Contraception, Healthcare, and the Legal Limits of Religious Expression on Businesses

March 26, 2014    By: DavidF @ 11:43 am   Category: Life

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether for-profit businesses have religious freedom.  More specifically, whether two corporations run by Christian families could be exempt of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that businesses that insure their employees provide free contraceptive to female workers.  Importantly, religious groups already have the exemption, but what about businesses directed and influenced by their religiously minded bosses or shareholders?  Should they be forced to run their businesses in ways that go against their religious values?

The two companies are Hobby Lobby, and Conestoga Wood Specialties (ran by a family of Mennonite Christians).  The family that runs Hobby Lobby opposes the obligation to give their female employees any contraceptives that prematurely end a possible life, such as the morning after pill.  The family that runs Conestoga oppose any medical procedures that prevent a possible life, and thus all contraceptives.

So who will win, the government or the businesses?  Importantly, the Supreme Court doesn’t just weigh both sides equally and decides which deserves a win more.  The Court relies on longstanding judicial procedure to determine outcomes.  Most know that in criminal cases, an accused can only be convicted if the are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  In civil cases generally, the the plaintiff wins if they have a preponderance of the evidence on their side; that is, there’s better reason to believe they should win than reason for them to lose.  However, when a person sues the federal government claiming that the government has infringed upon his or her rights, the Court goes through a more complicated procedure.

Leading up to the 1930s, the Supreme Court regularly struck down laws that regulated how business owners can run their businesses.  These decisions allowed employers to set harmfully long work weeks with extremely low wages.  In one case, the court passively allowed the continuation of child labor.  In 1938, after the Court had struck down several New Deal laws, the court flipped.  Decades of judicial activism ended.  The new standard that developed out of 1938 was this: if the government wants to achieve a legitimate government interest–that is, seeks to protect public health, safety, welfare or morals/criminal laws–then its action/regulation need only be rationally related to achieving that goal.  So if a business owner wants to set his employees’ 40 hour workweek wages below minimum wage claiming that the government law against that hurts his business (more specifically, claiming that the government infringes upon his rights of due process or just compensation), the government need only show that the hour/wage laws rationally protect the employees health or safety, which they can of course do.  In other words, as long as Congress acts within its constitutional limitations, any law that protects the government objectives I mentioned above will get upheld. (more…)

Visual Aid to The Gospel of Jesus Christ: Updated

March 9, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:01 am   Category: Life

Today I am teaching the Elders about Faith and Repentance, and made this visual aid. Have a look and tell me if there is anything you disagree with. My only thought is that I would love to replace “Sin” with “Acts of Independence” as Elder Hafen did. Maybe I will put “Sin or other acts of Independence”…

Gospel of Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

update: I tried to incorporate some of the suggestions from the comments. Better? Too Busy?

Gospel of Jesus Christ 2

Teacher Improvement Lesson 5- Effective Methods

February 16, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:35 am   Category: Life

This week I decided to keep things simple.

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Teacher Improvement 4: Ages and Stages in Gospel Learning

February 1, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 8:00 pm   Category: Life

This Lesson is a little more unfocused than prior lessons as my main goal here is the transfer of information. The basic design of the lesson is going to be to go over some general information then to allow the class to determine which age groups they would like to focus on.

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Teacher Improvement Lesson 3 preparing a lesson

January 26, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 10:18 am   Category: Life

I spent most of my preparation time this week debating whether I should teach this lesson next or teach lessons on pedagogy and age specific needs next. I went with this lesson, but could totally imagine the other order being better. This is a combination of lessons 5 and 10 from teaching-no greater calling.

Today my guiding principles for the lesson are a contrast to one another:

First- “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” D&C 38:30

Second “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  Helmuth von Moltke (more…)

Teacher Improvement Lesson 2: Christ-Centered Teaching

January 19, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:50 am   Category: Life

My Lesson has a few guiding principles. The first comes from this quote from Jeffrey R. Holland from the April 1998 General Conference:

We must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition.

I use this quote as a reminder of the prior lesson that our objective is to be the best we can be and that great teachers want to be great teachers, are passionate about what they are learning and love those they teach.

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Teacher Improvement Lesson 1: What Makes a Great Teacher?

January 12, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 10:24 am   Category: Life

So I have been asked to teach a church teacher improvement course over the next six weeks at church. Since I was surprised to not find one laid out online at Feast Upon the Word or T&S, I thought I would post my lessons plans here and invite your input and help over the next 6 weeks. Think of every question as an invitation to discuss.

I start simply, with the following statement I nabbed from greatschools.com (more…)

Gaudete Sunday

December 15, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 9:41 am   Category: Life

In the Catholic Advent cycle, today is the “pink candle” Sunday, where in preparation for Christ’s coming we rejoice rather than repent. In fact, Gaudete is Latin for Rejoice and comes from Phillipians 4:4-5:

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

In the Catholic tradition, Gaudete Sunday follows the typical parameters of service, with two readings (Isaiah and James, both focusing on the nearness of the messiah who comes with healing in the wings) and a Gospel reading. The Gospel reading is Matthew 11:2-11, which features Christ’s praise of John the Baptist as more than a prophet, but also something else.

