The Word of Wisdom as a Boycott of the Free Market

August 23, 2016    By: Jeff G @ 8:34 am   Category: Ethics,Happiness,Life,Money and getting gain,Mormon Culture/Practices

A Word of Wisdom … showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days… In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days… And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make. (D&C 89)

Market demand is not the same as moral evaluation – and the production and consumption habits of the saints should conform to the latter rather than the former.

Up until the turn of the 19th century, the Chinese held a significant trade balance against the British.  Chinese tea had become extraordinarily popular within the British Isles, but the Chinese refused to trade anything other than silver for their tea.  The British, however, eventually solved their trade deficit with China by providing them with an even more addictive combination of American tobacco and Indian opium.  By 1804 the trade deficit had reverse direction in favor of the British as opium addiction spread widely (50% of men and 25% of women) throughout China.  This trade deficit along with the social effects of widespread addiction together led to a Chinese prohibition on the substance and, eventually, to the opium wars against the British (1839).

It is in this light, I suggest, that we ought to understand the importance of the Word of Wisdom (WoW). While we currently focus on the social effects of addictive stimulants, I would like to argue that the economic effects are at least as relevant.  The British addiction to tea had given the Chinese so much economic power over them that the only way in which the British could reverse this power relation was through an even more addictive stimulant.  Understood this way, the WoW can (and perhaps should) be understood as an economic boycott, and as such being much more pro-active in its moral intent than the passive “abstaining” from consuming various substances. (more…)

The Mediocrity of Modern Morality: A Faithful Nietzsche II

April 22, 2016    By: Jeff G @ 5:08 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Happiness,Life,orthodox,Politics,Truth

(Edit: Like Abraham of old, we are sometimes required by the Lord or His messengers to do utterly immoral things. In other words, sometimes we have an obligation to act immorally. This post is aimed at explaining why this sounds like a contradiction in terms to our modern ears.)

Democracy is horrible and Aristocracy is fantastic. While there is much to disagree with in this claim of Nietzsche’s (he has nothing but condemnation to say regarding all forms of inter-personal obligations and authority), there is also a great deal of truth that we Mormons would do well to address. After all, the secular world clearly exalts the values and morality of the former while the church is quite obviously an Aristocracy (of sorts) that repeatedly insists that it is not a democracy in which “the people” rule. What are the tensions between these two moralities and to what extent to these tension manifest themselves within the modern, Mormon mind?

Nietzsche sees stratification as a normal and health aspect of life which Democrats, Moderns, Utilitarians, Kantians, Socialists, Classical Liberals, Capitalists, Proletariats, Materialists, Christians and a whole slew of others conspire against. Whereas Kierkegaard objected to the ways in which these various movements where making faith cheap, easy and weak, Nietzsche rejects them since they make life itself cheap, easy and weak. Both of these men had nothing but contempt for “the world” and it just so happened that “the world” at their time was largely Christian. When framed in these terms, that Mormons might also harbor a similar contempt for the now less-Christian world that we see around us. (more…)

Also Sprachen Die Propheten: A Faithful Nietzsche

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time… But I say unto you..”

“Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment… For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name.”

Passages like those above seriously call into question the idea that “eternal laws” are ahistorical, self-existent or totally independent of God’s creative will. Indeed, scriptural support for such a claim becomes nigh impossible once we acknowledge that

  1. the council of the gods might be the source of any allegedly external laws, or
  2. the Lord, as a flawless self-legislator, is subject to the laws that He gives Himself, or
  3. calling a law “endless” or “eternal” does not necessarily entail their timeless ahistoricity.

It is within such a perspective – that rejects any timeless, self-existent laws before which each and every god must bow – that revelation becomes a process of – to borrow Joseph Schumpeter’s term – creative destruction. Nietzsche’s term for the person who embodies creative destruction is the “overman” – a man who is able to overcome the moral commands of those around and before him/her. In this post I will defend the idea that the church is itself (or ought to be) a collective overman of sorts. (more…)

Liberty within the Scriptures

September 19, 2015    By: Jeff G @ 11:41 am   Category: Determinism vs. free will,Ethics,Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices,orthodox,Scriptures,Universalism

If you have not done so already, I strongly recommend that anybody interested in social or political thinking go and read Isaiah Berlin’s classic: Two Concepts of Liberty.  Within this paper he lists 4 premises by which modern thinking can and at times has transformed into the very opposite of freedom.  I will then state my views regarding the (in)compatibility of these premises with the religious tradition found in the scriptures. (more…)

Ordain Women: Whose Movement Is It?

