The Esteem of Men

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About a month ago, a friend took me to Mona, Utah to fly fish for carp. We arrived as the sun was coming up on a beautiful still morning to find thousands of big carp packed into a small collecting pond of the reservoir. It was beyond awesome for the size and numbers of the fish we were catching. I felt like we were in some untouched wilderness that had never seen an angler, rather than being a mile from Interstate 15.

I was back in Utah for a conference recently and on the way home we drove by the reservoir.  I was devastated to find it had been completely drained. There were hundreds of thousands of carp lying dead around the empty reservoir. The carcasses were so thick that they literally formed a carpet of carp.1 It was a fish kill of Biblical proportions.2  It was foul and stinky. Most of all it was tragic.

Such a policy come to play because the carp was not esteemed of men. As it turns out the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has plans to make Mona a wiper fishery. 3 These plans made it necessary to kill all the fish in Mona, drain the reservoir and start fresh. That was bad news for the lowly carp.

Now anybody that contrasts the merits of the common carp versus the wiper would probably jump behind the DWR in a heartbeat. Carp are an invasive species that are hard on the natural habitat and threaten native species. They are stinky, ugly and highly unpalatable as a table fish. Not only that, they are smart, and cagy and very hard to catch. When you tally up the points, the common carp comes out slightly above pond scum on the value scale.

This battle was over before it started. Not all fish are equally esteemed in the eyes of men. We have no trouble devaluing the carp and favoring the wiper, or the Bonneville Cutthroat, or the endangered Humpback Chub.  It’s quite reasonable and understandable. But it’s all too easy to extend this type of bias to one another. A great example of this human devaluation is illustrated in a quip of the emperor Augustus against Herod the Great.  Augustus joked “it is better to be Herod’s pig than son”.4 Though Herod would never consider eating pork, he didn’t seem to have any reluctance about killing his sons if he perceived them as a threat. His pigs were safe; his sons–not so much.

Though nowhere near Herod on the degenerate scale,  most of us are well-practiced in the art of forming quick opinions about others based on the relative value scale. Race, religion, gender, physical beauty, socioeconomic rank and nationality have historically been part of well-entrenched checklists that determine relative value as a person. I recently had occasion to drive through a pretty rough part of town and found myself jumping to all kinds of conclusions about the people I saw living under bridges and panhandling for spare change. Lots of things were going through my head, but Christ-like love was not one of them.

Today I was reading the account of Peter’s vision and subsequent meeting with Cornelius in Acts 10, which ushered in the preaching the Gospel to gentiles. As the reality of this truth came to him, Peter said “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but  in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” It was not nationality but rather repentance that was the determining factor for Cornelius to receive baptism and membership in the Church. Paul taught the same principles; so did Nephi. Though human perception is riddled with bias, God’s is not.

But to think of God’s view of us as simply unbiased, is to miss the the big picture. He sees past our flaws and is somehow able to not define us by the worst thing we’ve ever done. Add to this His unconditional love, and it becomes difficult fully comprehend. Consider the awe that Jeremiah  must have felt when the Lord told him “I have loved thee with an everlasting love”. He sees us differently. God sees us as we may become–not as other men see us. 5

God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.6

Our challenge personally is to live up to this pure love that is so devoid of bias and so eternal in its perspective. Hopefully, as we come to experience it, and believe it,  we can begin to see others the same way.

Longing for Superman

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There is a certain nostalgia in remembering the superheroes of your youth. I just heard a song that triggered a moment of nostalgia at 34,000 feet somewhere between Detroit and Las Vegas.

Superman’s Song – Crash Test Dummies 1

Tarzan
Wasn’t a lady’s man
He’d just come along an scoop em up under his arm like that
Quick as a cat in the jungle

Clark Kent
Now there was a real gent
He would not be caught sitting around in no jungle scape
Dumb as an ape doing nothing

Chorus
Superman never made any money
Saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair the world will never see another man
Like him

Continue reading Longing for Superman

Getting Your Man Card

 


After missing the Yellow jersey by 1 second on not 1, but 3 consecutive stages of the 2015 Tour de France, Tony Martin delivered . . . and with such panache!

The stage was the longest of this year’s Tour @ 221 km—12 of which were over cobblestones. With 11 km to go he flatted and borrowed his teammate’s bike. With 3 km to go he attacked and somehow held on for the win.  Though he’s been cycling’s World Champion, it’s his first time in yellow.

