Saturday, June 20, 2009

FAIR's Rising Generation.

I thought I'd announce that I'm the vice president of Fair's Rising Generation, and a regular FRG blog contributor. Check it out! We're pretty new, so we need more members and attention, so... tell your friends!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Replicating the Benefits of Polygamy

Oftentimes, I hear people talk about how great polygamy was for women and all the benefits it had for them. Plural wives had fewer children and live-in child care in the form of sister-wives, and so were able to pursue more interests outside the home. They were more active in politics and religion. Some of the things you read from Brigham Young were actually pretty liberal. He encouraged women to be doctors, wear pants, and so on. The whole suffrage thing was a big hit in Utah, too.

Those things sound awesome, so let's replicate those benefits. Women should have fewer children and take advantage of child-care options available in their community. They should be involved in politics and other community endeavours outside the home. Come on, guys, we don't need polygamy!

As a side note, I think the whole health care profession should be run by women. They're just better at it. I say the entire field belongs to women. So bring on the communal child-care. That is, after all, what was so great about polygamy, right?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fall: My Theory

Here's a theory I came up with that I haven't heard anyone talk about, but it seems to fit quite nicely, as far as I can tell. Anyway, the theory is that the Fall was the beginning of agriculture, and the subsequent turn-over from matriarchy to patriarchy.

After placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God commands them to go forth and multiply and to subdue the Earth. According to the Biblical description of the location of the Garden of Eden, it was located in a valley which was extremely fertile, providing ample food in terms of plant and animal life. God tells them that the Earth will bring forth fruit spontaneously, that they may eat freely. Of course, if small numbers of humans existed in a rich and fertile valley as nomads, the Earth would have spontaneously brought forth all the food they needed without them tilling the earth.

First, Eve partook of the fruit, then convinced Adam to partake as well. Women were the first to dabble in agriculture, being the more stationary of the two sexes. Men only took over later. Of course, in the Biblical account, God cursed both Adam and Eve. Eve's curse was that her conception and sorrow would be multiplied and that her husband would rule over her. Before agriculture, women would breastfeed their babies for roughly four years, or until they were able to walk and keep up with the rest of the people since they traveled a lot. Breastfeeding kept the women from ovulating, and therefore, from becoming pregnant. Now, any doctor will tell you that breastfeeding isn't a surefire birth control method, but this is because people now eat grains. The carbohydrates disrupt female hormones making it so that a breastfeeding woman can ovulate. Before agriculture, grains and carbohydrates were not a major part of human diet. This explains the phenomenon of the “Irish twin”, as the Irish were famous for their potato-eating tendencies. Also, women started weaning their babies earlier because they had grain cereals to feed the babies, and waiting between children became less essential since they weren't nomadic.

God then cursed Adam that he would till the earth and eat bread for the rest of his days. This fits right in, since no one tilled the earth or ate bread before agriculture. Also, this is the first mention of any grain-based food. Before, it only says they ate fruit and meat. Also, as the population increased and people stopped traveling, the amount of food needed to support a large, sedentary population would need to be cultivated through hard work and labour, rather than simply going out and finding it.

As for the promises of death and suffering, it is believed that the infant mortality rate was much higher among agriculturists. They were also subject to far more diseases, as a sedentary lifestyle and close proximity to livestock and their own waste would promote. Small pox, black plague, measles, and several other diseases were all due to agriculture. A comparison of the skeletons of hunter gatherers and agriculturists living at the same time and in similar areas reveals that the hunter gatherers were much healthier and lived much longer. The farmers, in addition to all the unique diseases, had evidence of severe arthritis, stunted growth, and tooth decay. The repetitive, labour-intensive tasks of farm life led to the arthritis and growth problems, and carbohydrates, which begin to break down in the mouth, led to tooth decay.

But, of course, they also were able to "go forth and multiply" as the women were giving birth to far more children. It also increased the knowledge of both good and evil, since populations could then support an elite - scholars, spiritual leaders, and artists. The potential for evil was also increased. Since grain can be stored, agriculture was the beginning of commodities, and therefore, of money and property. Money, the infamous root of all evil. Now that there was ownership, there could be stealing, conquest, and inequality. There began to be an a small percentage of people who were vastly richer than the general population. Now there were kings, slaves, and wars. An increasing population would also mean that people encroached on each other's space more, leading to more conflict. There was also literacy and an increasing number of new technologies, which could be used for good or evil.

