Monday, June 05, 2006

LDS authority and gay marriage

here is another editorial from the salt lake tribune. this is by jeffrey nielsen, a (soon to be former?) instructor of philosophy at byu. once again, i am posting it here without permission.

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The leaders of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently spoke out against gay marriage and asked members to encourage their U.S. senators to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting homosexual marriage.
    As a member, I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as LDS general authorities; however, I reject the premise that they are thereby immune from thoughtful questioning or benevolent criticism. A perfect God does not require blind obedience, nor does He need unthinking loyalty. Freedom of conscience is a divine blessing, and our privilege to express it is a moral imperative.
    When the church hierarchy speaks on a public issue and requests that members follow, it is difficult indeed if an individual feels the content of their message would make bad law and is unethical as well. I believe opposing gay marriage and seeking a constitutional amendment against it is immoral.
    Currently the preponderance of scientific research strongly suggests that same-sex attraction is biologically based. Therefore, it is as natural as a heterosexual orientation, even if rare. It seems it might be caused by environmental conditions in the mother's womb, before birth, triggering the DNA to give the fetus a homosexual orientation. Neither the mother nor the child has any choice in the matter; it is a completely natural process.
    Truly, God would be unjust if He were the creator of a biological process that produced such uncommon, yet perfectly natural results, and then condemned the innocent person to a life of guilt, while denying him or her the ordinary privileges and fulfillment of the deep longing in all of us for family and a committed, loving relationship.
    Even if the scientific evidence does not yet establish this beyond reasonable doubt, it seems that virtuous moderation and loving kindness require us to exercise caution before making constitutionally binding discrimination against a whole class of people based only on fear and superstition. In fact, when we examine the statements opposing gay marriage, we find few reasonable arguments. It is not enough to claim that we should oppose gay marriage because historically it has never been recognized. This is the fallacy of appealing to tradition, which was also used to fight against civil rights and equal treatment of women.
    Further, to say that gay marriage will destroy traditional marriage and the family without giving any reasons why is the fallacy of appealing to fear. Indeed, once you get past the emotion, it is quite an unfounded claim. How could the union of two committed and loving people negatively affect my marriage? I believe that quite the contrary is true; namely, legalizing gay marriage reinforces the importance of committed relationships and would strengthen the institution of marriage.
    Ultimately, any appeal to religious authority to create law is misplaced. Our Founding Fathers were inspired by their study of history to separate constitutional authority from religious belief, recognizing as they did the potential for tyranny in unchecked religious influence. In our pluralistic democracy, attempting to restrict an individual's rights and privileges based upon a religious claim is a dangerous rejection of our Founding Fathers' wise insight, and it should be unacceptable to all Americans.
    As for the statement by church leaders that God has ordained marriage to be a union between a man and a woman, I find it quite troubling. It sidesteps the role of polygamy in past and future church teachings. It seems to me that if church leaders at one point in time, not very long ago, told members that the union of one man with several women was important for eternal salvation, but now leads them to believe that God only recognizes the union of one man to one woman, then some explanation is required. (I am not endorsing polygamy.)
    God is not the author of incoherence or injustice, but we humans often are. We in the LDS Church must be more honest about our history, including the past and future practice of polygamy in our official doctrine. This will be difficult, for it will reveal that we have been less than truthful in our public relations, and it will show our inconsistency with current statements opposing gay marriage.
    We can no longer afford to teach only what is useful and hope people won't discover what is true. In this day of easy Internet access, a person can find more real history of the LDS Church in 30 minutes online than the same person would in a lifetime studying approved church materials.
    This is not right. Too many individuals have suffered a loss of faith when they were forced to choose between the truth or their family after innocently discovering the discrepancy between genuine history and the official story of the church.
    We need to trust the membership of the church and treat them as adults, as equals. We are a church of brothers and sisters, not one of the few privileged leaders and the many subordinate followers. There might be a diversity of roles and responsibilities from prophet to Sunday School teacher, but we are all peers with one another and equally irreplaceable in God's thoughts and affections.