This mental toughness and raw athleticism is what keeps me coming back to the TDF year after year.

Winning the Yellow jersey isn’t the only way get get issued your ‘man card’. In fact, athletics is probably not the best way to get one. But today, Tony earned his card. Coincidentally it was printed on yellow cardstock.

Prescience of Neal A. Maxwell

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I’m looking forward to our Priesthood class today. We will be reviewing a landmark talk given by Neal A. Maxwell in 1998 at BYU on January 4, 1998. This talk, The Pathway of Discipleship, a little over a year after he had been diagnosed with leukemia.

I was struck by the prescience of one of his remarks near the conclusion of the talk, and how well it resonates with the challenges we face today:

Do not, my young friends, expect the world to esteem the seventh commandment—chastity before marriage and fidelity after. Some people in the world will fret genuinely over the consequences of its violation, such as staggering and unprecedented illegitimacy and marital breakdowns. However, sexual immorality per se will still not be condemned by the secular world as long as the violators have any commendable qualities at all or as long as they are, in some respect, politically correct. We will have to keep the seventh commandment because it is spiritually correct, not because we will get much support from society’s other institutions.

It is almost haunting to read his warning that scriptural and spiritual memory can fade in just one generation. He cited Judges 2:10, which says “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (see also Mosiah 26:1-2).

His remedy is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and lifelong discipleship for us. Without it there is little hope. Even with it, there will be some rough patches.

Without gospel perspective in our lives, we just won’t “get it” either. Special moments will come and go unused and unnoticed. How we manage those moments in daily life ends up either developing character or disintegrating character.

I am the first to acknowledge that we, as Church members, have a tremendous challenge being equal to our theology and our opportunity. We fall short. If we stumble, let us arise and continue the climb. The Lord will bless us because we are possessed of truths about “things as they really are, and . . . things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13). These truths beckon us, even in our imperfections, to be better.

This guy is awesome. I’m so grateful he was so prolific in his writing and speaking before he died in 2004.  As a result,  we have a roadmap that will come in quite handy on our own journey down the pathway of discipleship.

Voices of Dissent Part 4: Chief Justice Roberts

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I have concluded my 4th and final post on the dissenting voices of SCOTUS justices with the comments of Chief Justice John Roberts. In my view they are the most damning to the majority. He eloquently articulates how 5 Supreme Court justices have dismissed the US Constitution in the interest of accelerated social change–based on personal beliefs rather than the Constitution or SCOTUS precedent. As a nation, we have collectively lost far more than any one special interest group could have gained in the process.

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Excerpts from the dissent of Chief Justice John Roberts in OBERGEFELL v. HODGES:

But this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.” The Federalist No. 78, p. 465 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton) (capitalization altered).

. . .

Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not. The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage. And a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational. In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.

Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.

. . .

Eventually, the Court recognized its error and vowed not to repeat it. “The doctrine that . . . due process authorizes courts to hold laws unconstitutional when they believe the legislature has acted unwisely,” we later explained, “has long since been discarded. We have returned to the original constitutional proposition that courts do not substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies, who are elected to pass laws.” Ferguson v. Skrupa, 372 U. S. 726, 730 (1963); see DayBrite Lighting, Inc. v. Missouri, 342 U. S. 421, 423 (1952) (“we do not sit as a super-legislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation”). Thus, it has become an accepted rule that the Court will not hold laws unconstitutional simply because we find them “unwise, improvident, or out of harmony with a particular school of thought.” Williamson v. Lee Optical of Okla., Inc., 348 U. S. 483, 488 (1955).

. . .

When decisions are reached through democratic means, some people will inevitably be disappointed with the results. But those whose views do not prevail at least know that they have had their say, and accordingly are—in the tradition of our political culture—reconciled to the result of a fair and honest debate. In addition, they can gear up to raise the issue later, hoping to persuade enough on the winning side to think again. “That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.” Post, at 2–3 (SCALIA, J., dissenting).

