Sunday, November 13, 2011

Media Distractions

Wake up to the alarm on my cell phone, open my computer to check facebook and my email, get ready for the day while watching TV, drive to work while checking my words with friends, get to work and open my work email, sit at a computer all day while listening to music and podcasts on my phone, check my facebook and email on my phone during my lunch break, get home and get on my personal computer and check facebook and my email, spend a good majority of the night watching TV whilst reading articles online, watching YouTube videos, and chatting online.  Oh did I mention that I was texting during this whole process too.

Do you see a pattern in here?  The whole day I am constantly barraged with multiple sources of entertainment, media, information, distractions.  It’s hard to find a moment when I am not connected to at least one source of digital media and for at many times I am connected to multiple sources of digital media.  Does this sound at all slightly familiar to your life?  To some degree it probably does. 

When do we find time to digest and process all of this information?  I find myself knowing a little bit about everything but knowing little about anything.  Most topics in the news I can at least acknowledge that I have heard or read something about it but yet I find myself unable to articulate intelligent thoughts about those topics.  I feel our society has grown too attached to digital media.  I find myself and others checking our phones when we know there is nothing to check but yet we flip through the screens falsely deceiving ourselves and others around us that we are busy and productive.   Why do we do this? 

I have heard the counsel many times from church leaders and others that we need to unplug ourselves from the media.  I believe it was Gordon B Hinckley who encouraged us to take a few hours to simply ponder and do nothing else.  I have understood this principle but yet I have fallen trapped to the snare of digital media and have found myself with little time to ponder.  Detaching ourselves from media gives us time to process the information we have already received.  That helps us to gain a more deeper and intimate understanding of that information and it helps us to more clearly articulate that information to others.  Also taking time to ponder helps us understand what is important to us in life, it helps us sort out our goals and emotions, thoughts, and ideas. 

The times when I read a book, read an article, listen to a talk, or whatever and then take some time afterwards to go over what I had just received, the ideas and information become clearer and I am able to understand, recall, and articulate that information more effectively.   It’s a refreshing and great experience unlike the hundreds of news flashes and facebook posts I go through in a day, which I usually end up not internalizing or remembering.  It makes me want to do a Walden Pond type retreat like Thoreau. 

I encourage all of you to take some time each day to turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer and sit down and just think about life, think about something you learned that day, think about how you feel in your current situation, and think about the lives of others around you.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Sorry but I wrote this kind of quickly but hopefully it has some coherency.

This is still a relatively young movement but that is growing popularity.  Although they have no concrete purpose or resolution, some of the ideas that they have brought up inspire some interesting questions and it also inspired my Halloween costume for this year. 

Many people are frustrated with the lack of jobs, poverty, and income inequality prevelant in America today. A big part of the cause for the recent recession was due to practices occurring at banks and wall street.  The same banks that “failed” were so called “too big to fail” and received government bailout money, while many hardworking Americans had to suffer the blunt force of the recession through lower wages, longer hours, losing their jobs, and struggling to find work.  So while big corporations are paying their top executives millions of dollars, many hardworking Americans struggle to feed their family. 

I understand the frustration and their reason to direct at wall street but I don’t support their cause, mainly because I still don’t know what it is and frankly neither do they.  Do they want income redistribution, higher taxes on the rich, to let banks fail, lower CEO salaries, a job, higher wages, lower student debt, a gov’t check, and etc?  They probably want all of it.  I think though they want to have a purpose and right now their purpose is fighting what they see as inequality and injustice. 

Yes, CEO’s get paid a lot of money but don’t they deserve that after going through many years of school at top programs and paying their dues in order to get to that level?  I am currently surrounded by people who strive to work for wall street and do investment banking, knowing all the hoops they have to jump through to get there and all the long hours they will have to put in to do it.  I know people who fly out to NY and SF just to get to know the people at the banks so they have a better chance of landing an internship.  They meticulously edit their resume and cover letters and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars just to network so they can get on wall street.  Once they get to wall street, they average 90+ hours a week, which is more than two normal full time jobs, doing technical and stressful work.  Do they deserve to get paid so much money?  Well considering the fact they essentially work twice as much as anyone else, they should get paid at the very least twice as much.