32 comments:

  1. Wow! Yeah, I'd be surprised if they allow him to stick around long at BYU, though I agree with just about everything he said.

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  2. This guy... sheesh...

    Well, he's definitely a philosophy professor: splitting hairs over terminology, pointing out logical fallacies, ignoring reality --it's all in there.

    I don't think he'll get fired. It's obvious he's just spouting.

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  3. I do not understand this man you quote. He says he sustains his leader. I had an impression that mormon peoples upheld their authority's decisions and kept a united front even if there were questions in their head.
    I know what this man says about not following without seeing and I think this is good. But I thought that to sustain one was to always back that one up even if there was a disagreements of the mind.
    I do not know much about mormons but I think it is fine when a body grows or changes. Maybe they did to marry differently but they have decided it is not fine now. That is a fine thing. It shows that they grow up and learn. History is also a fine thing but people can get stuck in it I believe. It is good to see to future also. I have no computation of gay marriage but I think to sustain someone means to back them up even with questions in a mind and that was my comment to leave. Good day.

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  4. Lin, a lot of Mormon peoples share those same understandings, but this man is actually right. Mormon leaders actually discourage blind obedience. To sustain a leader is more about helping them do their job. There is room for thoughtful discussion, and I believe his tone is exactly appropriate.

    But that's where the agreement ends.

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  5. Silent Observer: Lin makes a point, the author of the article "attacks" The Family Proclomation. A document given to us by the First Presidency and Quorum of the twelve as direct revelation from God. If we sustain them as prophets seers and revelators, and they say "God says...", and we then discard it and say that it is their opinion and God would never say that etc. ~ a bit of hypocracy in my opinion.

    But in the realm of splitting hairs, falacie obsession, etc. Can we really expect anything else?

    ryan o

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  6. The Family Proclomation. A document given to us by the First Presidency and Quorum of the twelve as direct revelation from God.

    no it's not.

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  7. I just really don't understand why the Church is so careful to stay out of other political issues, but gay marriage is such a monumental threat that they have to go as far as telling members to contact their senators.

    Somebody please explain to me why this is such a threat to their marriage and its sanctity? If any changes are made I imagine my wife and I will be just fine.

    We live in a pluralistic society. Why can't we live and let live?
    Are gay people harming any one by marrying each other? Are we all going to have to become gay just because they are?

    On another note, silent observer is right when he says blind obedience is the wrong response from members of the church. The philosophy professor seemed respectful to me; he just disagreed out of conscience. How can you fault someone for that?

    Lest we forget, the Mormon Church was founded because of a sincere question from one who refuse to blindly follow authority.

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  8. Constantly before us is the maka-feke of immorality. Almost everywhere we turn, there are those who would have us believe that what was once considered immoral is now acceptable. I think of the scripture, "Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness."1 Such is the maka-feke of immorality. We are reminded in the Book of Mormon that chastity and virtue are precious above all things.

    When temptation comes, remember the wise counsel of the Apostle Paul, who declared, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."2

    Next, the evil one also dangles before us the maka-feke of pornography. He would have us believe that the viewing of pornography really hurts no one. How applicable is Alexander Pope’s classic, An Essay on Man:

    Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
    As to be hated needs but to be seen;
    Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
    We first endure, then pity, then embrace.3

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  9. Here's what I think:
    This professor spends about two seconds affirming his faith in the LDS church and the rest of the time denouncing it. It sounds like he should figure out what he believes first.

    Any time something that was once frowned upon in society becomes accepted it becomes more popular. Moral value aside, consider that as more revealing swimsuits have become more acceptable they've become more popular. My guess is that LDS leaders are opposing the issue because to them a homosexual lifestyle is not acceptable and if that lifestyle is institutionalized it will become more popular.

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  10. Thank you for posting this Loyd. This is an issue that I struggle with. I don’t have any personal convictions against gay marriage and I don’t buy into any of the arguments that I’ve heard against it. But in this case I’m torn between my loyalty to the church and my personals beliefs. The LDS Church usually doesn’t take political stances, which is something that I’ve always appreciated as it leaves me free to interpret my own beliefs, but this issue has thrown me for a loop. This article rang true to me in many ways. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only active member of the church who feels this way.