In these verses, John is in prison, and is very aware that he is about to be killed. He calls out to Jesus “Art thou the Christ or do we wait for another?” Or in other words, John, in his moment of darkness and need, calls out to Christ in doubt and uncertainty. We can not be certain if this is because John’s expectation of the Messiah was that he would be a conqueror sent by God who came to overthrow those people who now held John captive or if John merely were asking for assurance that all his suffering was not in vain. In either case, here is John, who was “more than a prophet” but who is in many ways “the prophet”, having weakness and doubt. Christ sends assurance to John and asks him to “take no offense in me”, but does not release him from his allotted punishment, as we all know. John dies, his head put on a platter, and Christ marches forward toward Calvary and beyond.

I find it very interesting that in this service of rejoicing at the nearness of Christ, the central story is one of the greatest of all people doubting and Christ pleading that he not take offense in him. In many ways, on the Christian path, our expectations of God and the way things should be are set, either by our reasoning or traditions, and can become stumbling blocks to us. In my life as a member of the Church I have seen many struggle. Most recently, a newly baptized couple read headlines about women being denied access to the priesthood session and haven’t been back to church since. Before that, I saw a couple struggle with how the church spends money on temples instead of caring for the poor and needy. I have known many who struggle with God’s allowance of Polygamy and the long period when Blacks were denied the priesthood. I have also struggled with all these things.

To these issues, I think Gaudete Sunday is a response. Christ, in the moment asks our forgiveness telling us we are blessed if we take no offense. If the greatest prophet of all could struggle, and later on the Cross, Christ could struggle (eloi lama sabacthanai), so must we struggle. Life paints an unexpected and confusing picture of God, which is ever changing and breaking the rules we try to contain it in. It is faith and faith only which allows us to have hope for the end to be good from where we stand, though all of our expectations of the end and our understandings of the now are tested. Even though we see through a glass darkly, We can still stand together as one, and thank God for the nearness of the Lord and his goodness. We can rejoice.

Letter From the First Presidency, November 1st 2013

November 4, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 7:09 pm   Category: Life

first presidency letter

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…)

Recovering Modesty, Old Wisdom for a New Era – New Approach to Modesty Series

September 14, 2013    By: DavidF @ 12:26 pm   Category: Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the fifth post in the New Approach to Modesty series.  Click for post onepost twopost three, and post four.

I’ve noted before that LDS speakers and writers occasionally point out that modesty is much more attitude than dress code, but whether dress code or attitude, today’s modesty probably doesn’t qualify as a virtue.  Based on how they’re constructed, modesty guidelines conflate being modest with appearing modest.  And since appearing modest generally satisfies communal standards, modesty falls short of a quality of character and, subsequently, a real virtue.

The emphasis on appearing modest sets modesty apart from other cherished Mormon values.  Few youth leaders would teach youth that in order to be faithful they have to appear faithful.  Modesty teachers, however, do follow this process.  While I’ve spent a considerable time critiquing current modesty rhetoric, the main goal of this series is to establish an alternative meaning for modesty that avoids the negative elements currently attached to it.  My intent in this post is to lay out a modesty that is primarily a quality of being but also gives some guidelines on appropriate dress.  To do this, let’s return to what modesty meant before the English humanists radically altered its meaning.
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An Unveiled History of Modesty in the West – New Approach to Modesty Series

August 3, 2013    By: DavidF @ 10:52 am   Category: Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the fourth post in the New Approach to Modesty series.  Click for post one, post two, and post three.

Barnabe Rich was a pioneer moralist.  In 1613 he wrote a book explaining the roles that men and women should play in the home.  Of make-up wearing, provocatively dressed women Rich said that their appearance provoked:

The first, offence to God, the second, It giveth hope to the vicious, and thirdly, It bringeth destruction to the husbande.

Today, Rich’s list looks unremarkably consistent with current modesty discourse. Yet Rich had been born around the time that modesty had been invented.  While up until this point I have criticized current modesty rhetoric, in the last four posts I’ll advance ideas that may strengthen modesty and chastity.  But to begin with, I will first discuss modesty’s origins.

A few decades before Barnabe Rich wrote moral advice for married couples, Thomas Elyot, a friend of Thomas More and early English humanist, wrote a widely circulated moral manual for youth, The Boke Named the Governour.  Among other things, Elyot’s fame comes from introducing several English words taken from Latin writers.  In The Governour Elyot introduced modesty.  Elyot rendered modesty from the Latin modestus, citing Cicero, which meant something like restraint or moderation (I’ll return to this in greater detail next time).  Elyot’s modesty had no connection to sexual purity, which makes sense given the fact that modestus doesn’t connect to purity either.  When the Romans discussed sexual purity they used pudicitia, an ambiguous word relating to sexual virtue including modest dress for women.