But today the Court puts a stop to all that. By deciding this question under the Constitution, the Court removes it from the realm of democratic decision. There will be consequences to shutting down the political process on an issue of such profound public significance. Closing debate tends to close minds. People denied a voice are less likely to accept the ruling of a court on an issue that does not seem to be the sort of thing courts usually decide. As a thoughtful commentator observed about another issue, “The political process was moving . . . , not swiftly enough for advocates of quick, complete change, but majoritarian institutions were listening and acting. Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.” Ginsburg, Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade, 63 N. C. L. Rev. 375, 385–386 (1985) (footnote omitted). Indeed, however heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause. And they lose this just when the winds of change were freshening at their backs.

Federal courts are blunt instruments when it comes to creating rights. They have constitutional power only to resolve concrete cases or controversies; they do not have the flexibility of legislatures to address concerns of parties not before the court or to anticipate problems that may arise from the exercise of a new right. Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority— actually spelled out in the Constitution. Amdt. 1.

Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing samesex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. Ante, at 27. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. See Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question 1, at 36–38. There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.

Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of today’s decision is the extent to which the majority feels compelled to sully those on the other side of the debate. The majority offers a cursory assurance that it does not intend to disparage people who, as a matter of conscience, cannot accept samesex marriage. Ante, at 19. That disclaimer is hard to square with the very next sentence, in which the majority explains that “the necessary consequence” of laws codifying the traditional definition of marriage is to “demea[n] or stigmatiz[e]” same-sex couples. Ante, at 19. The majority reiterates such characterizations over and over. By the majority’s account, Americans who did nothing more than follow the understanding of marriage that has existed for our entire history—in particular, the tens of millions of people who voted to reaffirm their States’ enduring definition of marriage—have acted to “lock . . . out,” “disparage,” “disrespect and subordinate,” and inflict “[d]ignitary wounds” upon their gay and lesbian neighbors. Ante, at 17, 19, 22, 25. These apparent assaults on the character of fairminded people will have an effect, in society and in court. See post, at 6–7 (ALITO, J., dissenting). Moreover, they are entirely gratuitous. It is one thing for the majority to conclude that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage; it is something else to portray everyone who does not share the majority’s “better informed understanding” as bigoted. Ante, at 19.

* * *

If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it. I respectfully dissent.

 

Voices of Dissent Part 3: Justice Thomas

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In part 3 of this 4 part series on the dissenting voices of the SCOTUS decision in OBERGEFELL v. HODGESJustice Clarence Thomas speaks not only to the damage of the majority’s decision to the constitution, but also to the religious liberties that are enshrined by it.

Excerpts from the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas in OBERGEFELL v. HODGES – June 26, 2015:

“The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created ourConstitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized, to the detriment of the liberty they sought to protect. Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it. ”

. . .

“Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.

The history of religious liberty in our country is familiar: Many of the earliest immigrants to America came seeking freedom to practice their religion without restraint. See McConnell, The Origins and Historical Understanding of Free Exercise of Religion, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1409, 1422– 1425 (1990). When they arrived, they created their own havens for religious practice. Ibid. Many of these havens were initially homogenous communities with established  religions. Ibid. By the 1780’s, however, “America was in the wake of a great religious revival” marked by a move toward free exercise of religion. Id., at 1437. Every State save Connecticut adopted protections for religious freedom in their State Constitutions by 1789, id., at 1455, and, of course, the First Amendment enshrined protection for the free exercise of religion in the U. S. Constitution. But that protection was far from the last word on religious liberty in this country, as the Federal Government and the States have reaffirmed their commitment to religious liberty by codifying protections for religious practice. See, e.g., Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 107 Stat. 1488, 42 U. S. C. §2000bb et seq.; Conn. Gen. Stat. §52–571b (2015).

Numerous amici—even some not supporting the States—have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.” Brief for General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists et al. as Amici Curiae 5. In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Id., at 7. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.

The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph, ante, at 27. And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition. Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons . . . as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Ibid. Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.7

Although our Constitution provides some protection against such governmental restrictions on religious practices, the People have long elected to afford broader protections than this Court’s constitutional precedents mandate. Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process—as the Constitution requires—the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process. Instead, the majority’s decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

 

Voices of Dissent Part 2: Justice Scalia

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This is part 2 of 4 highlighting how everyone in America has been harmed by the recent Supreme Court Decision in OBERGEFELL v. HODGES. Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t pull any punches in a dissent that can only be described as scalian in its style.