September 26, 2013    By: Jeff G @ 9:57 pm   Category: Ethics,Happiness,Life,Mormon Culture/Practices

The vast majority of members – especially females – oppose the priesthood ordination of women.  Which means that if the church were a democracy women would not be ordained.  But the church is not a democracy such that orders come from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up, and the top says “no” to the priesthood ordination of women as well.   In spite of this, the Ordain Women movement presses forward, urging the church to give women the priesthood without any regard for what the rest of the church wants or thinks.  This state of affairs cries out for explanation: How can a movement which is so strongly committed to emancipation and social justice (and I see no reason to doubt their sincerity) try to force people to be free? (more…)

Against Activism

May 25, 2013    By: Jeff G @ 1:52 pm   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices

For the past couple months the Bloggernacle has been ablaze with a spirit of activism.  For a variety of reasons, I have kept my participation in these threads to a minimum, but I thought it might be nice to weigh in with a few considerations which seem to have either been taken for granted or side-lined from discussion.  But before I get to these considerations, I probably need to address a few caveats in order to anticipate potential reactionaries, trolls and other replies which tend to bog down rather than forward the conversation. (more…)

Descartesian Deconversion

October 28, 2012    By: Jeff G @ 8:09 pm   Category: Happiness,Life,Truth

In my last post – which fell stillborn from the wordpress – I articulated my position as a Darwinian Anti-intellectualist. Briefly – and somewhat differently – I rejected the practice of construing all beliefs as if they were automatically answers to some question or another, the premises or conclusions to some argument. The two stalking horses in this project of mine have come to be Socrates and Descartes with their respective question/answer dialectic and methodological skepticism. In this post I will roughly follow Aladair MacIntyre in framing my own de-conversion from Mormonism in terms of a (mistaken) Cartesian framework. (more…)

Guest Post From Jeff G: Why I Was Wrong

December 19, 2011    By: Guest @ 11:00 am   Category: Apologetics,Happiness,Personal Revelation,Theology

Editor Note: This guest post was submitted by one of our oldest friends here at New Cool Thang, Jeff G.

For the past few months, I have been struggling with some issues which are very close and dear to my heart. Put bluntly, my faith has been called into question. I find myself overwhelmed with suspicion and doubt, unable to trust so many of the values and beliefs which have become almost second nature to me. I also bear a peculiar mix of pity and resentment for those who have led me astray. While I have concluded that many of the pursuits which I have dedicated myself to most passionately have largely been a waste of time, my feelings are not entirely negative. I do recognize that I will forever treasure the experiences and relationships I have cultivated within the fold from which I now wish to distance myself. More than anything, however, I now face the unknown future with an optimism unlike anything I’ve experienced before, an optimism born of knowing that I am making the right choice.

For those few bloggers who have been interacting with me for the better part of a decade now, this song should sound somewhat familiar to you. You see, this is not the first time that I have abandoned my faith. Roughly 6 years ago, I stunned my friends, family and (at the time) wife by announcing that I no longer believed in God and would no longer continue as a believing Mormon. Various considerations which I will lump together under the banner of “Liberal Science” had persuaded me that the religion of my upbringing was not true and, therefore, must be rejected.

(more…)

Happiness in Life

August 7, 2011    By: Jacob J @ 12:55 pm   Category: Happiness

Which of these scriptures resonates more with you (and why)?

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual (Mosiah 2:14)

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

This Dude Abides

April 25, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 3:00 pm   Category: Happiness,Life,The Thang

My 40th birthday is coming up this Tuesday. These birthdays that end with a zero are landmarks so I figured I should post something. (Plus I realized I haven’t written very many posts here this year.)

I was 34 when I started this blog. That doesn’t seem all that long ago but in some important ways I am a different person now than I was then. That is the beauty and danger of digging into metaphysics and philosophy I think; when you tinker with the very core of your beliefs you are adjusting the lens through which you see the universe. Making changes to the lens through which you see the universe (sometimes called shifting paradigms) is interesting in that it may not have immediate and obvious consequences but it will inevitably have massive long term implications.

