Do Americans Even Know What Suffering is?

The following is NOT original. I did not write it, but it’s going viral on Facebook, and needs to be heard. The very term, suffering, is problematic because it highlights the deep misunderstandings stemming from bipartisan politics. This should not ever be a partisan issue:

A new administration-supporting Facebook friend told movie producer Scott Mednick, “We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.”

Scott wrote a thoughtful response asking how, specifically, his friend had suffered under Obama:

“I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. That of course is your right, I suppose. I do not wish harm on anyone. Your statement seems to continue the ‘US v THEM’ mentality. The election is over. It is important to get past campaigning and campaign rhetoric and get down to what is uniting, not dividing and what is best for ALL Americans.

There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did.

And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.” Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass, I was wondering:

Why have you suffered so?

So let me ask:

Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?

When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?

We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Especially considering where he the economy was when he took over, an amazing 11.3 million new jobs were created under President Obama (far more than President Bush). Has this caused your suffering?

Obama has taken Unemployment from 10% down to 4.7%. Has this caused your suffering?

Homelessness among US Veterans has dropped by half. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama shut down the US secret overseas prisons. Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama has created a policy for the families of fallen soldiers to have their travel paid for to be there when remains are flown home. Has this caused your suffering?

We landed a rover on Mars. Has this caused your suffering?

He passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Has this caused your suffering?

Uninsured adults has decreased to below 10%: 90% of adults are insured – an increase of 20 Million Adults. Has this caused your suffering?

People are now covered for pre-existing conditions. Has this caused your suffering?

Insurance Premiums increased an average of $4,677 from 2002-2008, an increase of 58% under Bush. The growth of these insurance premiums has gone up $4,145 – a slower rate of increase. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama added Billions of dollars to mental health care for our Veterans. Has this caused your suffering?

Consumer confidence has gone from 37.7 to 98.1 during Obama’s tenure. Has this caused your suffering?

He passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Has this caused your suffering?

His bi-annual Nuclear Summit convinced 16 countries to give up and destroy all their loose nuclear material so it could not be stolen. Has this caused your suffering?

He saved the US Auto industry. American cars sold at the beginning of his term were 10.4M and upon his exit 17.5M. Has this caused your suffering?

The deficit as a percentage of the GDP has gone from 9.8% to 3.2%. Has this caused your suffering?

The deficit itself was cut by $800 Billion Dollars. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama preserved the middle class tax cuts. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Has this caused your suffering?

He signed Credit Card reform so that rates could not be raised without you being notified. Has this caused your suffering?

He outlawed Government contractors from discriminating against LGBT persons. Has this caused your suffering?

He doubled Pell Grants. Has this caused your suffering?

Abortion is down. Has this caused your suffering?

Violent crime is down. Has this caused your suffering?

He overturned the scientific ban on stem cell research. Has this caused your suffering?

He protected Net Neutrality. Has this caused your suffering?

Obamacare has extended the life of the Medicare insurance trust fund (will be solvent until 2030). Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Has this caused your suffering?

He banned torture. Has this caused your suffering?

He negotiated with Syria to give up its chemical weapons and they were destroyed. Has this caused your suffering?

Solar and Wind Power are at an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?

High School Graduation rates hit 83% – an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?

Corporate profits are up by 144%. Has this caused your suffering?

He normalized relations with Cuba. Has this caused your suffering?

Reliance on foreign oil is at a 40 year low. Has this caused your suffering?

US Exports are up 28%. Has this caused your suffering?

He appointed the most diverse cabinet ever. Has this caused your suffering?

He reduced the number of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Has this caused your suffering?

Yes, he killed Osama Bin Laden and retrieved all the documents in his possession for analysis. Perhaps THIS caused your suffering?

From an objective standpoint it would appear that the last eight years have seen some great progress and we were saved from a financial collapse. Things are not perfect. Things can always be better. We are on much better footing now than we were in 2008.

I look forward to understanding what caused you to suffer so much under Obama these last eight years.”‘

Six Week Challenge

Less than a week ago, I posted the following on LDS Progressive Left’s Facebook page:

 I seriously don’t think I can do this any more. We live in Springville UT, and our ward is ultra-conservative. Two of my four children have already left the church, and one refuses to go here in Utah. I seriously want to leave the state. I know I’m not the only one in this group who feels this way. Any suggestiions?

Six days and 72 comments later, I’ve come to three conclusions:

  1.  I’m not alone. (This one is number one for a reason.)
  2. The general consensus is to go inactive or leave altogether, and find a way to worship that more suits my personal needs.
  3. It’s time to take action.