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. I wrote out an extremely long comment, but it took up too much room, and so I reposted it on my blog. If you want to read it, check out:

    http://blogdorthejourninator.blogspot.com/

    Wow, this really looks like one of those automated comments.

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  13. Okay, I'm gonna jump in here...I guess no one has a problem with logical fallacies then. How bout this one, "You are all wrong b/c you're Mormon." Wait, I'm Mormon too so I guess I would be wrong as well. And Loyd is from what I have heard. What's my point? No one is addressing the arguments that the professor made. Is he wrong b/c he's a philosophy prof?

    He makes atleast 4 assertions about the gay marriage campaign.

    1. One can sustain church leaders and still publicly disagree out of conscience. Is conscience itself sufficent to warrent public criticism?

    2. If homosexuality is biological then it should not be considered a sin. This really steps on people's toes because it forces us to consider why behaviors are sinful. If he is wrong about this then why?

    3. Arguments based upon fear and tradition alone are not sound arguments. Cmon... he atleast has a point there, if arguments based on tradition were sound then Mormonism would necessarily be false since it radically goes against traditional Christianity.

    4. It is incosistent to argue that a man can be married to more than one woman and also say that the only valid marriage is between one man and one woman. Anyone who can tell me why that is not an inconsistency please speak up.

    I actually do think that there are legitimate criticisms that can be made against Neilson's position. Russ has a good post that does just that. I must admit though I agree with much of what Neilson said, but then again I'm a philosophy student so I must be "splitting hairs and ignoring reality."

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  14. lin:

    I had an impression that mormon peoples upheld their authority's decisions and kept a united front even if there were questions in their head.

    there are many who hold this view (such as my friend ryan), but there many who believe in using our god-given brains to think things out for ourselves.


    joe:

    I just really don't understand why the Church is so careful to stay out of other political issues, but gay marriage is such a monumental threat that they have to go as far as telling members to contact their senators.

    the church is largely run by public relations. president hinckley is a p.r. man. he's been doing that for the last 70 years for the church. the hierarchy knows that the amendment won't pass. it's a p.r. attempt to once again show how 'christian'. all the other supposed christians are doing it, we should do it to.


    aaron:

    This professor spends about two seconds affirming his faith in the LDS church and the rest of the time denouncing it. It sounds like he should figure out what he believes first.

    i'm pretty sure he knows better than you what he believes. you can disagree with policies and actions made by human church leaders and still believe in the 'church'.

    Any time something that was once frowned upon in society becomes accepted it becomes more popular.

    like equality of race and sex, right?

    Moral value aside, consider that as more revealing swimsuits have become more acceptable they've become more popular.

    should we go back to more strict victorian ethics and start wearing ankle-legth swimming suits? are topless tribal natives immodest? this is really a whole other subject, but modesty is very subjective.

    My guess is that LDS leaders are opposing the issue because to them a homosexual lifestyle is not acceptable and if that lifestyle is institutionalized it will become more popular.

    perhaps, but i still feel it is more of a p.r. attempt.


    becca:

    I’m torn between my loyalty to the church and my personals beliefs.

    the church is imperfect. moroni and joseph smith affirmed that prophets are imperfect. when choosing between your relationship with god and a mediator for that relationship, choose the former.


    johnny:

    my biggest disagreement with nielsen was his appeal to biology. i think it's still too much of a fuzzy stance (i don't think homosexuality is biological), and i don't see any reason to need to appeal to biological (or psychological) explanations of homosexuality.

    perhaps aaron was right and the church is actually making a statement against homosexuality and not necessarily against the supposed threat to the family (i was watching the senate debate this yesterday on c-span and was reassured that arguements for the amendment as protecting the family are pathetic). if this is the case, then perhaps something that must be asked is whether homosexuality is really a sin. as i have said elsewhere, mormonism has aligned itself too much with traditional christianity where sin is understood primarily as an individual act that is made against god instead of an act made against another person. if a loving and consensual homosexual couple wants to express that love (as heterosexual couples are able to do without sinning) is any harm being done? even though i still have an ick factor and think it's pretty gross, there act is really not harming me.