The other day I saw another movement pop up in opposition to the occupy wall street protest, which also go by the 99%.  This movement is called, “we are the 53%”  based off records that show only 53% of Americans actually pay taxes.  They view the 99% group as lazy people who just want a free ride.  The 53% express the hard work, long hours, early mornings, budget cuts, and many personal sacrifices they have to make in order to make ends meet and provide for themselves and their families.  The 99% respond saying that is no life to essentially enslave yourself to a paycheck. 

I support the 53% and their hard work ethic but I sympathize with the 99% who think that life shouldn’t be that way.  Are we really slaves to these big corporations.  We spend the majority of our life working for them.  Is this really the American dream where the husband and wife work full time and part time jobs to send their kids to day care, pay off the mortgage for an expensive home, pay insurance, pay phone bills, and etc.?  Is it really the American dream to work so much and slave away that we don’t have time to spend with our families?  Yes hard work is a valued quality but has it gone too extreme with some of these 53%ers?  Is it really a society worth living in where we spend the majority of our lives doing something we hate just for the sake of getting by?  Is this really the American dream?  Also has it become for some people that the American dream is where we have our food, housing, jobs, and decisions given to us by the government?  Has money become too much of a driver in our decisions in life?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on Swearing

These last few weeks I have not felt too thoughtful as to produce a blog worthy of sharing and so I will share something I wrote about a year ago.  Enjoy.

Forward: This essay was originally written for a different audience but this version has been formatted for a more general audience.  It is still written with a Mormon audience in mind since it was originally written for someone with that background.  I originally wrote this to a friend to give a clarified statement as to my view on swearing.  So here is my attempt at making my official statement on swearing.  In order to give my official statement a few things need to be clarified.  The following topics will include:

·         What Swearing Is
·         The Social influences of Swearing
·          The LDS Viewpoint
·          What the Scriptures Say
·          Address an Argument I have heard

Hopefully after expounding upon these topics one will understand why I consider swearing as something completely subjective to the culture and time in which one lives, with the exception words or phrases relating to God and sacred things.  Swearing is only wrong if the speaker and audience consider it a swear word, to be profanity, or disgraceful. In general though, one should use speech that is edifying and representative of the ideals they value.

What is Swearing?

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word swear as “to use profane or obscene language.”  Profane is defined as “to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt” and “to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.”

Wikipedia defines profanity to mean “a word, expression, gesture, or other social behavior which is socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, desecrating, or showing disrespect.”  So we see from this definition that social conceptions determine what is rude, vulgar, and etc. 

According to a 2006 study the most common used swear words were the F, S, H, D, and B words with other variations (the abbreviations of these words are used to for the purpose of protecting those eyes who find them offensive).  Also the word “suck” was one of the most common swear words which I find interesting since most people I know would not consider it to be a “swear” word and I know many in the LDS community who use it often. 

Others feel that the words fart, piss, crap, butt, and etc. would be swear words too but many in society would disagree.  Also words such as nigger, douche bag, slut, faggot, and etc. would be considered offensive but yet they wouldn’t be considered “swear” words.  There are many words that are just as offensive as the typical swear words but people use them because they are not considered to be one of the classic swear words. 

Are the F, S, H, D, and B inherently bad?  Is it an inherent sin to say them or even write them?  They are just abstract sounds that convey certain abstract meanings to the hearers.  I don’t think there is anything inherently evil about the use of these words, but the social influences of today make them obscene to use in many public venues.

The Social Influences of Swearing

The notion that social customs influence the definition of swearing is obvious in the fact that many words are considered profane in one culture and time and not in another.  For example, bloody is deemed a swear word in England but it is not in the U.S.  Also my mother felt perfectly fine back in the 60’s attending BYU to say “that party was bitching.”  This phrase, however, would no longer be accepted in today’s culture at BYU.  

So with the constant change in what society deems as profane, rude, or vulgar it can be difficult to determine what specific words are “swear” words.  Also some words that are currently deemed by society as “swear” words seem to be phasing out.  The wide use of the word “damn” in society and the lack of censorship is starting to make this word less of a swear word.  Now this may seem to represent how evil influences are debasing the values of society, but if that word loses the offensive connotation it once had then is that word still a “swear” word?Are we really conforming to the evils of society by using a swear word even in that word no longer carries the same meaning?

