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The One and Only True Liberal Utopia

In reading Jacob Laksin’s excellent article titled The Worst of Times at City Journal, it occurred to me what kind of society liberals truly yearn for.

My vision of the one and only true liberal utopia is this:

People of all races and backgrounds live in harmony and can be said to truly love one another.

There are no hungry or downtrodden, because people are nice to one another, share with one another, and are content with what they have while still striving to improve themselves and their lives.

Neighbors watch out for neighbors, and care about them. They maintain their yards not only for themselves, but to beautify the neighborhood for everyone.

Crime is low because children are taught in their homes and by the village how to be a good and respected member of the community.

There is not only racial diversity, but cultural diversity as well. Mutual respect is abundant. People come from all over the world to live in this place of peace and happiness.

OK, wake up, people. It’s just a liberal dream.

Unless – wait for it – you live in Utah Valley. That’s the place I just described above.

Don’t get me wrong – Utah Valley isn’t perfect – but it’s definitely the closest to the above ideal of anywhere I’ve ever lived. I wasn’t born here, but have lived here almost 30 of my 57 years, so I admit a rose-colored-glasses kind of fondness for the place, but also extensive experience with it as well.

I’ve also lived in (in chronological order): Los Angeles – 2 years; Idaho – 1 yr; Southern Utah – 2 yrs; Granada Hills (CA) – 4 yrs; Las Vegas – 1 yr; Hawaii / Japan – 2 yrs; Boca Raton (FL) – 2 yrs; Gaithersburg (MD) – 8 yrs; Dallas & Austin – 4 yrs; and Riverton (UT) – 1 yr.

Everywhere I’ve lived had its charms, even Boca Raton – the place I least liked because so many of the people there were so self-centered, mean, and illiberal, even if they fancied themselves liberals. Las Vegas is, well, Las Vegas. Japan was wonderful, but no diversity. I liked Montgomery Village, too, but with a few exceptions, neighbors mostly kept to themselves. Same with Dallas and Austin – without the diversity of Montgomery Village or Utah Valley.

But Utah Valley is also called Happy Valley for a reason –  most of the people here are practicing Mormons first and traditional values conservatives second, but also live and love and let live folks. My kind of people.

I know you’re thinking: diversity in Utah? Huh?  Yes, BYU draws people from all over the world. And most of them like it here. And don’t get confused – neither Salt Lake City nor rural Utah or even North Central Utah are really the same as Utah Valley.

So I know I’m defying the stereotypes of both liberals and conservatives alike, but the reality is that labels just don’t work here. They don’t fit.

And if you don’t believe me, come on out and I’ll give you a tour. Anyone with a good heart is welcome in our home, and we love to show off our beautiful happy valley – the one and only true liberal Utopia.

At least that I’ve found so far. :-)

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Book of Isaiah

Ancient Biblical Scroll

 

I applaud the guy who started Hobby Lobby who is creating a museum to house his stunning collection of historical codecs, books, and manuscripts relating to the Bible. A quote from Scott Carroll, director of the collection and research professor of manuscript studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas:

“Think of the great new science museums that take you inside how things work or the Folger Library‘s public and scholarly center for Shakespeare. This will be our approach to the Bible. It’s a museum, not a ministry.”

Perhaps atheists could use their self-vaunted capacity to reason and begin to include the Bible in their worldview as the most powerful force for the  advancement of civilization the world has ever seen. Next step after that is to critically examine its historicity, prophetic references, and other unique attributes for telltale evidence of divinity amidst the all-too-obvious humanity. It’s not difficult to find if you approach it thoughtfully and without prejudice and spend at least a few months examining possibilities.

Too often, the study of the Bible (or any sacred text) ends when the researcher finds a flaw and immediately moves to “Aha! the Bible is flawed so it couldn’t be God’s word, so God doesn’t exist!”

I take it for granted the Bible is a human work, and instead marvel at what an amazing collection it is, written not by God, but by men (prophets) who had the faith necessary to discover God and reveal their discoveries through an inspired process that nonetheless left their humanity and imperfections intact in the work that has the voiceprint of God but was not dictated by God.

The Bible is a miracle that too many take for granted.

http://usat.ly/dUeSAu

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A Love Letter to Mormons?

Dear Trey Parker & Matt Stone,

I was surprised to hear you tell Charlie Rose that you had sent a “non-Mormons’ love letter to Mormonism” in the form of your Broadway play titled “The Book of Mormon.” ( http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11570 )  As a 7th-generation Mormon, I just gotta tell you guys, well, uhm, thanks. Always appreciate a nice little love letter to drown out the hate mail we get.

Let’s just set aside, for now, any questions about why you would send a love letter to Mormons to an address on Broadway in New York, but  I’m still pretty sure I’m safe in speaking for my fellow Mormons to tell you guys that, assuming you’re sincere about this love letter stuff, that we would really like to make this relationship work. Heck, we want everyone to love us. Here in Utah, at BYU, we even gave a standing ovation to Mark Zuckerberg, for crying out loud. Saw it with my own eyes. So, yeah, definitely we love you guys too, potty-mouth and all, even if it’s still in a “you’re our brothers because we’re all children of God” kind of way. We might be able to make this work, if you really want it to, but I gotta be candid even if it’s going to leave you two in well-deserved tears: fat chance.

