Tag Archives: pride

“Divine, Messianic Force”

This is a fascinating video of 10 more obscure Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes. Every quote in this clip is powerful and Dr. King’s rhetoric at its best, but it’s quote number 7 is what I really want to talk about:

And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”

– Martin Luther King Jr., in a sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967 titled “It’s a Dark Day in Our Nation.”

There’s a fairly popular teaching in our Church that ebbs and flows with the cultural winds on American exceptionalism. It’s the idea that this land is a choice land, blessed above others, a promised land where good people are led and blessed and become prosperous as long as we follow God. Because of this, the United States of America is God’s chosen country for bringing about His work[1], and this, of course, includes the Constitution and the Founding Fathers springing forth from the well of Divine Inspiration. For many Americans, the Restoration and the last dispensation of the latter-days could not happen anywhere else because specifically America is just that awesome with religious freedom and all. Imagine, we say, if the Restoration happened anywhere else before it did? It would have been squashed like a tiny bug by giant, oppressive, narrow-minded governments! It would have never been given the time and ability to flourish like it would have in America! According to this mind view, no new deviations of Christianity ever occurred between the establishment of the Catholic church and 1830 (hint: This is not true; see also Reformation).

Some members see this as problematic as the Church transitions from an American church to a global one, and most non-US members either ignore it or see it as a quixotic American quirk that doesn’t really hold as much importance as principles like agency, the plan of salvation, the family, or saving priesthood ordinances. However, in the US at least, many Mormons fiercely hold on to this cherished ideal almost as much as guns, and especially in dark times such as recession, the fall of our capitalist banks, and the fact that our president is a fundamentalist Christian turned Islamo-Kenyan-non-American terror-bomber-in-chief, this sentiment is experiencing a great deal of popularity currently within the Jell-O Intermountain Corridor.

Martin Luther King, Jr., however, sees a massive problem in this kind of American exceptionalism, and that is arrogance. This sermon was given in the height of the Vietnam War, a time when America truly saw itself as the policeman of the world, stomping the Commies where’er they be found. Of course, hindsight if 20/20 and we saw the ultimate aftermath — a humiliating military defeat tactical withdrawal, and a massive humbling experience for the United States that would last until Ronald Reagan, who gave the US the wonderful gift to feel smug about itself again. For Dr. King, exceptionalist thinking brings about arrogance, and we should never let anyone think that we, for one minute, are some kind of messianic force for good in the global community. It leads to dangerous thinking, and it leads to lost lives.

It was a big problem with the Nephites, too, the previous recipients of God’s double-edged promise regarding the Promised Land known later as ‘Merica. Repeatedly, the Nephites were warned that only when we follow God’s commandments would God continue to let them even exist on this sacred ground. And what was the number one problem with the Nephites?

Pride. We even have a cycle named after them in Mormon terminology.

I can’t help but wonder if Dr. King is right. Maybe the whole exceptionalist thinking, the feeling that we’re living on special land and somehow that in turn makes us special, is incredibly dangerous and we should do away with it all together. Maybe this land really is special. Maybe it really does have some kind of special blessing-inherent property. Maybe the Constitution really is God-inspired, 3/5 included. Maybe even the Founding Fathers, warts and all, were inspired as well. But! Does that make us special, just by association? Just because we won the birth lottery and happened to be born in some specific, man-made, artificial political borders?

I don’t think Dr. King thinks so. And I’m inclined to agree with him.

[1] This conclusion is not a very solid one. Does the scriptures mean that North America as a continent is blessed? Then what about Canada? Is Canada the chosen land, too? Sadly, this question would cause many American Mormons to hesitate or say no. Then why America? Because we wrote the Constitution?

In addition, most scholars seem to agree that the Book of Mormon stories, if they ever occurred, would have occurred more likely in the Mesoamerican region. So does that mean in all actually we were wrong and Mexico is actually the blessed nation? Many people point towards the fact that many patriarchs declare South Americans descendants or adoptees of the tribe of Mannaseh as spiritual proof that they are Book of Mormon descendants. So…maybe the blessed messianic nation is actually south of the border?

Or maybe the promise of blessings for obedience and destruction for disobedience isn’t necessarily geocentric?



Filed under politico, religion

Post-Game Analysis: Revisting Resolutions 2009

Well, the solar calendar New Year is almost upon us (while officially recognizing the lunar one, I will still celebrate the solar one if only to fit in with the rest of the crowd), which means it’s time to dust off the resolutions for 2009 and see how I did. Admittedly, I thought I was off to a good start in the beginning of this year because while my blog was still on Blogspot, I placed them up on the sidebar as a reminder for me (as well as publicly humiliating myself for additional motivation). Unfortunately, we left Blogspot in may, and I never reposted them on this blog’s sidebar. A shame.