All week I’ve been thinking of a suggestion given to me by a visiting teacher I had thirty years ago, along with some repeated comments given to me twice personally, and once over the pulpit, by my current bishop. The suggestion by my visiting teacher, who has since left the church, came via our bishop who went on to become our stake president, and later, stake patriarch. He told my visiting teacher that he had a daily to-do list that he used as a formula for success:

  • pray
  • read scriptures
  • write in a journal
  • at least one act of service
  • exercise (I added this one).

I was really good at this for several years. It got me through some pretty tough times in my first marriage. I remember the calmness and serenity it brought to my life, and even though I have never been perfect at it, I have always striven to return to those activities when times began to get tough.

Unfortunately, my current bishop’s message came across to me as a litany of items that I must be doing if I were to ever expect to get help from him or to find peace in my home. In fact, not only must I be performing these things, but I felt that I had been held responsible for making sure that my husband and daughter were fulfilling these duties as well, despite the fact that my husband is a convert who has never had a calling other than home teaching since he joined the church nearly seven years ago, and that my  adult daughter has not been active since she was eleven years old. This litany includes daily prayer, daily scriptures, regular temple attendance (or at least preparing names for the temple), weekly Family Home Evening, fulfilling church callings to the best of [our] abilities, regular church attendance, and monthly fulfillment of visiting/home teaching assignments.

micro-2The second time my bishop gave me this list, it came as a text message, and the third time it came as a warning over the pulpit to the entire ward. I have come to the conclusion that although my current bishop is a great micromanager, his message is not much different from my previous bishop’s formula for success. Even though the formula for success is a much shorter, daily application of the litany, it leads directly to success in completing that gigantic to-do list from my current bishop.

I have been ruminating over these similarities as I read each and every comment to my Facebook post. I know my current bishop’s message was well intended, because he can see that activity in the church is not just weekly attendance, but a way of life that will lead us back to God. To me, the difference is pretty clear: the formula is a recipe for success, while the litany comes across a way of living that must be endured in order to get needs met here on earth, and to reach salvation in the end.

Two bible scriptures have come to mind. The first, is Matthew 24: 13: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Although this quote from Jesus was delivered at the end of his description of the last days, it is often taken out of context in an effort to describe that litany of things that we must strive to do regularly in order to reach perfection. The second, also from Matthew, is a direct quote from Jesus: “Come unto me. all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”
He said it would be easyTwo versus later, and still quoting Jesus, is a well-known verse that flies directly in the face of a Christian meme that has been present in LDS homes long before it became available on the internet. Come on, people, Jesus DID say it would be easy!:

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

Because I’m not perfect, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to church today. I stayed home and watched  “Meet the Mormons” (I like it, and yes, I know it is missionary propoganda), and “God’s Army 2, States of Grace” (And yes, I also know that Richard Dutcher, one of the producers, actually left the church not long after the movie was released). Next, my husband and I did our daily scripture reading. We were reading in First Nephi about Nephi’s rebuke to his brothers when they refused to help him build a ship. Nephi reminded Laman and Lemuel that the Jews rebelled against Moses, too, when they thought that God’s commandment to look at Moses’ staff and be healed was just too easy, so they refused to do it (I Nephi 17: 41). I was once again reminded that God had an easier way to follow him than worrying about completing a big long list of things to be done over and over again each month, in order to reach perfection.

I don’t expect to reach perfection in this life, so I’ve decided to endure to the end in following the former bishop’s formula of success. I’ve been told that it takes six weeks to form a habit, so I am going to focus on rebuilding that old habit that I seem to keep straying from. If I am doing it right, I should be able to fit my callings, temple attendance, and visiting teaching into that fourth daily item: service. There are so many ways to serve, and on days when I am tired or feeling particularly low, I can count giving a smile to a complete stranger as an act of service. Helping others does help me feel better, and it doesn’t take long at all to complete each and every item on the list.

At the end of the six weeks, I will go ahead and take action, depending on what my inclination is. I’ve a feeling that I am going to end up recommitting myself to activity in the church, no matter what people say in church meetings, or even to my face (yes, they do it). The six weeks will be up just before my birthday (October 26). I will keep you posted on my progress, and I will let you know what my final decision is during the week of my birthday. This should be interesting.

How Dead is the Republican Party?

How Dead is the Republican Party?

They’re still alive enough to be friggin scary!

