Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Past & Rose Colored Glasses

 About 6 months ago, I watched the movie "Midnight In Paris", and it became an instant favorite (my memory fails me as to whether there is strong language, so view at your own risk). It is not a laugh out loud kind of movie, but the humor is really subtle and enjoyable. I especially love its message- when we pine for simpler or "better" times in the past, we forget that the past is not as rosy and devoid of problems as we imagine it to be. Each era has its pros and cons, and we need to embrace our life now. You might say, "it's funny but it also makes you think."
As things feel like they are getting crazier and crazier, I thought this quote by Howard W. Hunter was relevant and comforting to what I've been feeling: 

"I am here tonight to tell you that despair, doom, and discouragement are not an acceptable view of life for a Latter-day Saint. However high on the charts they are on the hit parade of contemporary news, we must not walk on our lower lip every time a few difficult moments happen to confront us...
"Knowing what we know, and living as we are supposed to live, we really have no place, no excuse, for pessimism and despair.
"In my lifetime I have seen two world wars. ...I have worked my way through the Depression and managed to go to law school while starting a young family at the same time. I have seen stock markets and world economics go crazy, and I have seen a few despots and tyrants go crazy, all of which causes quite a bit of trouble around the world in the process.
"So I am frank to say tonight I hope you won't believe all the world's difficulties have been wedged into your decade, or that things have never been worse than they are for you personally, or that they will never get better. I reassure you that things have been worse and they will always get better. They always do—especially when we live and love the gospel of Jesus Christ and give it a chance to flourish in our lives. "

Nothing like some no nonsense, sound advice from an older and wiser man.

It's interesting to note, that even a Book of Mormon prophet (around 23-20 B.C.) found himself wishing for a happier time (Helaman 7:6-9). It is a sentiment that probably spans the history of man.

** Here is a link to the speech by Howard W. Hunter that the above quote came from, "An Anchor to the Souls of Men". It's definitely worth reading.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Strong Words About Idleness

While studying a different topic, I came across this talk by Marion G. Romney in the May 1976 Ensign (April 1976 General Conference). Romney had some leadership responsibilities in the church welfare program. The following excerpts are pretty blunt concerning government welfare (vs. the church welfare system) and its outcome. I found his quotes from President Clark particularly bold, considering the state of things 74 years later.
This speaks to me in several ways: (1) It opposes the idea that government welfare programs are "charity". There is no agency (Romney uses the outdated term "free agency") in being taxed, and paying taxes does not stem from love. (2) The effect that free living and  the absence of work have on the character of individuals (idleness/entitlement), and ultimately our society. (3) The social importance of a strong family unit.

Marion G. Romney, "Church Welfare Services' Basic Principles"

"When we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, might, and strength, we will love our brothers as ourselves, and we will voluntarily, in the exercise of our free agency, impart of our substance for their support.
"Now about work. Work is just as important to the success of our welfare services as are the first and second great commandments and the preservation of our free agency.
"We must ever keep in mind that the First Presidency, in announcing the welfare program in the October 1936 conference, said:
'Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.' (Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 3; italics added.)
"A year before this statement was made, on October 7, 1935, President Clark, in a special priesthood meeting held in this tabernacle, referring to government gratuities, said:
'The dispensing of these great quantities of gratuities has produced in the minds of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people in the United States a love for idleness, a feeling that the world owes them a living. It has made a breeding ground for some of the most destructive political doctrines that have ever found any hold in this country of ours, and I think it may lead us into serious political trouble.
'I fear,' he continued, 'we need not be surprised if some blood shall run before we of this nation finally find ourselves.'
"In his conference address of April 1938, President Clark said this:
'I honor and respect old age. I would not see it suffer from want, not from disease that can be helped. It is entitled to every care, to every act of kindness, to every loving caress which a grateful community and a devoted family can give. 'I have every sympathy with age. I know the difficulties which age has in fitting into modern, economic life. …
'Some plan must be devised that shall make certain that no aged person shall be cold or go hungry or unclad. But the prime responsibility for supporting an aged parent rests upon his family, not upon society. Ours is not a socialistic or communistic state, where the people are mere vassals to be driven about as animals from one corral to another. We are freemen. So still with us the family has its place and its responsibilities and duties, which are God-given. The family which refuses to keep its own is not meeting its duties. When an aged parent has no family or when the family is itself without means, then society must, as a matter of merest humanity, come to the rescue. This is perfectly clear.
'But it is a far cry from this wise principle to saying that every person reaching a fixed age shall thereafter be kept by the state in idleness. Society owes to no man a life of idleness, no matter what his age. I have never seen one line in Holy Writ that calls for, or even sanctions this. In the past no free society has been able to support great groups in idleness and live free.' (CR, Apr. 1938, pp. 106–7.)
"And I’ll say to you that no society in the future will ever be able to do so.
"And in a private letter five years later, President Clark wrote:
'You must remember that back and behind this whole propaganda of ‘pensions’, gratuities, and doles to which we are now being subjected, is the idea of setting up in America, a socialistic or communistic state, in which the family would disappear, religion would be prescribed and controlled by the state, and we should all become mere creatures of the state, ruled over by ambitious and designing men.'
"What has happened during the third of a century since this statement was made testifies to President Clark’s prophetic insight.
"Prayer in schools has been dealt a fatal blow. The integrity of the family is being undermined. Unemployment compensation, Medicaid, aid to families with dependent children (AFDC), food stamps, and hundreds of other transfer-payment programs for veterans, widows or widowers, and children are today all supported, totally or in part, by federal and state/local tax revenue.
"Little is said or done in these programs about the obligation ... of recipients to work for what they receive."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

