Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Excerpt from the Conclusion of "The Meaning of Virtue"

Life, being as it is, my book on the meaning of what virtue really is, goes by starts and jumps. But it is close to done! And the goal is to be done by Christmas. But I just discovered a wealth of material on narcissism...... later.

But for now, this is the conclusion. Enjoy!

Virtue is not merely an important commandment, or an important aspect of the Gospel – it IS the central goal of Gospel. It is the Abrahamic Covenant, and the uniting of families in eternal marriage, both our immediate families, and the families of all who will repent, both in the world, and in eternity. It is what exaltation and godhood consists of.

Faith, Virtue, Knowledge..... these are the beginning of the traits we need to be partakers of the divine nature and to be like God, as are Faith, hope and charity. Charity is the pure love of Christ, and the amount of charity that we have is limited by how virtuous we are. Enduring love for either that special someone, or even for the rest of humanity necessitates actual virtue.

We are virtuous so that we might be filled with love. Pornography and non-marital sex were brought forth to destroy sealings and both loving and covenant relationships. Virtue impels us to empathy, while forcing us away from narcissism and pleasing ourselves. We can not serve two masters, for the spirit that impels us towards one, is in opposition to the other. We can not be unvirtuous without losing both the capacity to hear the still small voice of the Spirit of God, and eventually, the cries of man. Virtue is inseparable from our ability to feel. We are temples, and we must understand the body is holy.

The Fall of Man brought a change in our natures, so that unless we are continually spiritually reborn, we become carnal and sensual and devilish. Not only did it bring a separation from God, it also set man and women at variance with each other. We were given weakness, so that we might be humble, and so that we can be humble, and by our humility, draw near to Christ. We need to overcome and tame our weaknesses, so that we can filled with love. Abusing the hormonal highs of intimacy saps our passion slowly, while increasing our hunger. It focuses us on ourselves.

We must be born again, over and over again. We need to see our bodies as sacred, so that we treat them as such, and become holy ourselves. We can not treat the body lightly, either ours or anothers, without seeing ourselves or others, lightly. If we do not understand ourselves as holy, we do not comprehend ourselves as children of God. We need to leave the World behind even while we must live in the midst of it.

But virtue is not simply for its own existence – it is the proper relation of husband and wife and family. Mere celibacy is not sufficient to receive the blessings this commandment is predicated to reach. Though if we can not marry, celibacy should be joyful. Joy is not optional.
The center of the Gospel is the Family. It is the enduring unit of organization in Eternity. When we leave this life, we take nothing, but what we have learned, who we are, and the eternal bonds of family we have forged and sealed in this life. Virtue is what sustains those holy bonds, and even what makes them possible. This is the heart of what the Abrahamic Covenant is, and the central feature of our final exaltation. Our relationships are inseparable from our exaltation. No one is saved alone.

Eternal marriage is consecration at its finest. We can not fully accept Christ, without accepting this law. This is not something we can casually remove from the Gospel or alter to suit modern sensibilities, because is both the goal and the living of the Gospel. Immorality is a subtle idolatry. Virtue is worship, and is the consecration needed for exaltation. For many of us, is it the defining sacrifice (Abrahamic Trial) where we truly give our all and like Abraham, put everything we cherish on the alter. This moment of personal Gethsemane is something we all must pass through, if we wish to become like the Son of God.

Virtue has everything to do with coming back into the presence of The Father and The Son.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is Casual Sex Destroying Empathy?

There is an interesting article by Susan Walsh on her dating advice site - Is Casual Sex Destroying Empathy?

A recurring theme in conversations about dating is the general lack of empathy between the sexes. Women feel that men just want to use and discard them, with little consideration of their emotional needs. Men feel that women focus on just a few alpha males, ignoring all the good guys who are relationship material. (The alpha males have no complaints.)
I’d never thought specifically about empathy vs. narcissism but it turns out they’re technical opposites. The Empathy Deficit, an article in last Sunday’s Boston Globe, explores the rise of narcissism in relation to the decline of empathy among college students. Keith O’Brien begins by pointing out that despite young people being more wired to one another than ever before, there’s a lack of emotional connectedness showing up in studies. We know more about one another than in any previous era, but we care less. A new study at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that college students are 40% less empathetic than they were 30 years ago, with most of the decline occurring in the last ten years. (emphasis mine)
And why is this? In short, the sexual market place being what it is, people are rewarded for their narcissism.