But let’s have a heart-to-heart anyway. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all you’ve done for us, but before we get too far into this relationship, I have to share a few doubts about whether this can really work.

For starters, I need to know if you guys are going to respect us in the morning. It goes without saying that you’re not getting any until we’re married, but we really need to know if you’ll ever be able to love us for our minds and not just for our, uh, nicer parts. You see, I watched your South Park episode “All About the Mormons.” I admit you made me laugh so hard I split a gut, and I understand the need to take liberties with the truth for the sake of laughs, but if we’re going to have any kind of future, you’re going to have to give at least some of us credit for being smarter and less gullible than you seem to think. I was thinking about counting the number of sung “dumbs” just for laughs, but it occurred to me that would be a pretty dumb waste of time. Don’t want to play to your stereotype, however well informed it might just be.

Now, I know how hard it must be to accept so much that seems so weird, dumb, and contradictory at first glance, especially when acceptance means you have to live like we Mormons live – stone cold sober, faithful to your wife even before you meet her, and faithful and devoted (but not blindly) to an admittedly human church and its benevolent leaders – but can’t you give at least some of us credit for being intelligent, rational beings who are not DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB and who have spent far more time studying and reconciling the history, teachings, and inconsistencies than you have? Let me just give you one example of a GLARING and serious error in this episode that leaves me a little concerned with  your scholarly credentials <Stan stares and blinks>.

For example, your song says “even though nobody else ever saw them” about the Golden Plates; and when Stan said “plates no one ever saw,” I stopped laughing for a minute while Stan finished his misguided rant. That’s just blindly wrong. Open your Book of Mormon again, and read right there in the first dozen pages of the preface “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses,” and “The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.” There were ELEVEN men, besides Joseph Smith, who saw and handled the golden plates. These 11 men, from five different families, were well respected in their communities, and even though several of them later denounced Joseph Smith as being a fallen prophet, and others were excommunicated, not one of them ever renounced the Testimony they signed. By any reasonable standard of historical evidence, the existence of the Golden Plates, in 1830 at least, is therefore an historical fact. If it was a fraudulent conspiracy of the witnesses, it stands as one of the best-perpetrated frauds of all time, because every one of the conspirators were known as honest men until the day they died, with their signed Testimonies being the only unexplained peculiarity that might possibly be construed to impeach their integrity.

I’m not saying this proves anything, mind you – except that you’re wrong to say nobody else ever saw the golden plates as evidence to prove how dumb we Mormons are.

So do you really think we’re ready to hold hands? I think you need to convince us that you have a more thoughtful, spiritual side to go along with your world-class sense of humor.

But let me get back to what we Mormons like about you guys. Nobody can say that I didn’t try to make this work, no matter how improbable the coupling.

True confession – you could have had us at “A celebration of Mormonism by some guys who aren’t Mormons.” You know how nice that is to hear after all of the ignorance, misinformation, maliciousness, and pernicious ridicule we see so often that we’ve learned to ignore it? Never mind fairness and justice – we may love it but we certainly don’t expect it. Actually, we prefer being ignored in the mass media – it’s rare that anyone gets it right (although Jan Shipps is a notable exception – she seems to understand us and almost always gets it right).

But then you just can’t let go of your opinion that the tree that bears the nice, sweet Mormon fruit that you love has rotten roots. So ultimately, you can’t have it both ways – respecting and loving Mormonism and Mormons but disrespecting the man who founded Mormonism, who once said, when asked how he could govern so many people (over ten thousand on that day), “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” I’ve studied dozens of great thinkers and inspiring men, both religious and secular, and Joseph Smith stands above them all (except for Jesus) in his vision, inspiration, and ability to teach, illuminate, and reveal. But he was prophetic when he said that the angel Moroni told him that his name “would be had for good and for evil among all the nations of the world.”

So I kinda doubt we have a chance. So I would invite you to study The Book of Mormon with sincerity of purpose, asking yourself if ANY man could have possibly written that entire book (much less dictated to others verbally, whether or not his head was buried in a hat). The conclusion of most Mormons (even those of us who have made it a life study) is that the book itself is a miracle and is its own witness of its own divine origins.

But again, guys, thanks so much for the love letter. I hope it does really well, and maybe quells some of the bitterness out there, although I suspect some people just love to cling to their bitterness like a comfort blanket.

Love,

Dave, on behalf of any Mormons who might agree with me

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The Book of Mormon – on Broadway

I admit to being fascinated by the world’s fascination with us Mormons. Most recently, the Broadway play titled “The Book of Mormon,” by the creators of South Park, has me enthralled. I’ve read that it’s a celebration of Mormonism by non-Mormons, but I’ve also read that it ridicules our beliefs (or should I say a caricature of our beliefs) rather mercilessly.  So what’s new?  I welcome the opportunities this will no doubt provide me to explain a few things here and there.