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Excerpts from the dissent of Justice Antonin Scalia in OBERGEFELL v. HODGES – June 26, 2015:

“But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its “reasoned judgment,” thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect.13 That is so because “[t]he generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions . . . . ”14 One would think that sentence would continue: “. . . and therefore they provided for a means by which the People could amend the Constitution,” or perhaps “. . . and therefore they left the creation of additional liberties, such as the freedom to marry someone of the same sex, to the People, through the never-ending process of legislation.” But no. What logically follows, in the majority’s judge-empowering estimation, is: “and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”15 The “we,” needless to say, is the nine of us. “History and tradition guide and discipline [our] inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.”16 Thus, rather than focusing on the People’s understanding of “liberty”—at the time of ratification or even today—the majority focuses on four “principles and traditions” that, in the majority’s view, prohibit States from defining marriage as an institution consisting of one man and one woman.17

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers18 who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans19), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.20 They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds— minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly— could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago,21 cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.”

. . .

“The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.”

Voices of Dissent: Justice Alito

SCOTUSI taught a priesthood lesson on Sunday on the talk of Elder Robert D. Hales  which was entitled Preserving Agency, and Protecting Religious Freedom. It was inspired. One more example of how blessed I feel to have ongoing revelation in the leadership of the church that can address contemporary challenges  we face.

In preparing for this less I pulled out the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States and actually read the opinion (there’s a first for everything). Having read the dissent, I find the things most objectionable about the decision have changed for me. I thought I’d quote some of the most problematic elements of the majority decision using the words of their dissenting peers from the court. You’ll get a much better vision of the dissent by reading it in full in the link below.

No matter how you feel about same-sex marriage, both sides of the argument have lost big when you consider the damage the decision has done to the Constitution.

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Excerpts from the dissent of Justice Samuel Alito in OBERGEFELL v. HODGES – June 26, 2015:

“Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. E.g., ante, at 11–13. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.

Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected. Ante, at 26–27. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

. . .

“Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed. A lesson that some will take from today’s decision is that dissenting preaching about the proper method of interpreting the Constitution or the virtues of judicial self-restraint and humility cannot compete with the temptation to achieve what is viewed as a noble end by any practicable means. I do not doubt that my colleagues in the majority sincerely see in the Constitution a vision of liberty that happens to coincide with their own. But this sincerity is cause for concern, not comfort. What it evidences is the deep and perhaps irremediable corruption of our legal culture’s conception of constitutional interpretation.

Most Americans—understandably—will cheer or lament today’s decision because of their views on the issue of same-sex marriage. But all Americans, whatever their thinking on that issue, should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends.”

Guest Blogging @ JorieLovesAStory.com

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My friendship with Jorie is an unlikely one. We met through the promotions department of Cedar Fort Publishing during the promotion of my new book. Jorie is the owner and author of a popular blog: www.jorielovesastory.com. She agreed to review my book and participate in the blog tour. We’ve had many provocative exchanges since that first email.

Jorie quickly recognized that my book was a LDS perspective  on early Christian attitudes about conversion to the Gospel. For the first Christians, they thought of their personal conversion as enslavement to Jesus Christ. Her first question for me was how could this relevant to a non-LDS Protestant. My response seems to have been enough to persuade her to review the book AND invite me to contribute a guest post to her blog.

It was a great pleasure to write this piece for Jorie, since it’s helped us to forge a better understanding of how much we share in common–in spite of our different religious traditions. Thanks Jorie!


The following post was originally published on May 12, 2015 at Jorie Loves A Story

I recently read about a 2014 poll on religion, which states that 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. It’s a remarkable statistic in an America that feels more divided than ever. Issues of race, nationality, social status, political affiliation, gender and sexual orientation seem to increasingly dominate our conversations. This has a tendency to leave us feeling like we share nothing in common with anyone. But within this survey is a statistic that gives me hope. This poll indicates that 4 out of 5 of us share one very important thing in common: Jesus Christ.