This general idea fits in with myths from various cultures that involve a trickster, or fallen god that gives fire, agriculture, or other technologies to mankind as a way to make them worship him, or simply to cause trouble. This certainly fits in with the idea of Satan beguiling Eve, giving her the knowledge of good and evil, and launching mankind into an era of great growth and development, as well as evil and suffering. Agriculture is quite the boon, but obviously had unforeseen consequences, which no primitive person could possibly have understood.

There are other aspects of the Fall, as well. For instance, they realised they were naked and began wearing clothes to hide their shame. I haven't quite figured out the significance of this, other than to note that nudity does not seem to be nearly as taboo in ancient and matriarchal societies. The onset of Semitic patriarchy seems to bring with it a new standard of modesty. Before then, figurines of the gods/goddesses had, not only visible, but prominent and exaggerated sex characteristics.

As for what happened to the hunter gatherers, I've read conflicting things. Some say they simply adopted agriculture slowly and some say they were taken over and killed by the agriculturists, who were able to out-breed them and build permanent settlements. They also would have caught diseases created by agriculture, which people in agricultural communities began to have immunity to. I would say that, according to the Bible, it wasn't a peaceful takeover. Cain, the badboy earth-tiller met Abel, the herder (hunter gatherers did sometimes keep flocks of domesticated animals as they could be moved) in a field and killed him. They also would have killed the nomads inadvertently with their unique diseases, which they incubated, grew immunity to, then transferred to their nomadic brothers. This has happened throughout history – including when Europeans met with aboriginals on their various conquests. They decimate the population through disease before they even meet face-to-face, in many instances.

In conclusion, agriculture allowed both the curses and blessings laid out in Genesis from partaking of the fruit. People were more knowledgeable, more fruitful, and had greater potential for both good and evil. They had "subdued" (domesticated) many species of plants and animals. There was also more disease, death, hardship, and violence. Thus, I submit that perhaps the forbidden fruit was wheat, the first plant to be domesticated. Also, it seems likely that the Adam and Eve story as told in Genesis is more likely to describe the beginning of Semitic religion, rather than the beginning of mankind. Most subscribe to the idea that Adam and Eve were the first humans, although many LDS believe that there were “pre-Adamites”, including some general authorities.

Anyway... that's my theory... I came up with it after reading Against the Grain by Richard Manning and Adam's Curse by Bryan Sykes. I later found out that this is the theme of the book Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by David Quinn, in which a telepathic gorilla tells a Jewish man about the Fall. I haven't read it yet, though.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Beets of Consecration

Yesterday, I had chicken breast and beets for lunch and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Not just because it was tasty and warm, but because I always feel that way I have some of my beets. The reason is, my beets came from a fellow ward member's garden and I canned them at another ward member's house. The first ward member had a surplus of beets, the second had canning supplies and a lot of experience, and I had the universal need for nourishment and a desire to learn how to can. I just love the pooling of knowledge and resources that my church community allows me. To me, that's the Law of Consecration.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Animal Law

After a discussion on the FAIR mailing list about evolution and creationism, I find myself wondering about animals and the gospel. I'm also reminded of a debate I had with my husband several months ago about whether or not animals had laws to obey, whether they could be good or evil, whether they were created or always existed as we have, and so on.

The first thing that came to my mind was that animals must definitely be resurrected because they are present in the afterlife. There are numerous accounts of God sitting on a throne surrounded by animals. D&C 77 also has Joseph Smith mentioning resurrected animals during a Q&A about Revelations.

In Revelation 5:13, it says "[a]nd every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever," which leads me to believe that every creature will be resurrected.

What I wonder is where animal spirits come from, what their purpose is here on Earth, and what is the purpose of their interaction with us. Mostly, I wonder if animals have laws that they are able to obey and disobey as we do.

I found an Ensign article that had a Q&A about animals. It says that according to Joseph Fielding Smith, animals do not have a law, and that they are innocent and are not able to disobey.