I’m a 7th-generation Mormon, and yet my trust in the faith of my fathers springs from my own love of truth. My own study, thought, and research have led me to embrace and defend Mormonism – and contrary to the specious pretensions and assertions of the prevailing post-modern dogmatists, I don’t have to abandon reason, science, or truth to do it.

You won’t find me singing “TRADITION!” or blindly accepting what my parents taught me because it was what their parents taught them. Yet anyone with an open mind knows that no one alive has the world and life completely figured out, not even a prophet. The only way anyone can explain everything is to ignore anything that doesn’t fit their worldview. That goes for atheists too.

So even though I believe there is overwhelming evidence that leads me to embrace Mormonism, there are and probably will be until I die a few things that leave me alternatively puzzled, thinking, and/or laughing. The same goes for atheists and believers alike.

And I think that’s the way it should be – the way God ordained it. Why? Simple – to leave everyone free to choose their belief system, and by their choices manifest their own destiny.

So in all my philosophical explorations, I keep coming back to a single transcendent truth – we are free to believe what we choose to believe. You can find intelligent, educated, rational people who have a rainbow of worldviews. Not even pure, unadulterated science can provide a uniformity of belief.

Anytime someone proclaims a scientific consensus, I chuckle to myself knowing that they’re inevitably trying to put down those who may not agree with them, in what amounts to a dogmatic attempt to purge the unbelievers. The Catholics long ago abandoned the Inquisition, leaving it these days to scientists who can’t accept the idea that intelligent design can be accepted by reasonable scientists.

Yet over the centuries, there have been many a scientific consensus shattered by new knowledge and insights. So what may seem obvious to an atheist is not so obvious to me, a Mormon. Just as they fancy they know more than I do, so do I fancy that I know more than they do. After all, have they seriously read The Book of Mormon even once, much less almost every work Joseph Smith produced? Or have they served a mission and seen their faith challenged in the real world as the play portrays and come out of it with both knowledge and faith strengthened because of it?  From their perspective, they no doubt think us Mormons are deluded. Nice, perhaps, but seriously deluded.  After all, how could any rational person accept any of Joseph Smith’s wild claims, much less accept as the word of God a book that has been changed from the original?

So what is truth?

In my study of The Book of Mormon, I ultimately received a witness that it was true because it bore positive, sweet fruits in the lives of those I saw who believed it. Personally, then, I feel a bit of a kinship with Stone and Parker as they look around, see a lot to laugh at, and then embrace the idea that what is most righteous is to treat one another with love and respect. When they say “The Book of Mormon – The Musical” is their love letter to Mormons, I believe them. It’s the best they can do, given where they’re coming from. After all, if Joseph Smith really was a prophet, where’s the comedic fodder?

But let’s just take a peek at the Joseph Smith these guys believe in, the world greatest con man, who once wrote: “When they are learned, they think they are wise.”  and “The righteousness of man is sin, because it exacteth overmuch.” Whoa – that’s some serious thinking for a con artist. In fact, if Joseph was such a brilliant con artist, how come he was never rich? And how could he leave a legacy of such nice, honest, trusted followers? It just doesn’t add up. But I quibble – I don’t expect guys like Stone and Parker to convert or see the truth. They wouldn’t be nearly as funny if they did. I like that Parker, at least, embraces the mystery. I like how he answered Charlie Rose’s question about his belief system with a smile and a shake of his head and “I have no idea.” Gotta love a guy like that.

So I would hope my fellow Mormons accept and cherish the self-proclaimed “love letter to Mormons” from these creative non-Mormons with gracious appreciation. Why take offense when none is intended? Let’s join the laughter – from what I can tell, it’s not malicious. In this cynical age, anyone who is able to discover and communicate the fundamental glory of humanity and the core principle of our religion – namely the human capacity for love – deserves admiration, not condemnation.

We Mormons are totally comfortable with the idea that each human being is by nature deeply flawed, and yet can still scale mountains of moral achievement through faith. That holds out hope for me and every other flawed human being. Otherwise, anyone who has studied the lives of the prophets Joseph Smith, Moses, Hosea, Mohammed, Brigham Young, or other flawed vessels of true revelation would necessarily conclude that God is inept at picking prophets. “By their fruits shall you know them.”

So I for one am looking forward, someday, to seeing “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway, blasphemy and profanity and sweetness and all. I expect to find in it a confirmation of my faith – that The Book of Mormon is a true and righteous work because it leads even deeply flawed men and women to a revelation of goodness and love that imbues their lives with purpose and dignity in a crazy world where nothing but goodness and love for one another makes any sense at all.  And finding that love, even for our supposed “enemies,” is the most challenging of all achievements in life.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqBSYzNPtJc&w=532&rel=0]

Good discussion on First Round Capital, current trends in tech investing, Board composition, and more.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3USqCcQmlk&w=532&rel=0]

I was almost late to this interview (getting fitted for the Sonomax earbuds took a bit longer than they said it would), so I wish I could have a do-over, but thankfully, John bailed me out a bit. What makes this video distinctive is that it’s the first time one of the Tech Xperts has featured CoolHotNot. We continue to prefer flying under the radar screen until we implement some additional features of the site we have in plan, and what little marketing we’ve done so far is for the purpose of testing response rates, engagement rates, and virality. So far so good!

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