. What princes these men must be, proclaiming (and the following words should be chisled into the base of the golden statue of the Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple): "Give me your sad, your sore, your huddled misses, yearning to be wed, the wretched refuse of your teeming wards. . . ."
But, also proving that the Church is true, I continued to learn, line upon line, precept upon precept. When I shared the strength my faith had rerceived from this guidance, a very faithful LDS married lady testified to an even truer principle. I had overlooked the Millen-nium! A single sister, every hair restored to its perfect frame, will have a thousand years to search for "Brother Right."
Gone will be the panicky program of hastily hustling the first attractive man one encounters at BYU or trolling through one singles conference after another YSI fireside. A wider selection of more perfected men and a longer time to make sure!
At first I was comforted by this good sister's undeniably true testimony. But then I recognized a slight sense of uneasiness. Is it fair that the sweet sisters who manage to exit from this life unwed will be rewarded with a thouand years in which to find their (guaranteed) perfect match, while so many equally worthy sisters must settle for--well, worthy but not exactly wonderful--priesthood brethren? I know a fine young woman who transferred from Stanford University after her freshman year to a Utah college where there were more LDS fellows. And then, she ended up marrying a man from her home ward.
But at least, you will say, she got married. Yes, but when these sisters have sacrificed and strained to achieve marriage in mortality, is it possible that they will not feel the slightest twinge of injustice while they watch millennial Molly Mormons select at leisure from a primo smorgasbord of Peter Priesthoods, including their own husbands?
But, is it possible that I'm suggesting that this divine plan would be (gasp) unfair? I need reassurance. Quick, where did I put that mission president's phone number?
FUNDAMENTALISM AND THE SELF
Growth of the self occurs only if the interaction is an enjoyable one, that is, if it offers nontrivial opportunities for action and requires a constant perfection of skills. It is also possible to lose oneself in systems of action that demand nothing but faith and allegiance. Fundamentalist religions, mass movements, and extremist political parties also offer opportunities for self- transcendence that millions are eager to accept. They also provide a welcome extension of the boundaries of the self, a feeling that one is involved in something great and powerful. The true believer also becomes part of the system in concrete terms, because his psychic energy will be focused and shaped by the goals and rules of his belief. But the true believer is not really interacting with the belief system; he usually lets his psychic energy be absorbed by it. From this submission nothing new can come; consciousness may attain a welcome order, but it will be an order imposed rather than achieved. At best the self of the true believer resembles a crystal: strong and beautifully symmetrical, but very slow to grow. -- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990), 65.
SHADES OF HAGOTH
WASHINGTON (Reuters) ca. July 5, 2005. A genetic study helps confirm the theory that Polynesians, who settled islands across a vast swathe of ocean, started out in Taiwan, researchers reported on Monday.
Mitochondrial DNA, which is passed along virtually unchanged from mothers to their children, provides a kind of genetic clock linking present-day Polynesians to the descendants of aboriginal residents of Taiwan.
Samples taken from nine indigenous Taiwanese tribes -- who are different ethnically and genetically from the now-dominant Han Chinese -- show clear similarities between the Taiwan groups and ethnic Polynesians, Jean Trejaut and Marie Lin of Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei and colleagues reported.
Indigenous Taiwanese, Melanesian and Polynesian populations share three specific mutations in their mitochondrial DNA that are not found in mainland east Asian populations, they report in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.
Their findings suggest that Taiwanese aboriginal populations have been genetically isolated from mainland Chinese for between 10,000 and 20,000 years, and that the original Polynesian migrants originated from people identical to the aboriginal Taiwanese.
Earlier studies have looked at the Y chromosome, which men pass along from father to son. No Y chromosome link has been found between the early residents of the island of Formosa and the Polynesians, which could suggest early Oceanic societies organized around wives and mothers, the researchers, who included a team at Estonian Biocenterin Tartu, Estonia, said.
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The Mormon Alliance was incorporated on July 4, 1992. Its purposes are to identify and document ecclesiastical/spiritual abuse, to promote healing and closure for its survivors, to build more sensitive leadership, to empower LDS members to participate with more authenticity in Mormonism, and to foster a healthier religious community.
By Common Consent is the quarterly newsletter of the Mormon Alliance. Comments, articles, and items for inclusion are welcome, if they are submitted thirty days before the mailing deadlines, which are the last weeks of December, March, July, and September. Please send all correspondence about articles and subscriptions to Mormon Alliance, 1519 Roberta Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.
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