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  15. In case anyone's interested, one of the latest court cases about this issue is by the New Jersey appellate court:

    http://www.lambdalegal.org/binary-data/LAMBDA_PDF/pdf/470.pdf

    The New Jersey Supreme Court is due to render a decision anytime now. This is a good reproduction of all the legal arguments for and against.

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  16. That didn't work so well:

    http://www.lambdalegal.org/
    binary-data/LAMBDA_PDF/pdf/470.pdf

    I can't get this address all together. Try this.

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  17. the hierarchy knows that the amendment won't pass. it's a p.r. attempt to once again show how 'christian'.

    That makes a lot of sense given Russell Nelsons appearance with Bush and other religious leaders. I can see the motive for PR, but at what cost? In a utilitarian calculus the PR is definately worth the price because it only alienates gay members and the few "liberal" members that are left. Unfortunately a utilitarian calculus doesn't mesh well with leaving the 99 to find 1.

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  18. An intelligently written, cogent response to Nielsen's op-ed was written here

    http://onlifeandlybberty.blogspot.com/

    I have no ties to the author, but thought it would be interesting to all of you.

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  19. anon:

    thanks for the heads up. i wrote up a reply on his blog. you can read it here.

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  20. I miss your input on Provo Pulse... Today they posted an article on this and it made me think of the good ol days. I still enjoy reading your blog just as much

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  21. ELM: thanks. not sure if you heard, but mason decided to ban me from posting on provopulse. oh well. i spend more time with the 'big boys (and girls)' now at bycommonconsent, times and seasons, and millenialstar - though the latter tends to be even more frustrating that provopulse.

    i think i responded well to lybbrty's attempt at a refutation. hopefully some of the provopulsers will read it and remember me.

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  22. Anonymous said:

    Next, the evil one also dangles before us the maka-feke of pornography. He would have us believe that the viewing of pornography really hurts no one.

    Who said anything about pornography? Entirely different topic.

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  23. Perhaps the anonymous individual has been watching too much of the product he condemns and it has fried his brain

    Jake

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  24. Narrator- I really enjoyed reading your post. Well done. My question for you is the following:

    How will legalizing SSM be beneficial to our country?

    Also, do you consider participating in homosexual relationships to be a sin?

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  25. How will legalizing SSM be beneficial to our country?

    by benefitting persons in our country. i guess one could also argue that legitimizing heterosexual relationship would lessen promisquity among homosexuals, create more homes from children without parents, etc.

    Also, do you consider participating in homosexual relationships to be a sin?

    only if i'd consider a similar heterosexual relationship a sin. i still think two guys together is icky, but that's another matter

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  26. Loyd~

    there are many who hold this view (such as my friend ryan), but there many who believe in using our god-given brains to think things out for ourselves.

    Why do you make it out that I'm a mindless robot??? Do you really feel so insecure in your opinion that you need to set up a false acqusation on my part, and then attack it? Isn't that a fallicy??? I believe in a living prophet who speaks with God. I believe that President Gordon B. Hinckley is that man. When President Hinckley and the other 14 men that I have choosen to support get up and say "watch out" ... maybe we should "watch out". No, I don't understand all the reason's why the church has decided to step up on this political issue. But the fact that it allows so many other political issues to slide, yet chooses this one should raise some interesting points in and of itself. God has mingled politics and religion all through out history. It's all over all the standard works. It's not something new, it's no PR stunt, it's not "old men trying to espouse thier idology" etc.

    I use the term "philosophical dance" b/c I think philospohy as it is currently studied is a joke. It's supposed to help you "think". Yet all I ever read on your page equates to this formula: if you think like me, then your thinking, if you don't think like me then you don't think and you just follow the crowd mindlessly. It's seriously saddens me. I think a lot. And one of the things I know is that I don't know as much as my Prophet. So when it comes to issues that are extremely long lasting, and has an inpact that reaches far beyond my scope, I'll default to the man who communicates with God. I THINK he knows a lot more than I do.