The LDS Viewpoint

                It’s interesting to note that under the Wikipedia page for “profanity” there is a specific section as to the LDS viewpoint of swearing.  Quoting from the Gospel Topics Library found on it says, “Profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures, as well as immoral jokes, are offensive to the Lord and to others.”  

So even with the LDS definition we shouldn’t use language that would be offensive to the Lord or others.  Language that is offensive to the Lord would include using the name of Deity in vain, (See 3rd commandment).  Also speaking badly of sacred things would be offensive to the Lord.  But as to what is offensive to others is completely subjective as to what the others find offensive.  

Now I am sure some have heard of J. Golden Kimball and I feel I must at least reference him.  J. Golden Kimball, a seventy of the church, was known for his “colorful” speech.   When asked about his language he responded, “Hell, they can't excommunicate me. I repent too damned fast.”  To Elder Kimball these words were not offensive to him and had become a part of his vernacular.  Some members probably found his language offensive and he probably should have done a better job about using language that would not be offensive to them.

Within Mormon culture we use our own vernacular so as to not swear.  These are simple variations of swear words and are not unique to LDS.  These words include but are not limited to dang, darn, F, fudge, freak, fetch, heck, shoot, bi-atch, BS, gosh, and etc.  So how are we to interpret the appropriateness of these words that are used only to replace swear words?  Are they just as bad as the words they are substituting?

Elder L. Tom Perry said this about substitute words “. . . if you slip and say a swear word or a substitute word, mentally reconstruct the sentence without the vulgarity or substitute word and repeat the new sentence aloud.”   Also the New Era in March 2001 offers this interpretation of Elder Perry’s comments, “Many people try to substitute other words for swear words, but Elder L. Tom Perry warns that so many times those substitute words are so similar to the swear words or vulgar phrases that everyone knows what you meant to say and your vocabulary hasn’t really changed.”

A quote from Dallin H. Oaks from the May 1986 Ensign had this to say about the social influences of profanity. “For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable. Surely this is one fulfillment of the Book of Mormon prophecy that in the last days ‘there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.’”  Elder Oaks seems to make the argument that what is profane is not determined by society which completely undermines the argument I just made earlier.  It seems to me though that Elder Oaks is referring to the profane use of the name of God and of sacred things.  Most of the talk is about using the name of God in vain.  He later says, “Profanity is profoundly offensive to those who worship the God whose name is desecrated.”  Elder Oaks though does make his case for profanity not involving the use of God’s name.
The Book of Mormon teaches us that when we are brought before the judgment bar of God “our words will condemn us … and our thoughts will also condemn us.” (Alma 12:14.) Let us recognize profanity and vulgarity for what they are; they are sins that separate us from God and cripple our spiritual defenses by causing the Holy Ghost to withdraw from us.
We should abstain and we should teach our children to abstain from all such expressions.
What the Scriptures Say

The scriptures speak a lot about profaning the name of the Lord but I am going to focus more on the scriptures that don’t specifically speak about that.  It has been argued that the canonical scriptures explicitly forbid or warn us not to swear.  These are the scriptures I have found that could connote this inference.

Matt 12:36 “But I say unto you, That every idleword that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”  This scripture doesn’t specifically mention swearing but it essentially cautions us to use our words wisely.

Matt 15:11” Not that which goeth into the mouthdefileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”  That which cometh out can refer to our word choice and the way we treat the name of God.

James 5:12“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any otheroath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”  This scripture is interesting because almost all references in the scripture using any variation of the word swear is more referring to an oath.  This scripture does use the word oath too which makes me believe that this is what it is referring to rather than using a swear word.

Matt 26:74“Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.”This is the story of Peter at the time of when Christ was on trial.  As to what it means when it says he cursed and swore is a little ambiguous.  Peter swore he knew not Christ but he didn’t use a swear word.  Curse though has some interesting meanings.  In most references in the scriptures it essentially says, “and God cursed the land” or something to that effect.  I feel that cursing represents the doing or wishing of ill or misfortune upon another. 

1 Peter 3:10“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:” Again simply put, use good language.

James 5:6  ”And the tongueis a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

According to the scriptures it is blatantly clear that we should not use the name of God in vain but the scriptures don’t say that we shouldn’t swear.  It only tells us to refrain our lips and mouth from speaking evil or guile.  As to what is evil and guile in society is very subjective to the members of that society.  There is no mention of specific words we should not say because there is no universal and eternal list of words.