The contemporary narcissism epidemic is well documented. My Are You Dating a Narcissist? post is one of my most frequently read, and still receives comments after more than a year. I also get many hits on the 20 Identifiable Traits of a Female Narcissist post. And we know that male narcissists are often very successful with women – in a sexual marketplace that rewards narcissism without limits, it is hardly surprising that men would respond to those incentives by cultivating traits that women find sexually attractive.
Since the definition of hooking up means “having zero expectations of further contact,” there’s little incentive to know one’s sexual partner, and if we don’t know them, we can hardly be expected to have an emotional response to their distress....... Researchers don’t believe that college students have lost the capacity for caring. It’s more a case of the incentives rewarding not caring.
Narcissism is significant because it is the root cause of the entitlement complex our culture seems to have become caught up in, as well as a loss of empathy, and obsession with materialism and greed.

This is the real meaning of the verse, "Bridle your passions that you might be filled with love".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Transhumanism & Spirituality conference in Salt Lake City

A little off topic, but....

This Friday is the 2010 Transhumanism & Spirituality conference in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah on 1 October 2010. I am very excited and will be in attendance. I invite all of you as well!

When: Friday, 1 October 2010, 9:00am to 5:00pm MDT

Where: University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Marriott Library, Gould Auditorium

What: At the Transhumanism and Spirituality Conference 2010, we will explore the intersection of religion, science, spirituality and technology, from a transhumanist perspective. Transhumanism advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities, and observes that if our rapid technological evolution continues to accelerate then humanity will become a new species before the end of the 21st century.

Who: Keynote speakers for the conference include former director of the World Transhumanist Association, James Hughes; author of the Transhumanist Manifesto, Max More; and renowned LDS scholar and author, Terryl Givens. Sponsors of the conference are the Mormon Transhumanist Association and the Transhumanist Alliance of Utah.

How: Register online ( for a discount and reserved seating! Online registration is $50 ($25 for students) until 29 September. Registration on the day of the conference will be $80. Students with ID will be admitted to the conference free of charge, as space permits. Students wishing reserved seating are encouraged to register at the discounted student rate.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Whose company we prefer...

Often times when I am getting some work done, such as grading papers, or cleaning up my room or desk, I have a little bit of television on. Technically, I watch most of it over my computer, but you get the idea. One thing has been troubling me a bit. In some shows some of the protagonists are not great people. Case in point, I watched a couple of episodes of "The Gates" while I got some grading done tonight. Not bad in quality... but the premise is vampires in suburbia... and these are not the penitent vampires of Twilight. No sex scenes in any the episodes I saw, though I suspect they may ramp it up (vamp it up?) as time goes on.

Now, my query is this, even though nothing happened, are these the kind of people I want to be around in eternity? If not, why spend time with them here on earth? If we prefer the company of the telestial in this life (even if we commit no sin!), then why won't we prefer their company in the next life?

In the next life, most of the judging will be done by ourselves, and we will end up in the kingdom we are most comfortable in. For example, Doctrine and Covenants 76:103 tells us that 'whoremongers' will inherit the telestial kingdom... the least of the three degrees of glory. But what is a whoremonger? It is a person who consorts with whores. That does not necessarily mean sex! It may simply mean they are the kind of company a person keeps.

Who do we spend our time around? Whose company do we prefer and whose company do we settle for?

These are important questions because in the end.... we will end up where we most prefer, and where we have most spent our lives in this life, in mortality.

This is reminds us how important knowing people at church is, and how important it is for it to be a community. Likewise, this reminds us how important frequently attending the temple is.

Monday, June 28, 2010

First draft of the book is DONE!

Late, late Saturday night I finished the first draft of "The Meaning of Virtue". There have been too many interruptions to count, but progress is happening!

And since I am a bit excited by this, here is the beginning of the current draft of chapter 6. Enjoy!