    Is that what they teach you in school Loyd? Hey, if someone doesn't agree with you, then they are wrong. You are starting to sound more and more like those "hypocrites" that you so adimently oppose. You espouse your ideology about freedom to do and say and think whatever and whenever. Yet as soon as someone thinks differently than you, and presents a different view point, you toss it aside and claim "they don't think" ... I had so much more respect for you than that, I thought you were above that, I really did.

    ryan

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  27. I use the term "philosophical dance" b/c I think philospohy as it is currently studied is a joke.

    that has been pretty clear (though unstated) in most of your comments. i have a hard time respected your comments when it is is obvious that you do not respect what you are commenting on. there are many people who take your position (ie. don't question, and accept on faith). that's fine. i respect that. i honestly do, but as soon as they start trying to belittle my thoughts because i do not hold their particular brand of faith... well that's when my respect quickly fades.

    Why do you make it out that I'm a mindless robot???

    i never said that you are a mindless robot. i was responding to lin who thought that all mormons accepted what their leaders said without questioning them. i was merely associating you with the set of mormons who when having to choose between the words of the prophet and our god-given brains to think things out for ourselves, would choose the former. actually, that may be incorrect. i don't think this choice is possible because i am pretty sure you are the type that accepts the words of the prophets prima facie without even giving room for the possibility of questioning... i could be wrong there. either way, you have shown that you are the type that would not ever place your own thinking above that of a leading authority in the hierarchy.

    I believe in a living prophet who speaks with God. I believe that President Gordon B. Hinckley is that man.

    key words: he is that man. look, you hold up the president of the church to a position of near infallibilty. you hold him up as if he sits down with jesus for breakfast and discusses the inworkings of the church over a bowl of honey-nut cheerios. he doesn't. moroni himself said that he could be wrong about things - HE SAID THIS ABOUT THE SCRIPTURES! if the foundational scriptures could be wrong because of the limited failings of humanity, why hold the leader of the church to this standard today?

    But the fact that it allows so many other political issues to slide, yet chooses this one should raise some interesting points in and of itself.

    i think it does raise some very interesting points, but it is hardly proof that it is god's will.

    Yet all I ever read on your page equates to this formula: if you think like me, then your thinking, if you don't think like me then you don't think and you just follow the crowd mindlessly.

    wrong. i disagree with the silent observer all the time (pretty much every time), however i think that he actually thinks about these issues - deeply.

    one of the things I know is that I don't know as much as my Prophet. So when it comes to issues that are extremely long lasting, and has an inpact that reaches far beyond my scope, I'll default to the man who communicates with God. I THINK he knows a lot more than I do..

    why do you know (or 'think') that? in the april 2003 general conference, president hinckley got up and appealed to the military intelligence of our country as justification for the attack on iraq. when hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk, when a prophet of god was needed perhaps more than ever to speak out against war, gordon hinckley appealed to george bush's f*ing false intelligence.

    Is that what they teach you in school Loyd? Hey, if someone doesn't agree with you, then they are wrong.

    i obviously think i'm right about it. if i thought i was wrong, i wouldn't be writing it out. my believing i'm right about something means that i believe that the contradictory argument is wrong. else, it would be meaningless to say i'm right. believe it or not, i'm open to the idea that what i think is right may be shown to be wrong, but it would be weak of me to secede my position without defending it - that is typically how i strengthen my arguements.

    i'm sorry that i offended you ryan.

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  28. i have a hard time respected your comments when it is is obvious that you do not respect what you are commenting on

    don't respect what I'm commenting on ... I only comment on things I care about. I read your blog almost daily, and yet I don't post ... b/c I usualy don't care enough to. I only post when I do care.

    they start trying to belittle my thoughts

    when have I done this? I only meant to comment and point out area's where I don't agree. If I have belittled you please forgive me, let me know how I'm doing it, and I will do my best to avoid it in the future.

    i never said that you are a mindless robot

    your right, you never said it. But you heavily insinuated it. The comment on how I just followed while other used their god-given minds etc. ... Don't try to cover this up, and argue a point, you meant, quite heavily, that I was a mindless robot that didn't think for myself.