Approaching Justice

2014-02-02 10.48.00

The fellow liberal who attends the ward that shares the Tropicana Chapel (in Las Vegas) with my ward has updated her bumper stickers. I wrote last July about how her car was a pleasant welcome to Las Vegas after moving from Wyoming.

How can one beat a partisan play on baptisms for the dead…right?

Is the Republican Party really dead?

While their presidential prospects are dim for the near future, the veto by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer of the controversial bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays on religious grounds shows that the business/establishment wing of the party still has some pull. While I am not a fan of the business wing of the GOP, they do play an important role in checking extreme anti-gay measures, as well as checking kooky efforts like trying to ban the United Nations. They are also the pro-immigrant wing of the GOP…

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10 Things This Christian Doesn’t Believe About The Bible

This is exactly what I have been thinking about both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. When you add a variety of translations in there, it gets even more difficult to understand exactly what God wants us to understand. Perhaps that is the reason for God speaking through prophets; he is giving us guidelines to think for ourselves.

john pavlovitz

Young man reading the Bible with bright green backgroundWhenever Christians talk about their faith with other Christians or with non-Christians the Bible is there, either as an overt discussion topic or as part of the background noise in the room. Many followers of Jesus assume that everyone believes everything about the Bible that they believe about the Bible, which makes for some very messy miscommunication and far too many disastrous conversations.

More and more Christians are gradually coming to new conclusions about the Scriptures, or they are finally putting words to things that they believed for years but felt they couldn’t express in the past in their faith communities.

If you’re a Christian, these words may not speak for you entirely (or at all) but they are things that at this stage in my own spiritual journey, I do not believe about the Bible—and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

1) I don’t believe the Bible was dictated by God. The sixty-six books comprising the Bible were composed by flawed, imperfect…

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A Boy and His Sister

The true story of the love of a brother. Told by me (on another blog).

Stories From the Past

Warning: Despite my insistence that this blog is all about graveyards and dead people, it’s really about family history. This story is about part of my family, and it is part of my children’s history, so even though they are still alive to tell this story themselves, I’m going to tell it now to keep it from becoming untold.

My baby boy turns twenty this weekend.  I haven’t been able to get him out of my mind because he lives nearly three hundred miles away. I have been too ill to travel for the last year or so. I’ve been having car problems too. So has Jake. I miss him terribly, but he promises to come and visit soon, and I can’t wait. Yes, this is the story of a boy and his sister. I’m getting to that–I promise.

But first, a little about a boy and his music. I usually begin my day by…

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A Repudiation of Republican Rhetoric

Sorry; I couldn’t resist the temptation to alliterate.

I admit it. I’m pissed. I have encountered way too many mindless memes from my conservative friends recently. (Oops, I did it again!) Most of my conservative friends and family members know to steer clear of political conversations when I am around. They normally keep quiet out of respect for my difference of opinion. But that hasn’t always been the case, and I guess I ask for it by posting so many of my own progressive memes on Facebook. It really is the only place where I feel safe getting up and walking out when the conversation gets heated. I can’t help being vocal, though. I’m a huge Bernie Sanders fan, and I’m excited by his platform. Perhaps that is what led to one of my family members posting this meme today:

I hope that is not the case, but I’m not at all surprised by the rhetoric. I’ve heard it before. The most common comment I’ve heard is that “Liberals are the reason so much is wrong with our country today.” They don’t come right out and say it, but the sentiment is pretty clear: Liberals (AKA progressives) are evil people who should be locked up and kept safe from running our world amok.  Continue reading

another shooting

This was posted by one of my favorite professors when I was an undergrad. This is just another something that I wanted to blog about, but haven’t gotten around to yet. I guess this is the problem with working and trying to manage three blogs. I intend to keep all three though, so I guess reblogs are to be expected.

BJ's Blog

I’ve been thinking about this a lot–especially since my “Frontier” class in the summer. What is the American obsession with guns? Why do we, as a culture, cling so fiercely to our right to carry? How does this right trump the rights of ordinary citizens, students, children, parishioners to go about their lives doing what America promises them: to learn, speak, and worship freely?

My theory: we like the after-effect of a mass shooting. I know that sounds perverse, so let me explain. After a shooting–the killing of innocents–we locate the heroes, the people who sacrificed themselves for others, who took bullets for someone else, who tried to disarm the murderer, who stormed the airplane’s cabin and crashed the jet rather than allow the flight to hit its intended target. We like these stories a lot. I would argue that we like them so much that we’re willing to let mentally…

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