Thus far, we have spoken in bits and pieces about what is virtuous and what is not. Here, however, we are going directly to the root of the matter.

So often we Chastity and virtue are spoke of in church, is it usually in the context of what should not be done. Yet, while it is not often enunciated as virtue per se, the General Authorities have spent a lot of time discussing what we should do. If Faith is believing and acting on what we know, then virtue is entering into and honoring covenant relationships. And the most sacred of relationships, other than that between self and God, is between husband and wife (and God). The plan of salvation is a great cycle that begins and ends with a married couple.

The crux of Virtue is Family. Virtue is what sustains and establishes the family both now, and in eternity.

Christ does not save us as a “lone wolf”. He is marvelously emphatic when he says, “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” Likewise, it is with startling emphasis that He says “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20, see also D&C 6:32)

Christ's great (and profound) Intercessory Prayer in John, prior to his arrest and crucifixion talks much about the disciples becoming one with the Father, as Christ is one with Him.

Perfect unity, and organization is a defining characteristic of both the Father and the Son, and all the society of angels.

As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise.”. To receive these greatest blessings, we must have, as Stephen Covey would put it, synergy and interdependence. This is in stark contrast to co-dependence that is the mark of a bad relationship, or to the much lauded independence of those unburdened with spouse or children. This synergy between differing natures is a necessary and essential part of our exaltation.

When the Earth was created, Adam was placed in the midst of all God's creations. Adam was given the task of naming each animal, but it is telling that none of them could work as his counterpart. Even among all the vast creations of the Almighty on this sphere, Adam could find none that were comparable to him. In a very real sense, Adam was alone.

Once Adam had the opportunity to come to this realization, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone”. This line alone, is difficult to over-emphasize. Indeed, Adam was alone, and no other thing, animal, job, hobby could alleviate that loneliness, and none are meant to. Notwithstanding the presence of angels and being in the presence of God himself, yet God declared that was “not good”.

“It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a help meet for him”. First, let me clarify, there is no such word as 'helpmeet'. The NIV phrases that line, “I will make a helper suitable for him”. Young's Literal Translation put it, “Not good for the man to be alone, I do make to him an helper -- as his counterpart.”

Lest I be unclear, God created Eve as a counterpart, an equal companion to Adam. The word used is literally, 'corresponding to'. The Hebrew phrasing is in some ways reminiscent of yin and yang - opposites which complement and enhance instead of oppose each other. This is likewise reminiscent of 1 Cor. 11:11, “neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord”.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fathers Day and the End of Civilization

For just a moment, let's think about what Men are good for, and let's look at what Society around us has to say.

The Atlantic helps us celebrate with the articles, "The End of Men" and "Are Fathers Necessary?".

A new video game is out called, "Hey Baby", where you as a woman can take FPS vengeance on anyone with the nerve to make a catcall. Video here.

Women have recently become the majority gender in the workforce, partly due to the particularly harsh effects of the recession on male unemployment. But don't expect any pity from political cartoons. has an article misrepresenting a study done at Boston College, entitled "Why Do Dads Lie on Surveys about Fatherhood?". And while it does use a study to show something that the studies authors clarified (in a comment after the article) that their study did not say that, I do have to give it credit for showing how underappeciated Fathers are in society and the workplace.

While on our side of the fence, we have Feminist Mormon Housewives with the article Happy Deadbeat Dads Day, with the improbable story of a real nutjob. But seriously, how many guys at their worst would even spend so much as an afternoon looking for the Three Nephites?

Now, I don't expect everyone to be negative on Fathers Day, and I think it is a waste of time for men to complain anyway. So why bring any of this up?

A lot of the deterioration of society has been because a break down of the family. It does not take much TV watching to see fathers portrayed as stupid and foolish, and their wives as smart and savvy. Divorce laws have been tilted so far in favor of women that women initiate ~3/4 (no less than 2/3 at least) of divorces and can usually expect alimony, child support and custody. And how do these fatherless children behave?

A few statistics for you -

According to one study, 53% of inmates at state correctional facilities grew up without the benefits of a two parent household.
B. Chapman, Fairness For Families: An Organing Theme for the Administration's Social Policies, 2 The Journal of Family and Culture 23 (1986).