    I don't believe President Hinkley discusses every inner-workings with Christ. However, if the church is quite on MANY points, and then speaks up about this. Especially after releasing two very important documents from the church, makes me think (I do think), that maybe this is an important issue that was discussed with God. And as I said, I don't know the full reaching implications of this issue. But a man that I respect, and to a degree, desire to immulate, speaks up on an issue, I listen. You do the same with the people you study. If that is the case, then I could say that you're simply a mindless robot following the teachings of those that you read/study. But I always thought more of you than that. I figured that you took their teachings and made them your own. I do the same. Don't think for one instance that I don't question the world around me. I choose my God-given agency to shrug my shoulders and say, I don't know it all and b/c I have spent hours reading his teachings, I'll default to a man I respect and admire - president hinkley.

    gordon hinckley appealed to george bush's f*ing false intelligence

    President Hinkey, and President Bush -- please at least have enough respect to give them their proper titles. If you can't do that, it says a lot about your character. I have a problem with this statement. Could you please do me a huge favor, if you can do this I will SERIOUSLY rethink my entire stance on this issue. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me which major country in the world, who's intelligence didn't think Sadam had WMD. Please tell me who in the UN was standing up and saying, no, they don't have WMD. Infact, please tell me how it wasn't possible for Sadam to get these WMD out of his country before and during the war. His top military advisor's said he had them, the entire world's intelligence community said he had them. If there was a failure in intelligence, then the world failed.

    Believing that you are right and defending your position is a wonderful thing. Belittling someone and insuating that they aren't "thinking" and have no back bone b/c the would rather follow their leader on an issue that they don't know the ins and outs of ... it's sad. Please, be better than that Loyd.

    ryan

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  29. Don't try to cover this up, and argue a point, you meant, quite heavily, that I was a mindless robot that didn't think for myself.

    i'm sure you do plenty of thinking ryan, however when it comes down to choosing between accepting the prophet's words at face value and what your own god-given ability to think says, you will defer to the former. if i am wrong, please tell me.

    But a man that I respect, and to a degree, desire to immulate, speaks up on an issue, I listen. You do the same with the people you study. If that is the case, then I could say that you're simply a mindless robot following the teachings of those that you read/study.

    i listen. however if i disagree, i reject it. i do this to both sides. most papers i write for school consist of me critiquing the philosophers i am reading.

    I figured that you took their teachings and made them your own.

    i try to dig down and understand them. if i think they are wrong, i reject them.

    President Hinkey, and President Bush -- please at least have enough respect to give them their proper titles. If you can't do that, it says a lot about your character.

    if i feel that they are acting appropriately for their position, i'll call them by their position. i don't respect positions. i respect proper choices made by people in their position. d&c says much about persons with power.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me which major country in the world, who's intelligence didn't think Sadam had WMD.

    the united states of america. we had plenty of people in intelligence saying that there was no evidence of wmds in iraq. our war-hungry neo-conservative administration ignored this and used false and doctored evidence to mislead the international community.

    Belittling someone and insuating that they aren't "thinking" and have no back bone b/c the would rather follow their leader on an issue that they don't know the ins and outs of ... it's sad.

    as i have said. it's fine if someone wants to take things on faith. however, you can't go around telling me and others that we are wrong (and our arguements are pointless) because we lack your particular brand of faith.

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  30. heather, yeah. i saw it. we all knew it was going to happen. i'm pretty sure daniel graham had someone breathing down his neck.

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  31. when did dull-as-dishwater Graham become department chair? I knew denis rasmussen was having back problems and K.C. sent me an email saying he had heart surgery, but i didn't realize there had been a change... i figured if denis left K.C. would take the chair back. do you know what happened?

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