The World is Always Ending. Here’s What We Should Do About It.

February 22, 2013


Post by Rob T. Cross-posted from Mormon Liberals.

This morning I re-read President Matthew DeVisser’s stake conference address about 2012 and the challenges facing his stake members. During the final two-thirds, the portion focused on his stake & stewardship rather than the nation as a whole, I found myself nodding in agreement with these points:

We live in difficult and turbulent times.

We should prepare ourselves temporally and spiritually.

We have an obligation to help one another.

A time of fast communication, rapid global travel, increasing secularism, new challenges facing the Church, and worries about the end times, as sin and iniquity appear everywhere. This should sound familiar, as it’s an apt description of the 1970s, when President Kimball challenged Latter-day Saints to “lengthen their stride,” the 1930s when Elder Joseph F. Merrill challenged Gordon B. Hinckley to develop new methods for getting people interested in the Church, the 1890s when President Woodruff ended official support for “the principle” of plural marriage and Utah achieved statehood, the 1840s when the Church fractured after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, and about AD 54, when Paul reminded the Thessalonians that a falling away had to occur before Christ returned. (We can go even earlier, as the Book of Job reminds us that people are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly out of a fire.) Each generation has certain favorite sins (slavery, spouse abuse, greed), and people grow up denouncing the sins of the previous generation (and, on occasion, their own) and then get shocked by the sins of the following generation. Worrying about society crashing down is roughly as old as . . . human society. The world is always ending.

That doesn’t mean we’re off the hook.

President DeVisser spoke wise words about the importance of temporal and spiritual preparation, referring the members of his stake to the words of President Hinckley about avoiding debt by buying a modest home and living within one’s means, and by strengthening our relationship with the Savior. We will always live in difficult and turbulent times, and to be Latter-day Saints, to act rather than be acted upon, we need spiritual strength and to not let keeping up with our neighbors prevent us from serving our sisters and brothers. An avenue for spiritual strength is remembering the frequent comments by President Hinckley that now is a great time to be alive, a time to work towards Zion rather than huddling in fear of the Thunderdome.

Know hope.

I commend President DeVisser’s stake for their robust fast offering contributions, as that’s part of how we can fulfill our obligation to help one another. A human being needs a wide range of things to be able to fully express their agency, to use their life to grow and serve: love, purpose, food, shelter, education, safety, healthcare. Family, neighbors, the Church, and the nation are all good at providing a few of these things and bad at providing others. The Church recognizes this, as it instructs Bishops to familiarize themselves with government and community programs that provide medical care, counseling, help for people with disabilities, and job training and placement. We in the United States face the challenges of an aging population, millions of people residing in the shadows, an erratic climate, and rates of gun violence and incarceration that lead the developed world. At church, we learn about following the Savior and helping one another. During the rest of the week we need to talk & decide the best way to do this.

I second Hannah’s post about the importance of leaving partisan politics behind at the church doors, and Jeff’s comment that it is crucial we re-examine how we understand the connection between the Gospel and our politics, that we engage in conversation about which public policies we should support for the benefit of our communities. One of the several great things about 2012 was the emergence of Latter-day Saint writers in the political center and on the left. I encourage you to read through the posts at Mormon Liberals, at Mormon Democrats, and here at Mormons for Obama, and to join LDS Dems, the national home of Latter-day Saints looking to have an impact on the Democratic Party and our country’s laws.


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4 Comments on “The World is Always Ending. Here’s What We Should Do About It.”

  1. Convert for Obama Says:

    What a truthful, wonderful post! Wish more of my sisters and brothers at church could read it!

  2. Frank Stark Says:

    Please take a moment to digest this provocative article by a Rabbi from Teaneck, N.J. It is far and away the most succinct and thoughtful explanation of how our nation is changing. The article
    appeared in The Israel National News, and is directed to Jewish readership. 70% of American Jews vote as Democrats. The Rabbi has some interesting comments in that regard.

    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey.

    The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted.

    But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.

    Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

    That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate.

    The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff.

    Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the
    giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.

    The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

    It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.

    That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is ignorant and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. That is the indelicate way of saying that too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda, or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.

    During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” Truer words were never spoken.

    Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending.