A survey of rapists by Raymond A. Knight and Robert A. Prentky demonstrated that 60 % came from female-headed homes, 70 % of 'violent' rapists came from female-headed homes and 80 % of those with 'displaced anger' came from female-headed (read single-parent) homes.
R. Knight and R. Prentky, The Developmental Antecedents and Adult Adaptations of Rapist Subtypes, 14 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR 403-426 (1987).

A study from 2000 found that nearly 90% of the change in violent crime rates from 1973 to 1995 could be accounted for by the change in percentages of out-of-wedlock births.
Mackey and Coney 2000, p. 352

While another study concluded,
"[A]n increase of 13% in female-headed households would produce a doubling
of the offense rate."
Osgood and Chambers 2000, p. 103

As a society we have eliminated every incentive for marriage and fatherhood for men and there is going to be hell to pay for it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

chapter 5 teaser

I am behind on blogging AND my book... but here is a teaser for chapter 5.

Virtue is tied to our ability to feel. In deed, it is the worst offenders, rapists and abusers and murderers of the worst sort who have lost the ability to feel, to empathize with others, and their victims in particular. On the other hand, the ability of the Father and Son to comprehend all things we suffer, and they suffer with us. The ability to empathize is a trait common to all righteous men and women.

Empathy is important because it is necessary to us to be able to feel joy. So many of the 'little' indiscretions of virtue are hazardous because they dull our ability to feel, or at least the ability to feel as deeply and passionately as we could.

The ability to feel is important because joy is the measure of our creation and our reason to existence. If we can not feel, we can not fulfill the reason we were created for. The result of Laman and Lemuel's sins were that they were past feeling. Likewise,

Likewise, the rules given in the Word of Wisdom pertain to our bodies and their ability to feel and act. By governing and bridling them within the boundaries the Lord has set, we enhance our ability to feel joy. These boundaries and rules for the word of wisdom are the laws that pertain to taking care of our body.

In fact, one of the original Seven Deadly Sins, was Gluttony. It was not that food was evil, nor that Christ himself did not partake of food, but that we must govern that passion, or it will govern us.

Those who have abused illegal drugs in search of a high, in the end, can feel nothing at all. And while, the chemicals associated with sexual passion are natural, that is all the greater reason to obey Him who is the Creator of our bodies and spirits.

In fact, it is by taking our sexual passions out of the context of a permanent relationship, that we weaken our passions, and paradoxically, make it more addictive.

It is God who has created all these things. He created them because they are good and enjoyable, but like all potent things, they must be used with care, and in the proper way. That means we do not dull or ignore our feelings, but nor do we allow ourselves to carelessly act upon our passions. Our passions, if acted on without self-control, are destructive and self-defeating.

Now, I hasten to add, that in our age of excess, that as whole, I admire nuns. Their dedication is admirable, even if we disagree on some doctrinal points. Kathleen Norris, in her book, “The Cloister Walk” quotes a prioress, “Celibacy is not an excuse for being unhappy or uncharitable, to stuff feelings down, to become angry, or an iceberg…The worst sin against celibacy is to pretend to not have any affections at all. To fall in love is celibacy at work…Celibacy is not a vow to repress our feelings, it is a vow to put all our feelings, acceptable or not, close to our hearts and bring them into consciousness through prayer…the worst thing that we can do is to deny our true feelings and become rigid, afraid to relate.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Christ decended below all things

"It is written of the Saviour that he descended below all things. If he did he descended in capacity. I will merely tell you what I believe on this point. I believe that there never was a child born on this earth with any less capacity than dwelt in the child that was born in a manger of his mother Mary. I believe, according to the natural ability which he received from his mother and from his supposed father Joseph, that there never was a child that descended lower in capacity, or that knew less. Yet, according to the history given of him, his power of mind developed with such wonderful rapidity that when he was but a few years old he propounded questions to the learned doctors of his day which they could not answer, and answered questions propounded to him which the querists could not answer. He increased in wisdom and knowledge, and came into communication with his Father. The Being whom we call Father was the Father of the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was also his Father pertaining to the flesh. Infidels and Christians, make all you can of this statement. The Bible, which all Christians profess to believe, reveals that fact, and it reveals the truth upon that point, and I am a witness of its truth. The Apostles who were personally acquainted with Jesus Christ did know and understand what they wrote, and they wrote the truth. (Journal of Discourses, 7:286)"