 Another Argument Made

One of the arguments I have heard made is that Christ would not swear and therefore we shouldn’t.  A friend of mine though made the point that we have so few accounts of Christ that it is hard to tell exactly what he would do.  This is true but has been pointed out to me before is that we can come to know Christ personally through revelation to know what he would say.The only problem I have with this is that there are so many people who claim to know Christ personally and yet they have different interpretations of who He is and what He would do.   A personal relationship with Christ and how one feels He would act may be sufficient for one to personally justify not swearing but others have different experiences and feelings that would say otherwise.  So as to what Christ would say, it is subjective to the feelings of each person who claims to have a personal relationship with him. 

Also going back to what profanity is defined as in Wikipedia, “a word, expression, gesture, or other social behavior which is socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, desecrating, or showing disrespect.”   Now would Christ do or say something insulting, rude, vulgar, desecrating, or disrespectful?  Christ was not the most popular character because he did and said things that were not accepted by society.  Openly rebuking people, eating with harlots, claiming he was God, denouncing the authority of others, casting out people and overthrowing tables in the temple, and etc. are some examples of how He was doing and saying things that were socially unacceptable, insulting, rude, and disrespectful.  Was this profanity?  Did it have the same effect as swearing? 

 I must mention though that I do not feel that the argument above about Christ being profane is a strong or sound argument.  Even if the logic of this argument were sound many still would not accept it out of principle.  But if we do hold to the premises of the argument we can draw the conclusion that Christ was profane.  That is not a conclusion one would want to accept especially since it would kill the argument that Christ would never swear.  Even if Christ was considered profane for his day, why should we care what society thought of him?  Wasn’t He only doing that which was right?  Can it be that doing the right thing could be considered profane, rude, disrespectful, or vulgar to the society around us?  Yet at the same time why should we feel like we have to defend Christ from doing things that others found offensive or profane? 

A detailed focus on words that we shouldn’t use might be missing the target when we should really be focusing on what words and phrases we should be using.   Focusing on how swearing is bad is like focusing on the Law of Moses.  Christ came and gave us the higher law.  He doesn’t command us to not use certain four letter words but he commands us to use clean and uplifting language.  Clean and uplifting language is for the most part universal but there is still some subjectivity to it.

The simple statement that swearing is bad and one should not do it seems to be polarizing the topic and making it simpler than it really is.  Many times it seems that people talk about there being a wrong and a right when in reality there is a lot of middle ground and a lot more to understand.  We can’t just rely on believing swearing and many other topics are black and white, when in reality there is a lot of gray area.  This is part of the reason I took the time to write an essay just to simply state my viewpoint on swearing.

In my case as a member of the LDS faith, I am taught to love God first and part of that would be to use language He would find acceptable, which means not taking His name in vain or speaking blasphemy.   I am then taught to secondly love my neighbors.  I should be looking to use words that are uplifting rather than looking to avoid certain words. 

People want to impress certain types of people and for the most part they try and use phrases and words that make them more acceptable around those people.  If one wants to fit in with those who use “swear” words then they use those words to be accepted.  If one wants to be more accepted of God they use words that God would find appealing.  If one wants to be more accepted by their boss then they use words that impress that boss.  If one wants to represent the Church of Christ then they must try their best to use language that best represents the values of that organization. 

Also people change their nature and the words they use based upon the people they are surrounding.  I talk differently to my boss than I do to my roommate.  I choose different rhetoric and act differently.  Is that a double standard? 

To be honest I am not entirely sure what I am trying to get at here.  I do feel that swearing is something that is subjective to society and therefore society is the author of what is a “swear” word is or not, with the exception of blasphemy.   As a believer of Christ I want to best represent Him as possible, and therefore use vocabulary that the society I am in deems uplifting, respectful, and courteous.  Do I always do this?  No, but I should at least be trying to become a better person in word and deed. 

 I do not feel that this is the best treatise about this subject or my best work.  There are many more topics and questions to be answered but those can be treated later.  Hopefully this makes sense to those who read this and has provoked some thoughts, ideas, or insights that deepen one’s understanding of this subject.   

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mercy and Justice in the Public Sphere.