While the Romans held pudicitia in utmost regard, this virtue disappeared sometime before the Middle Ages, as did any idea linking modest dress to sexual purity.  Medieval writers and artists show that the Middle Ages frowned on public nudity, but for reasons unrelated to chastity.

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Revealing Themes in Feminine Modesty – A New Approach to Modesty Series

July 12, 2013    By: DavidF @ 7:11 pm   Category: Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the third post in the Modesty and Chastity Series.  Follow these links to post one and two.

Speaking at a Women’s Conference event, Sister Claudia J. Dansie said:

Part of our responsibility as parents is to guide, direct, and warn if necessary…. Some topics must be covered as directly as their consequences are lethal—subjects such as modesty, drugs, pornography, and immorality.

Lethal?  Assumedly, Dansie meant spiritually lethal.  A woman’s bare shoulders expose herself to consequences with eternal implications.  Does modesty really merit this language?

Elaine S. Dalton expressed a similarly solemn message calling modesty “the foundation stone of chastity,” explaining “it is essential to our very safety to be modest.”  Adding to Dansie’s and Dalton’s severe warnings, BYU president Cecil Samuelson explained that dressing immodesty may be as perilous as breaking the Word of Wisdom:

Most of you have no problems concerning the Word of Wisdom….What we may not realize is…that what we put on our bodies may be as equally corrosive and dangerous as what we might ingest into our bodies. (emphasis in original)

It’s hard to imagine that a woman’s uncovered knees could be as dangerous as her drinking alcohol, especially since the latter has temple-worthiness implications.  But because feminine modesty so closely connects to chastity, modesty rhetoric has adopted grave themes.
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Uncovering Feminine Modesty – New Approach to Modesty Series

July 3, 2013    By: DavidF @ 9:27 pm   Category: Ethics,Life,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

This is the second post in the New Approach to Modesty series.  For post one click here.

Getting ready for a Mutual activity, Chelsea Anderson casually put on a pair of short shorts. “It never occurred to me that they were inappropriate.”  She sat down in one of the few remaining seats, prepared for a lesson from the missionaries.  With the last couple of remaining seats to her side, Chelsea overheard the missionaries’ whispered argument over who would have to sit next to her.  Although she didn’t hear why they argued, Chelsea figured her immodest shorts caused the argument.  “I realized that I was making virtuous young men feel uncomfortable.”  Thereafter Chelsea dressed modestly.

While her story is unique, Chelsea didn’t have to look far for council to mirror.

Young women, respect your body and help others, particularly young men, maintain virtuous thoughts and actions. (Dress and Appearance: Let the Holy Spirit Guide)

Not only does this sort of council make young women responsible for young men’s actions, but it signals an even greater problem with current modesty rhetoric.  But before getting there, we first have to establish what modesty means today.  To begin with, modesty rhetoric rarely refers to men.  When it does, speakers implore men to dress appropriately for sacred ordinances and meetings, leaving references to virtue virtually nonexistent.

Part of why male modesty rarely focuses on male sexuality could be because male leaders don’t find men sexually alluring.

(hottie?)

If leaders applied the sexuality standard equally, perhaps the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet would read a little differently:

Do not engage in any activity that might build a visible “six pack.”  As soon as you are able, grow a beard.

(not-ie)
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Fasting For Health

May 18, 2013    By: Geoff J @ 6:33 pm   Category: Life,Mormon Culture/Practices

A little more than a month ago I came across a BBC program on the subject of fasting. You can watch the whole thing here.

If you don’t have a whole hour to watch I recommend picking up around the 36 minute mark where they start discussing intermittent fasting, or alternate day fasting. The basic concept is to alternate between fasting days and “feasting” days. A fast day consists of 400-500 calories for women or 500-600 calories for men. (You are encouraged to drink all the water you want on fast days). On the feed/feast days you eat whatever you want.

What are purported benefits of alternate day fasting? All sorts of things according to the researchers interviewed. Here are some mentioned in the documentary:

  1. Weight loss. It turns out that people doing this intermittent fasting don’t normally eat double their daily recommended calories on feed days. They are more likely to eat about 110% of recommended caloric intake so there is a net calorie deficit every week and that means steady weight loss.
  2. Reduced blood sugar levels. Warding off diabetes is always a good thing, right?
  3. Reduced levels of triglycerides, bad cholesterol, and blood pressure. They say this is a good thing. Reportedly reduces risk of heart disease and whatnot.
  4. Improved brain function. Mice on intermittent fasting remain mentally sharp far longer than the mice that were fed well daily. The theory is that humans see similar benefits. Fasting reportedly causes brains to grow new brain cells. Researchers interviewed for the piece think that this is an evolutionary survival mechanism; as we fast our brains quickly get stronger to give us better odds of wrangling up some food to stay alive. (I’ve been told that other studies indicate fasting has been shown to improve student test scores as well.)

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