However, everything I read pertaining to the Gospel and animals suggests that animals are meant to be resurrected and experience joy, just like we are. Also, 2 Nephi 2:10,11,15 says that there must be opposition in all things, and that there can be no happiness unless there is righteousness and there can be no righteousness unless a law is given. Perhaps animals are given laws, but they simply never disobey. This was certainly the case in Numbers 22:21-33 when Balaam's ass refused to disobey the angel, despite being beaten by her rider. Brigham Young says “that the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms—the earth and its fulness—will all, except the children of man, abide their creation—the law by which they were made, and will receive their exaltation.” Also, Helaman 12:7 says that man are even less than the dust of the earth, because it always obeys (unlike us).

Well, either way, I know that we absolutely must be respectful and kind to animals. Thoughtless treatment of the Earth and its creatures that we have been given stewardship over is in contrast to all of the teachings we have been given. Rather than get any more long-winded about it, I'll post one last quote and links to some really good articles on Mankind and Nature.

“In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” Joseph Smith, (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 2, pp. 71–72.)

Man's Dominion
The Gospel and Animals
Stewardship of Creation

Monday, February 16, 2009

Capitalism, you ain't so hot.

There was yet another discussion on Socialism an LDS doctrine at the Mo-Board (of which I am a member). I made some lengthy posts, which I'd like to modify into a blog post. My main gripe actually doesn't have much to do with being pro-Socialism, but rather anti-Capitalism. Here goes.

In the Book of Mormon, the Nephites go through what is commonly referred to as the "Pride Cycle." When the people were righteous, they had "all things common among them" every man worked "according to his strength" and they "impart[ed] of their substance... to the poor," and "they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all." (Alma 1:26-31) When the people aren't righteous, they are described as being prideful, greedy, classist, and no longer equal with each other. (4 Nephi 1:24-26)

In the Pearl of Great Price, Zion is described as a people where they were of one mind and there were no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)

In the verses from Alma that referenced (but didn't quote), it says that the people suffered persecutions, but because they were a righteous people, they were able to maintain peace and equality. The reason being that the wealthy didn't hoard their wealth, but shared it with the others in need. Righteous people don't despise the poor, they aren't predatory in their business practices, and they don't hoard their resources even when those around them are in need. Many LDS people assume that righteous people weather rough times better because they are wealthier or don't experience trials to begin with. This, of course, is ridiculous. When rough times come, it's up to the individual and the community to get through it together. If your poor neighbour is suffering, point the finger at yourself for not helping him/her before you assume they're unrighteous.

I don't believe that monetary capital should be the most important thing (as it is in Capitalism), but rather social capital. People are important. Communities are important. Families are important. The only way to make society better is to invest in social capital.

Also, yes, I've heard Pres. Benson's talks, and I understand that he hates socialism and was a libertarian and involved in the US government quite heavily. I also know that there are numerous scriptures, words from prophets, and a whole economic system set up by early church leaders (United Order) based around community, sharing, and redistribution of wealth. Those who hate Socialism will constantly go back to Pres. Benson, but I think numerous scriptures and words from prophets over the course of a few thousand years heavily outweighs the opinions of one prophet/politician living in the Cold War era, trying to convince everyone that the LDS Church is NOT Communist. The LDS wasn't Communist, but why does the pendulum have to swing the other way? Why do we need to wholeheartedly embrace Capitalism? What did Joseph Smith do when none of the options of religion were right for him?

That being said, I don't exactly identify as a "socialist", either. Pres. Benson says that big government dis-empowers its citizens because the bigger the government the less power each individual has to make a difference. I agree to an extent, although I don't feel nearly as strongly as he does. I'm more of a "Localist", you might say. I think the emphasis of our lives and production should be based around people, families, communities, and making life better for people, not driven by the desire to produce more money, even if it means making crap that no one needs and won't even work at the detriment of de facto slave labourers, the environment, and the health and agency of the community. It boggles my mind when a person doesn't believe in big government, but they have no problem with big business. Big businesses are happy to take over the government's job and do an even crappier job at it, that's why many people refer to the IMF as a "world government in embryo." I would go further and take off the "in embryo" part.