In an LDS video teaching the principles of mercy and justice a young man takes out a loan from a creditor.  With this loan he goes out and buys a house and farm.  He knows that one day he will have to pay back the loan but he knows that day is far away.  Eventually that day comes and he is unprepared to pay back the full sum of his loan.  The creditor sees no other option but to exercise justice and take all that the man has and send the debtor to jail.  The debtor pleads for mercy but the creditor demands justice.  The question of the video asks how mercy can be given while having justice be satisfied.  What happens is that a third party comes in a pays off the creditor, therefore satisfying justice, and offers the debtor a second chance.  Thus mercy and justice were met.  This video is used to show the justice of God and the mercy of Christ.  However, I would wish to discuss this topic of mercy and justice in terms of the social realm.

The other day I read this fascinating article that sparked the connection between this gospel topic and this social problem.  The article is entitled, “How would you fix health care?”  It talks about some of the recent presidential debate questions citing hypothetical situations where "A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens; all of a sudden he needs it. Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?”

These types of questions cause us to have a strong moral dilemma.  Justice demands that he not receive the medical attention that he has no insurance for nor can afford.  Mercy however demands that he be treated for his medical needs.  How can mercy and justice be satisfied in such hypothetical situation? 
When this question was posed at the presidential debate, one audience member yelled out, “let him die.”  Justly the man does deserve to die like the audience member so emphatically cried.  However, many found this comment highly insensitive and inhumane.  Are we morally comfortable to knowingly allow someone to die just because he or she made a calculated error that ended up rendering them in a life-threatening condition? 

So if mercy is to be satisfied in such a hypothetical situation, how will it be satisfied?  In the case of the story of the debtor, a mediator showed mercy.  In terms if the gospel, Christ can and will satisfy the demands of justice through his merciful atonement.  However, Christ does not satisfy the demands of our medical bills?  So who can and will satisfy justice and show mercy unto those who cannot pay their medical bills?  Some luckily have friends, family, and church that can pay off those debts.  However, some are not fortunate to have connections lucrative enough to pay high medical costs that are the difference between life and death.  Should the community as a whole be responsible to combine together to pay the costs?  Or should we let the strong live and the weak die? 

Should the government be the merciful figure just as the mediator was the merciful figure in the LDS video?  Should mercy be a responsibility of the government or should that be left solely to the private sector, churches, and individual communities?  Can the government even afford such costs?  Are those fortunate to have health insurance and large pocket books more entitled to life than those born into poverty and with health conditions that prevent them from owning health insurance?  Do we truly all equally have the same right to life as our neighbor? 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I have a place to discuss my feelings.  I call it a journal, prayer, and personal conversations.  I have a place to post pictures and share random trivial things about my life.  It’s called Facebook.  However, I feel that I am lacking a place to fully explore my opinions, ideas, and thoughts.  Lately, I have found myself in a dearth of these explorations and maybe this blog will supply fresh water to the desert that has become my intellectual and spiritual stimulation.

In the past, I have had great personal and group conversations with some of my best friends to discuss these topics.  But distance has made these occurrences diminish and so I have turned to technology to facilitate these conversations.  I have used text, but text is a medium difficult to use to fully convey an idea. I have even used Facebook, where at times I wrote page long comments in response to posts.  But Facebook has not proven to be a place to fully have a discussion or to fully delve into these topics, but rather Facebook has proven to be a place where short witty comments are made.  I have used google docs, emails, comment boards, and etc and now I will try the blog. 

Hopefully in this blog I will be able to find a medium that will better facilitate conversation, learning, and the exploration of ideas.  My best motivation to learn new ideas comes when I have someone to discuss them with.  Learning and never sharing is, in my opinion, quite meaningless and therefore I struggle to find motivation to learn if I can’t apply it or even discuss it.  I don’t know if I will have many or any followers but having this information public will hopefully provide me with that motivation to expand my knowledge and share it.

If you’re looking for a travel blog, this is not it.  If you’re looking to see pictures from my weekend, I am sorry but you will not find it here.  This blog will be devoted to ideas, questions, theories, doubts, opinions, and etc.  I intend to touch upon subjects like religion, history, philosophy, politics, relationships, ethics, psychology, economics, finance, epistemology, education, and etc. 
I hope you find this blog enlightening and beneficial.  Please provide comments but I ask that those comments be respectful and well-thought out.  Enjoy!!!