    Similarly, Obama (or his surrogates) could hint to blacks that a Romney victory would lead them back into chains and proclaim to women that their abortions and birth control would be taken away. He could appeal to Hispanics that Romney would have them all arrested and shipped to Mexico and unabashedly state that he will not enforce the current immigration laws.

    He could espouse the furtherance of the incestuous relationship between governments and unions – in which politicians ply the unions with public money, in exchange for which the unions provide the politicians with votes, in exchange for which the politicians provide more money and the unions provide more votes, etc., even though the money is gone.

    Obama also knows that the electorate has changed – that whites will soon be a minority in America (they’re already a minority in California) and that the new immigrants to the US are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a different world, and a different America. Obama is part of that different America, knows it, and knows how to tap into it. That is why he won.

    Obama also proved again that negative advertising works, invective sells, and harsh personal attacks succeed. That Romney never engaged in such diatribes points to his essential goodness as a person; his “negative ads” were simple facts, never personal abuse – facts about high unemployment, lower take-home pay, a loss of American power and prestige abroad, a lack of leadership, etc. As a politician, though, Romney failed because he did not embrace the devil’s bargain of making unsustainable promises. It turned out that it was not possible for Romney and Ryan – people of substance, depth and ideas – to compete with the shallow populism and platitudes of their opponents. Obama mastered the politics of envy – of class warfare – never reaching out to Americans as such but to individual groups, and cobbling together a winning majority from these minority groups.

    If an Obama could not be defeated – with his record and his vision of America, in which free stuff seduces voters – it is hard to envision any change in the future.

    The road to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and to a European-socialist economy – those very economies that are collapsing today in Europe – is paved.

    For Jews, mostly assimilated anyway and staunch Democrats, the results demonstrate again that liberalism is their Torah. Almost 70% voted for a president widely perceived by Israelis and most committed Jews as hostile to Israel. They voted to secure Obama’s future at America’s expense and at Israel’s expense – in effect, preferring Obama to Netanyahu by a wide margin. A dangerous time is ahead. Under present circumstances, it is inconceivable that the US will take any aggressive action against Iran and will more likely thwart any Israeli initiative. The US will preach the importance of negotiations up until the production of the first Iranian nuclear weapon – and then state that the world must learn to live with this new reality.

    But this election should be a wake-up call to Jews. There is no permanent empire, nor is there an enduring haven for Jews anywhere in the exile. The American empire began to decline in 2007, and the deterioration has been exacerbated in the last five years. This election only hastens that decline. Society is permeated with sloth, greed, envy and materialistic excess. It has lost its moorings and its moral foundations. The takers outnumber the givers, and that will only increase in years to come.

    The “Occupy” riots across this country in the last two years were mere dress rehearsals for what lies ahead – years of unrest sparked by the increasing discontent of the unsuccessful who want to seize the fruits and the bounty of the successful, and do not appreciate the slow pace of redistribution.

    If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.

    • Convert for Obama Says:

      I see…Ann Coulter now writes under the pseudonym “Rabbi Steven Pruzansky”. Genius!

  3. Karen Pillow Says:

    I’m going to keep saying this until pundits at the pulpit get it.
    The Doctrine and Covenants mentions, among other blessings, that the Sabbath is a day to keep ourselves more “unspotted from the world”. I really need that break from the world.

    I’ve always been interested in political issues; I stay informed and have been actively involved in campaigns- but not on the Sabbath.
    On the Sabbath, I want to renew sacred covenants, and be spiritually refreshed from the conflicts and contention of the world, especially partisan issues.
    I want to feel at one with my brothers and sisters, I want to focus my attention on the Savior, and reflect on the wonder and power of the Atonement. As a convert, I want to reflect on my gratitude for being here when the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is here in its fullness.

    I DON’T want to hear thinly veiled political commentary in a sacrament talk or in a “testimony”. I don’t want to hear my faith or worthiness called into question because i dont happen to agree with a particular policy or candidate. I don’t want to be taken hostage when the Sunday school lesson is hijacked by political snipers. I don’t want to leave church feeling depressed and cheated because some of us don’t really believe or respect the church’s position of political nuetrality.

    Please, can’t we leave our political opinions at the door one day a week for three hours? Partisan comments in church won’t change my vote, but may cast a shadow on my badly needed Sabbath day. I promise to discuss issues issues the other six days of the Week.

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