I don't wonder why church members don't embrace socialism - I wonder why church members embrace and defend capitalism with such fervour. Why gain is considered godly and profit trumps all, even morality. For some reason, we respect the predatory business practices of the guy with the 5000 square-foot house, and not the guy who dedicates his life to building social capital in the community, because the rich guy must be "righteous" is he's supposedly being blessed with prosperity. For some reason, wealth seems to be a mark of righteousness even though prophets and the scriptures teach us that we should not seek after wealth except to build the kingdom of God. How a pool and a home theatre build the kingdom of God more than paying taxes that help feed the hungry and clothe the naked, I don't know.

For me, personally, I'm not trying to convince anyone that Socialism and the BoM go hand in hand, but rather that Capitalism and the BoM do NOT go hand in hand.

Also, none of this "Capitalism is good because free will is good" crap. That's nonsense. If you think that, you're probably one of those people who thinks that Capitalism and Democracy are inseparably tied together. Most people don't realise that a lot of countries democratically elect socialist leaders only to have them overthrown by Capitalist dictatorships (Indonesia and Chile both experienced this) and that many dictatorships that many people think are communist are actually capitalist (China). Generally speaking, the wealthy favour Capitalism and the poor to middle-class take a more liberal political stance. There are more poor to middle-class people than there are wealthy people, which is why socialist and left-leaning leaders often get elected.

In conclusions: Capitalism ain't so hot.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mormon Fluff

"When crises come in our lives--and they will--the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won't do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie--spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching "fried froth," the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied" ("A Teacher Come from God," Ensign, May 1998, 25).

So true. The human experience is so deep, complex, individual, yet universal, and somehow we find ourselves up to our teeth in "uplifting" stories that are little more than Mormon Fluff.

Now, I'm not raggin' on uplifting stories, because there are some substantial ones. I guess what I'm criticising are the cute little things I get forwarded (by people who hate me, I'm sure) that don't have any depth and probably aren't true.

I don't have much more to add, I just really liked this quote.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The F-Word

Am I a feminist?

Huh? What? Me? Who told you?

I'll make this short and sweet: of course I'm a feminist. What kind of person isn't a feminist? You don't believe in women's rights?

If you don't want to call yourself a feminist because of the stigma, consider that fact to be evidence of the difficulty in re-defining the status quo. A lot of women, especially LDS women, are afraid to insist on non-traditional treatment because they don't want to sound like "feminists." Non-traditional treatment may or may not be good, but whether or not something is "feminist" has nothing to do with it's worth.

Scared of "Green" Household Products? Don't be!

Yesterday, around 8pm, I found myself in Taber, AB looking for somewhere to buy shampoo. Taber's not that big, so not a lot of places are open past 8pm, but Wal-Mart was. Now, normally I buy bio-degradable everything, shampoo and conditioner included, and I was seriously doubting the likelihood of finding any body care products that met this one, simple criterion. Usually, I go to London Drugs and get Live Clean, which is a little more expensive than your run-of-the-mill shampoo, but it works and it's biodegradable.

So, I got to the shampoo isle and quickly scanned for anything advertising itself as being bio-degradable. Then, I started checking the backs of the bottles that said "all-natural", but still no luck. Then I started checking the backs of anything with any reference to having naturally-derived anything, but I still couldn't find any that were bio-degradable.

Then, with a bit of a smirk, I decided to check the ones that were "Australian" or "European", since those places tend to be more enviro-friendly. I did it more to amuse myself, because I assumed that "Australian" and "European" were just marketing labels and had nothing to do with the values of the people living there, but I was pleasantly surprised to realise that most of the "Australian" and "European" shampoos were bio-degradable! Including some of the cheapest options available. I grabbed the cheapest bio-degradable stuff there, which was $3 for a huge bottle, and tried it this morning. It works just as well as any other shampoo.

My conclusion: there is officially no excuse. Cut the crap and make everything bio-degradable already. When I made the decision to switch to all bio-degradable household products, I braced myself for a price increase and possibly decreased function, but I have found over and over again that there is either very little difference, or that the greener option is actually cheaper. If this hasn't been your experience, perhaps you're a victim of green-washing (marketing to the enviro-conscience, with a steep mark-up of course).

