Tuesday, June 22, 2010

America and the LDS Church

The LDS church started out as an American church, but, as missionaries were sent out to Europe, the Pacific Islands, and elsewhere, it quickly became an international church. Originally, European saints immigrated to Utah. But most of the members in Tonga and Samoa did not. Now, the majority of members of the church are not Americans. The church seems to make an effort to call itself an international church. A member of the First Presidency is not American and does not speak English as a first language. Many other General Authorities come from a variety of foreign countries.

Why then, do pictures like this exist? This is unfortunately displayed at the BYU Bookstore. This picture, in my view, falsely raises the US Constitution (an inspired yet deeply flawed document--it allowed for slavery, after all) into holy scripture. We are not an American church. Yet some members don't seem to get it.

A few years ago I showed up to church for the first time in my Idaho Falls ward. An enormous American flag plastered the front of the chapel. I can't imagine any other ward in any other country desecrating their chapel with a flag of their country during the sacrament, but somehow, in the US, it wasn't a big deal.

Anytime politics is brought up in a gospel context, I think to myself--do these people realize that members in other countries think entirely different about politics? I think President Uchtdorf, for example, doesn't think universal healthcare is of the devil. I'm pretty sure fast offerings in Germany go a lot further because they're not used to pay for the healthcare of church members.

I like America. I like the Constitution. It is an important document--and, most importantly for the LDS church, it allows for the freedom of religion. The First Amendment allowed the church to grow in the US (although eventually even the Constitution wasn't enough to keep bigots from driving us out). Many countries adopted aspects of the Constitution, and now our religion can be practiced in many countries.

However, if we start putting our good but flawed Constitution on a pedestal, or if we do the same with our founding fathers (good men, but not the angels some make them out to be), our flag, or our American customs, we run the danger of turning patriotism into a false idol. And that's not behavior that God's church, an international church, should engage in.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This is a billboard seen going south from our place towards downtown Cincinnati. Apparently, the good folks at the Creation Museum in Kentucky believe that dinosaurs breathed fire, despite a total lack of evidence for that belief. I know that the Creation Museum lacks evidence for many (most, all?) of its claims (people riding on dinosaurs Flintstone-style, etc.) but claims of a fire-breathing dragon surprise even me.

Or it might not even be a belief--it could just be that dragons (as well as dinosaurs) sell. And at $22 admission, and over a million visitors since it opened three years ago, it's apparently working.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Working the Connection Angle

I always envied those who used connections to get jobs. During and after high school, some of my best friends got jobs with their dad's companies. I had mixed feelings about my not having connections. On the one hand, I hated that I had to work so much harder to find work. On the other hand, I was proud of every job I found because I found it without help.

I worked six jobs before my mission, all ones I found myself. My first job after the mission was working at a car rental place; I found it through the friend of a friend, so I had a bit of a connection there. The next job was definitely a connection-type job. Two uncles worked at a sleep clinic. The only catch was I had to volunteer full-time for a couple of months, but I soon got a job offer that ended up paying for most of college (plus a car and my Europe trip). One very sweet connection.

I'm still more proud of the jobs I get myself, without help--but I'm smart enough to use the connection angle to my advantage. As fate would have it, I'm headed into the field of pharmaceutical law. I'm taking the classes for it, and I (through lots of interviews with no connections) found a job in it. But my uncle--one of the uncles who was instrumental in helping me get a job in the sleep field--now works for a drug company. And he knows attorneys there. Am I working the connection angle? Oh yeah. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping something will come of it.

And I remain impressed with those few individuals who, like my uncle, go high places without the connections. That's an incredibly difficult feat. As for me--it's a harsh world out there, especially in this job market; I'm taking all the help I can get.