Friday, September 19, 2014

What is grace?

There are a lot of definitions for this word depending upon its usage. In this instance I am talking about the Christian application of the word, specifically to the people of the Earth who are Gods children.

We are given agency.

In the bold experiment which is Earth, humans were given the agency to make choices. Those choices allow us to learn who we really are and what we want out of existence. Some choices are good, some are bad and all are our own.

God is perfect.

To dwell with God a person needs to be equally as perfect as God. To follow his laws, to meet the standards necessary to live in heaven, requires an already perfect being with nothing to tarnish their souls. Removing that tarnish requires atonement. As you would expect, this is not a simple task nor are we capable of completing it.

We make mistakes.

Humans are flawed. It was guaranteed that everyone would make mistakes at some point in their life. We would commit some flawed act or our intentions would be impure in a way that would tarnish our souls making us imperfect. This did not surprise God, nor did he fail to plan for it.

Perfection is a long way away.

It is an interesting word: perfect. It means without flaw. In mathematics we play with functions that approach a limit. The function can sometimes reach that limit, but it is impossible to reach it without applying infinity. Perfection of our souls is like this. As we make good choices our souls approach that limit, and though we can see the direction we are headed actually reaching the limit requires an infinite effort. Any number, when compared to infinity is effectively zero. This means that no matter how much work we put in to approaching perfection it is effectively zero.

The Atonement is infinite.

Bringing all of God's children up to snuff so that they can dwell with him is an infinite task. There is no way we could all pay for our shortcomings. To make up for this it took a special person to atone for all God's children and that atonement was infinite.

His grace is sufficient.

Christ made an atonement for our flaws. He did the time when we did the crime. In essence he has created equity by which he can buy our entrance into the presence of God. That equity is grace.

Made perfect.

With all our shortcomings atoned for, we just need to be made perfect. That will take time, a lot of time, but in the meantime we can dwell with God to hash things out.

Be perfected.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gun Ownership Myths

Many recent conversations on gun control have sparked my need to look it all up. Since most people I speak with are pro-guns I thought I'd collect some data and post it here.

Where do you stand on Gun Control?

To be clear: I like the idea of having the right to own a gun. I just don't want one anywhere near my family or home.

So, you're for and against gun control?

It seems a bit contradictory, but this isn't a simple subject and the people generating the discussion are not helping. Examples include the NRA trying to stop government funding for safety research or Congress creating laws that do not allow the public to see Gun Store compliance records. Here is a list of pro-gun arguments that I think need some looking at:

1. Owning a gun makes you safer.

If you own a gun you have a higher risk of accidental death, suicide and homicide from a gun. In 2011, you were ten times as likely to be shot & killed in an argument than to stop a crime. In fact, for every time someone uses a gun in self- defence seven times as many die from assaults & murders, eleven times as many die from suicide attempts, and 4 times as many die in gun related accidents. Most of which happen near the home.

Of households with kids and guns 43% have at least one unlocked firearm. When testing kids, one third of 8-12 year-old boys who found a handgun also pulled the trigger. In Philadelphia you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot if you carry a gun and your odds of dying are 4.2 times greater. In states with higher gun ownership we have higher homicide rates (see graph above).

Even for women, having a gun in the home make you nearly 6 times more likely to be shot by a husband, boyfriend, and ex-partner than to be murdered by a male stranger. If you're in an abusive relationship you are 7 times more likely to be killed if he has access to a gun. In states with higher gun ownership rates, women were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than in states with lower gun ownership.

2. An armed society is a polite society.

This is simply not true. If anything it fuels aggression. Armed drivers are more likely to make obscene gestres and follow other drivers aggressively. Stand your ground laws have led to a 7-10% increase in homicides in the states that have them. Even concealed-handgun licenses make people more likely to threaten other people.

3. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.

This one's my favorite because it assumes that without guns the same number of people would die each year. Guns do have an effect on homicide rates. For example states with the highest percentage of gun owners have a 114% higher murder rate than the states witht the lowest percentages of gun owners. States with gun restrictions tend to have lower rates of death by guns.

4. The Government Is Going to Take Your Guns

The thought here is that the Government is somehow going to pass a law that requires you to turn in your guns. Not only is this unlikely, it is also unconstitutional. We have no idea how many guns there are in the US, but there are approximately 260 million guns here, most of which are owned by private citizens which will outgun all enforcement agencies 40 to 1.

5. We don't need more gun laws we just need to enforce the ones we have.

2 out of 5 guns were purchased through a private seller which does not require a background check. 40% of inmates that used guns in their crimes purchassed them privately. 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn't pass a background check. Undercover researchers were able to convince 20% of licensed California gun dealers to sell them handguns. All evidence that our existing laws are unable to properly deter mis-sale of firearms.

Ban Guns?

Heavens no. We just need to figure out a better way to get things done. I'm not sure what that is yet and you can bet I'll make a post about it when I do. Till then, think for yourselves. If you don't want the risks, don't buy the guns or at the very least: make sure the guns you have are hard for even you to get to.

Be safe.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mormons and Rated R Movies

While having a discussion about the Oscars with my brother he mentioned that the Prophet clearly stated that we should not watch Rated R movies. This prompted me to go actually look it up and it turns out, as I previously suspected, this is not true.

You weren't having a discussion with your brother?

No, that the Prophet said we're not supposed to watch movies that are Rated R. I have heard this from many different people over the years and I must have looked into it at some point because I always get this feeling it's not true.

So what did the Prophet say?

I could paraphrase, but why not put the actual quote and reference here:

"We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading." - Ezra Taft Benson, April 1986 Conference. To the “Youth of the Noble Birthright”

He begins that talk with "Tonight I would like to speak directly to you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood." This talk was clearly directed toward the young men of the church which is clearly understood to be the Aaronic Priesthood holders 12-18 years of age. This is the first mention of Rated R movies by a Prophet and with good reason too. In the 80s it was becoming cool to be under 18 and see a Rated R movie. I remember my friends that year trying to buy tickets for Aliens, Platoon, Stand by Me and the like.

What about girls?

He left that out for some reason, but that didn't stop people from believing he meant everyone. All the subsequent mentions of Rated R movies I found fall into these categories:

  1. Quotation - This is where the general authority (Seventies) quotes Ezra Taft Benson's talk often only using the "Don’t see R-rated movies" part and omitting the context (Kofford). This implies that the Prophet has said no when he said no to the people who shouldn't see it.
  2. Personal Preference - This is often stated as "I would never watch another R-rated movie again (Bednar)" or "in our family we have decided to not see R-Rated movies." And I applaud them for using their God given agency.
  3. No Reference - This one is almost as bad as #1. The speaker/writer says "the prophets have told us not to" and leaves it at that. The fact that no Prophet has commanded the people to avoid any specific rating of movie eludes them.

So we all should watch Rated R movies?

No, we should stop saying a Prophet commanded us to do so. This falls in line with saying the Prophet commanded us not to have caffeine, chocolate and doctor prescribed drugs. He didn't and I wish Mormons would stop saying he did. This has become part of Mormon culture and it is not a good facet of our people. We should choose for ourselves the good from the evil. Why else are we given the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of Christ if not to discern for ourselves?

So, banning Rated R movies is not a commandment?

Nope, and sad is the day when the Prophet says so. It will mean that the membership of the church is incapable of making good content watching decisions for themselves and their families. "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward" (DC58:26).

Be discerning.