In fact, there are cases where I'm amazed at the high cost, inconvenience, and inefficiency of certain products. Let's take laundry detergent powder. If you buy 240 louds' worth of Tide from Amazon.com, it'll cost you $53.70. If you buy 640 louds' worth of Country Save from Amazon.com, it'll cost you $50.75. Add to this the fact that one box of Tide is about four times the size of a box of Country Save, and that Country Save works better (less residue, better stain-fighting), and you realise that Tide is making you pay for them to fill a box up with a whole lot of inert, useless powder, then charging more because it's a bigger box and looks like it should be a better value. Here's a page on the Country Save website that says that it's even worse - the amount of loads that Tide claims to give you is total BS. Now, I know it's the Country Save website, but it seems right to me, based on my experience when I used Tide before I switched to Country Save. I actually have half a box of Tide sitting in my hallway because I can't stand the residue that all that inert powder leaves on my clothes.

Surface cleaners are another thing. I've started making my own cleaners and find that Borax, lemon juice (or vinegar), and water will clean just about anything at a fraction of the monetary cost, and a much, much reduced cost to the planet. Borax by itself works just as well as Ajax, isn't toxic, and doesn't make you want to gag and die if you accidentally inhale it. If you get one things from this post, get this: Borax is freaking awesome. Get it in the laundry isle. Here's a link for uses for Borax. I make almost all of my household cleaners. If you do a Google.com search, you'll find innumerable recipes for cleaners that are all very simple, very inexpensive, and don't smell like an old lady's perfume.

There are many more examples, and perhaps I will make a post dedicated to inexpensive, functional, green alternatives to common household items someday, but my point is this: A great deal of the environmentally-damaging products out there are completely unnecessary. Consumers need to take a few extra seconds on their shopping trip to check the back of the packaging. Pick products that come in a box rather than wrapped in plastic. Move your hands a few inches to the right and grab the hand soap that's dio-degradable (and costs the same). It's so simple that I'm finding it increasingly obnoxious that people still go for the toxic stuff. Toxins aren't even good for you!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who and Where is Heavenly Mother?

One thing I truly appreciate about Mormonism is Heavenly Mother. Ah, how wonderful it is to have a divine mother. How progressive and honest is it that we can acknowledge Her and know that She exists.

But what's the you say? We don't know enough about Heavenly Mother? I beg to differ! I've heard the question asked in Sunday school many times before: "Why don't we know more about Heavenly Mother?" to which the teacher usually responds, "We don't know that right now." Sometimes I hear things like, "Heavenly Mother is too delicate and sweet to be exposed to the world, so Heavenly Father hid Her away so that She wouldn't have to see the evil that happens in the world," or, "Heavenly Mother is too sacred, blaspheming against her is worse than blaspheming against Heavenly Father, so we're not allowed to know for our own sake," and many more. I disagree with them all! For one thing, I seriously doubt that the great, exalted, divine Mother is so weak and fragile that she can't handle knowing things. She's a Goddess. Secondly, I really don't see how or why it would be possible to hide things from her. If we are to believe that Celestial sealed couples have an unsurpassed unity, how is it possible that one could hide the other away? As for blaspheming against Heavenly Mother, I think that blaspheming against Her may have caused us to lose many "plain and precious things" concerning her. I do feel, however, that people did once have a broader knowledge of Her.

So what's my take? Plain and simple, I believe that God is not a man who has a wife hidden away somewhere, but rather that God is a married couple and the reason we don't acknowledge it more is because of the time we live in. Worshipping of female diety has long had associations with paganism, polytheism, witches, dancing around the May pole, and various other godless things. The Church is also somewhat patriarchal, and I feel people are more comfortable with the idea of a traditional male God. We are told to pray to Heavenly Father and not to Heavenly Mother - what that means, I don't know, although considering the unity of a married couple, I don't see how it's possible to pray to one and not the other.

Oh yeah, this article is really, really good. Everyone should read it: How to Worship Heavenly Mother (without getting ex-communicated)