Still, Christians in America come in more flavors than you’ll find at Baskin Robins (217 denominations to be exact based on this source). That makes for a lot of differences in the details of how we conceptualize Jesus Christ, not to mention how we worship him. Is there any unity of belief? The answer is a resounding yes. Whether you’re Catholic, Southern Baptist, Methodist or Mormon, we all agree on these fundamental tenets of the faith:

  • God is our Heavenly Father
  • Jesus is the Son of God
  • Man has been alienated from God by sin
  • God loves us in spite of our sin
  • God gave Jesus to atone for our sins
  • By faith in Jesus Christ man can be saved and inherit eternal life

Even still, it would be difficult to find a single passage in the Bible that we could all agree on which represents a mission statement for of Christianity. I feel the one that comes closest are words that Jesus used himself, recorded in The Gospel According to St John:

 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3, NIV).

The way Christians come to know God, differs based on their religious tradition. But a large part of knowing Jesus comes from studying his life. Virtually every Christian denomination urges its members to individually study the life and teachings of Jesus on a regular basis. For this we must go to the Bible. But the Bible is not a contemporary document. It was written in Greek almost two thousand years ago and then translated into dozens of English translations.* Translational nuances give each version of the Bible its own perspective and biases. Is there any wonder why there are so many Christian denominations?

This basis of my new book Enslaved to Saved: A Metaphor of Christ As Our Savior came into being when I encountered one of these translational nuances in my personal study. While reading the Bible (I use the King James Version) I noticed at tendency for Paul to refer to himself as the servant of Jesus Christ. Having been impressed by this detail, I looked up the word servant in my Bible Concordance to better understand what the original biblical texts were saying. In doing so, I was astounded to find that in the original Greek language that these Epistles were written, Paul described himself as the slave of Jesus Christ.

It proved to be somewhat of a game changer for me. Everyone knows that slavery is bad. It is one of the darkest stains on the history of human cruelty. Its repercussions persist for generations beyond its abolishment, and it continues to be a source of shame and resentment in our country. Yet, the Bible seemed to be speaking of slavery in such a matter of fact way.

As I looked further into this I found that the doctrine of slavery to Jesus Christ was extremely common in the writings of the New Testament. Yet this message is whitewashed from many English translations of the Bible. When the Bible was first translated into English during the early 1600s, translators selected words to maintain established social order in the United Kingdom. They could hardly have the Word of God endorsing slavery in such a vocal way. As a result, the word servant was adopted—a kinder, gentler form of service compared to slave.

I felt like I had made a discovery that significantly changed my perspective on how the Apostle Paul viewed himself in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. He thought of himself as Christ’s slave. I expanded my study to see if this perspective was shared by other early Christians and was completely amazed. This idea was pervasive and part of a much larger theme in the New Testament than any one person or epistle.

Why would something so horrific as slavery be such a common theme in the writings of the New Testament? This question became the impetus for my book. I realized that there are many important reasons why this message would resonate with early Christians.

Firstly, the institution of slavery was a part of everyday life in the first-century Roman world. In fact, slavery had always been part of everyday life back to the time of the patriarchs. Slavery to God was part of the identity of the Jews. The children of Israel had been enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. But God miraculously liberated them through Moses and the people then became his slaves (Leviticus 25:55). Over the course of their history, the Northern Kingdom was enslaved by Assyria followed by the enslavement of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians. When liberated by Cyrus, the Jews returned to their homeland. Though now free once more, they retained an acute awareness of themes of enslavement by oppressors, and liberation by God, to whom they were forever slaves. Accordingly, there are extensive teachings in the Old Testament and Law of Moses about slavery. Furthermore, we find many references to slavery in teachings of Jesus Christ.

Since Christianity sprung from the roots of Judaism, it should be no surprise that these themes would be present within the early Christian community as well. Instead of enslavement to Pharaoh or Babylon, Christian leaders taught that men were enslaved to sin. The good news of the Gospel was how Jesus Christ ransoms those enslaved to sin, and in the process becomes a new master to them as he sets them free. They taught that true freedom comes to those who voluntarily subject their will to that of Jesus Christ and remain faithful in this service.

Anciently slavery was a condition that was worse than death, and associated with utter hopelessness and loss of control. Yet enslavement to Christ was paradoxically esteemed to be an essential element of conversion that brought joy, freedom and eternal life. By illustrating this metaphor from the context in which the New Testament was originally written, my book helps the reader gain a new perspective about Jesus Christ. This perspective strives to improve the reader’s relationship with their Redeemer, and inspire them to more completely surrender their will to His.

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*I counted 222 modern English translations of the Bible.