I’m reminded of this famous quote attributed to Henry David Thoreau:

For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.

(more…)

Meditation as a Spiritual Practice

December 13, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 10:24 pm   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation

About three years ago I was listening to a Sunstone Symposium recording (a “Pillars of my Faith” talk) given by John Kesler where he talked about his conversion to the gospel after being an atheist for quite a while. He also mentioned that later in his life as a member of the church he started meditating with a Zen Buddhist which led him to feel incredible love and connection with God, which has also allowed him to occasionally hear God’s voice. He also described the experience as training one’s thoughts and gaining self mastery. As a result, I was intrigued with the concept of meditation as a spiritual practice and decided to look into it some more.

I found out that meditation is a part (or has been a part) of the spiritual practice of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. for thousands of years. I started paying attention to the use of the word meditation in the correlated materials and the word is often used in conjunction with prayer, scripture study, and fasting as a means to feeling God’s presence and experiencing personal revelation. However, the context that I believe most Mormons use the word is often synonymous with the concept of pondering, or thinking deeply about something; rather than as a systematic mental exercise. The spiritual practice of meditation in other traditions seems to be somewhat different than what I think Mormons do (though it may still be parallel in some regards).
(more…)

Utah Still the Happiest State in the Union

December 4, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 9:02 am   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices

Utah was atop yet another list of happiest states in the USA.

I’ll bet that really chaps the hides of critics and enemies of Mormonism. For some reason that makes me happy (and I don’t even live in Utah).

Thankfulness: Gateway to (synthetic) Happiness

November 22, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 4:07 pm   Category: Happiness,Life

Jacob’s recent post came to mind today in sacrament meeting. With Thanksgiving coming up this week we had a few excellent talks on gratitude. I was struck by how closely the stories of gratitude matched with the idea of synthetic happiness described by Dan Gilbert here. Further, it is striking that this so-called “synthetic happiness” — the state of happiness we can attain when we make peace with not getting what we want — is a form of happiness that is just as real as the “natural happiness” we feel when we do get what we want.

The interesting thing is in all the stories told today the specific method used to arrive at this real form of happiness was to consciously count one’s blessings. In other words, it seems from the stories that more grateful people are more happy people. And if Dan Gilbert is to be believed, the kind of happiness we can arrive at after not getting what we want is just as “happy” as the kind of happiness we arrive at after getting what we want.

So count your many blessings folks. Name them one by one. According to Lehi the purpose of life is to have joy, and being grateful may be the most sure-fire way to be joyful.

Synthetic Happiness TEDTalks 1

November 17, 2009    By: Jacob J @ 10:31 pm   Category: Happiness,Life

This talk by Dan Gilbert is one of my all-time favorite TEDTalks, I must have listened to it a half-dozen times. I can’t help but think of my mom who has as one of her principal catch phrases, “I like to keep my options open.”

(more…)

Happy Happy Utah

March 11, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 10:27 am   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices

Anyone else see this article today? Apparently the current happiest states in the union are Utah, Hawaii, and Wyoming.

Here is a quote:

Looking for happiness — it’s family-friendly communities for some, tropical paradise or the rugged West for others. A survey of Americans’ well-being, conducted by Gallup in partnership with Healthways and America’s Health Insurance Plans, gives high marks to Utah, which boasts lots of outdoor recreation for its youthful population.

Speaking of outdoor recreation, the islands of Hawaii took second place and Wyoming was third in the poll that rated such variables as mental, physical and economic health.

But fun outdoors obviously wasn’t the only criteria — “wild, wonderful” West Virginia was ranked last among the states.

And the bluegrass state of Kentucky was 49th, with Mississippi 48th on the list.

The anti-Mormon crowd, or at least the anti-Utah crowd might be in mourning today because of this study… Seems like some folks just can’t do enough crowing about that old “Utah has the highest anti-depressant usage in the country” report that has gotten so much play in recent years. (Of course maybe the anti-depressant companies can use both reports to show how good their products work…)

Anyhow, the upshot is Utah has the happiest Americans around right now according to this report.

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