Recently, our family traveled to Utah for two family reunions and a mini-trip to Moab. Considering that our daughter is a terrible traveler (and has been since infancy) we anticipated this trip with mixed emotions- happy to visit family/friends and dread that we wouldn't live to tell the tale. Our trips to Utah are always crammed full of activity. There is too much to do and see in too little time, and we still go home with things undone. Overall, the trip was a success and we had a great time, but it was at times a bit chaotic. A booklet about Moab that I found in our hotel instructed that the first rule of navigating the desert is to "expect the unexpected and prepare for it" (Which, in my opinion is lame, unhelpful advice. For someone who likes to be prepared, the Unexpected is far too vast to realistically prepare for it. Alien Invasions, stampeding zebras, bubonic plague... where do I start? But, I digress). This advice would certainly ring true with our trip. Here is a rough summary:

  1. Family Reunion #1: Great fun, complete with a family picture, a trip to BYU, a chance meeting of BYU baseball players, playing with cousins, and many activities for young and old. On the last day, we had a "Hoo-ah Grand Finale" with a mandatory evacuation due to a threatening wild fire with only 15 minutes to pack our belongings and leave (a game to include in future reunions?). This was not an ideal way to part, but sure to make the reunion memorable... appropriate since the theme was 'Remember'. 
  2. Mini-trip to Moab: Luckily, the evacuation landed us at my aunt and uncle's house for dinner. When they learned of our trip to Moab and how grossly unprepared we were for it, they equipped us with a child carrier, some camel packs, and Keens. I had foolishly minimized the threat that the heat and sun would be and was grateful for their intervention. As seasoned campers/adventurers, they gave us as much instruction as they could and sent us on our way. The first day we visited Goblin Valley. Despite the heat it was a hit, and my son discovered a love for climbing. Dinner in Moab and a swim in the pool rounded out our day. The next morning I opened our curtains to an overcast, threatening sky. It proceeded to rain intermittently throughout the morning and afternoon. (While packing my husband had joked, "Should we bring our umbrella?" With zero percent of rain in the forecast, we left it home. Little did we know that our prayers for a fun vacation would be competing with most Utahn's prayers for rain). The rain let up long enough for us to fit in a couple of hikes at Arches National Park: the upper viewpoint to Delicate Arch and Sand Dune Arch. The grey clouds were not picturesque, but they did eliminate the risk of heat stroke. After a late lunch, the weather cleared and we finished up our Arches trip by hiking Double Arch. We hit Dead Horse Point on the way out of town- which nearly didn't happen because my daughter had actually fallen asleep in the car (a miracle) and we seriously considered passing it by. Perhaps the hardest decision of my life to date.
  3. Family Reunion #2:This reunion brought us more fun with cousins, lots of sugar consumption, Olympic competitions, and lots of music. We were happy to end our gypsy-like travels and find respite for a few days in peaceful accommodations. The rain found us again and our reunion was forced to finish up in a church gym. Somehow, my husband and I have picked up some bad vacation karma. We think that we should move to the desert. It would be a rain forest in no time.
The flight home nearly killed us, as our daughter had reached her breaking point. But, we survived and are slowly recovering and reminiscing about all of our adventures and missing our relatives. 
I must admit, through the stress and pressure of our travels, I could actually see my children growing closer together. Being in the car for hours on end forced them to entertain each other and it was so fun to watch (this mainly consisted of my son doing slapstick comedy for my daughter, which happens to be her favorite genre). One night, my son gazed lovingly into his sister's porta-crib and received such big smiles in return that his love for her overflowed, and he expressed to me a sincere and sweet love for her. It's moments like that that make it all worth it. I want my children to be friends.
That being said, I think it might take awhile for us to recover enough to go on another trip. This family bonding business is exhausting.