It is one of my fondest testimonies that Christ endured all that we have suffered and that he understands first hand how to overcome all temptation. Heb. 2:18;4:15; Alma 7:11-13

PostScript: I am dreadfully behind on my blogging.... but the book I am writing that has the same name as this blog is almost done... could be done this week. It will take a bit of refining.... but it is almost done.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Children mean Sacrifice

Much of the trend towards self-centeredness in marriage is evident in attitudes toward children, and how much of the developed world avoids them. And in that vein, the words of Joseph Smith, the prophet:

"The women of the latter-day saints are more beloved of the living God than any other women, because they are willing to bear His children." (The Prophet Joseph Smith by Truman G. Madsen)

“the time would come when none but the women of the Latter-day Saints would be willing to bear children.” (Young Woman’s Journal, Nov. 1890, 81)

This is actually severe enough that some developed countries have a negative growth rate, and the world population is soon slated to start shrinking. But that is a post for another day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Better to be a Pro-Family Slut, than a Anti-Family Zoramite

Mind you, neither one is good. But let's compare it to the parable of the Two Sons.

"But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' The son answered, 'No, I won't go,' but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, 'You go,' and he said, 'Yes, sir, I will.' But he didn't go. Which of the two was obeying his father?" They replied, "The first, of course." Then Jesus explained his meaning: "I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn't believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him." Matt. 21:28-32 (NIV)
Why would I bring this up this way? I blogged just a bit ago about the rapidly declining marriage rate, for the nation at large. So many of us simply don't see this for a number of reasons
  1. The Church is very family oriented, and so are the people we associate with, as a whole.
  2. We tend to think of people as being like ourselves.
  3. Most of us (or so it seems) are already married, so we don't think about its effects.
However, too often, we unconsciously absorb the underlying attitudes in the world, even when we don't adopt their behavior. And what does this have to do with this parable?

The entire point of virtue is families. And if we miss that point, we have completely failed at virtue. This is not an idle question. We are as capable of sins by omission as we are sins of commission. And that means husband and wife.

PS. This is not a pass for screwing around, undue haste, or guilt because you are trying and can't. It is simply a reminder on the massive significance of marriage.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Increasingly Antagonistic War of the Sexes: The State of our Unions

The University of Virginia National Marriage Project yearly puts out a report on marriage and divorce called, The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America. And things looks bad. Of course, what everyone seems to talk about, the divorce rate, is on a gradual decline. And that, by itself, is good. But the marriage rate is not only declining, it is doing so at an accelerating rate.

First thing to notice (pic 1, courtesy of Family in America) , is that the number of marriages is decreasing. Unless you are saving yourself for marriage, virtually every reason for marriage is now obsolete. Perhaps you say, those things that denigrated the single and out-of-wedlock were bad, but the alternative isn't looking so hot either.

Using this graph, a back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that in 35 years, the marriage rate will reach 0. Of course, there will be a few weirdos like Mormons and Catholics who will keep on regardless. Already, it is very nearly broken in some cultural circles : see "Marriage is for White People".

Elsewhere, the last 30 years of marriage rates were trend line fitted and found to be accelerating at a rate that gives us about 20 years, give or take, before marriage as a cultural institution is effectively dead for the masses. Men and Women have effectively decided, "Why buy the cow if the milk is free?"

This makes the entire divorce hand-wringing seem like it is quite missing the point. I could point out a host of other alarming graphs and statistics, but this doesn't give you significant pause, nothing else will either.

The Pew Research Center doesn't have much good to say either - putting those who are actively seeking a relationship as a minority.

I see no solution for this or the ills it will bring with it, but the Gospel itself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mormons Honor Tolkien « MORMON SOPRANO

"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to. (J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, March 1941)"

PS. More on the War of the Genders coming soon!