In fact, I thought this WordPress blog was at least a year old – alas! I was wrong. So I dug up my old Blogpost resolutions and have done a quick post-game analysis on the past year. My answers, I’ve decided, will be brutally honest, even if it sucks. The New Year should be about shedding old baggage so that the new baggage for the next year won’t destroy you completely – only partially. And a lot of these post-game analyses are…well, complicated. This year I  hyped up for myself because it was the Year of the Ox – my year. But this year, rather than being prosperous and full of awesome, was more tumultuous and exhausting. Each resolution is followed first with the numbers (what everyone really wants to know) and the excruciating in-depth analysis that follows:

1. Go overnight camping at least 12 times this year.
Current total: 0

This resolution was supposed to revitalize my love for the outdoors, which resembles more the smoldering embers of a dying flame rather than the raging bonfire I wish it was. Camping this year was a bust. However, lest anyone think I didn’t do anything outdoors, this simply is not true. For a while, Dantzel and I tried to go hiking every weekend in the summer. This lasted no more than a month, but we did manage to find some true gems out in the Utah desert. Could we have done more? Yes. Do I regret not completing this resolution? Absolutely. Are there lessons I will take with me to the next year? Of course! First and foremost being finding people who are enthused about camping – when you and your wife have no friends who show anything more than lukewarm interest in going camping in the first place, it can be hard to feel motivated.

2. Watch two plays at the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, UT.
Current total: 2.

This resolution I can truthfully check off! We went this year with our friends David and Tiffany, watching two plays – As You Like It, and A Comedy of Errors. This proved to be one of the highlights of the year and I still look back on the event with fondness. One lesson learned from completion of this resolution: Plan ahead to accomplish your goals. My wife and I prepared for months in advance just to make sure this one dream could become a reality.

Now that we will live in Seattle this year, I would love to go back but realistically, that probably isn’t possible.

3. Help Dantzel graduate by the end of the year.
Current status: Complete.

This was a struggle. My wife graduated all right, kicking and screaming along the way. However, her graduation opened up new doors for us, and so it was worth it driving her down to class everyday and staying in the car waiting so that I could pick her up right away and go straight home (she hated campus near the end and it was all I could do to just convince her to keep going to class).

4. Get published in something more prestigious than the Daily Universe.
Current status: Maybe.

I figured this resolution would work as a catch-all for writing, since getting published is the general end-goal of writing.

This is a maybe. While I never got published in any publication this year, I did actually accomplish a goal that I didn’t think would happen for a while – I wrote as a living. My friend inspired me to go out on a limb, and I did actually do several projects/jobs writing as a living. Unfortunately, the Great Recession hit, and most of those jobs dried up. While I edited translated documents for another company, those jobs are few and sporadic.

Writing for a living was the greatest and hardest object lesson of my life. The life of a freelance writer is difficult and stressful. You must constantly look for the next project before the current one finishes, and competition is rough. In the end, my short-lived freelance writing career in Utah petered out as companies cut back spending. I had several job interviews as a technical or web content writer in the late-fall, but nothing came of it. In retrospect, it’s difficult to assess this period of my life because as a freelance writer, you could always be working. But if you’re always working, you end up burning yourself out or killing yourself. My blog has a long dearth of activity during one period of employment where I wrote web content for an SEO company. When you write close to 25-30 200 word blog entries a day about dieting or herpes, writing can actually stop being fun.

After the forced break from writing (curse you, Great Recession!), it’s become fun again, and I’ve been approached by several friends on writing for their publications (albeit, for free – still, a job is a job even if you’re not getting paid), so hopefully times are looking up.

While I never made a lot of money writing this year (just ask my wife), the experience I’ve gained is tremendous. You learn by doing, the saying goes, and writing as a job taught me a lot. I made a ton of mistakes, as most first-time writers most likely do, but I also feel a much better writer because of it, though my insecurity about my writing has skyrocketed through the roof – a side-ef

5. Be ready to graduate by the end of 2010 spring of 2011.
Current status: Uncontrollable laughter.

There’s an old Chinese story of a monk who traveled to a master to learn to become a master himself. Upon his arrival, he prostrated himself at the master’s feet and begged, “Teach me, so that I, too, may become a master.” The master remained unmoved by the monk’s pleadings and said nothing. Every day, the monk returned to throw himself at the master’s feet and repeat his plea: “Teach me, so that I, too, may become a master.” Each time, the master simply said nothing. Finally, the monk sat down next to the master, angry at his silence and glared at the horizon. After several hours of this, the master opened his eyes, looked at the monk and said, “Now, you are ready to learn.”

Okay, I made that up, but it sounds legitimate, right? Schooling for me seems like that. At this point, it seems like academics will become a major part of my life, and if that’s true, then I will always be going to school. Sure, at some point, I will graduate with an undergraduate degree, but then I’ll just go back for my masters degree, then my doctorate, than post-doc work, and so on. In other words, it seems more productive to sit down and learn rather than continually worrying about at what point I will become a master as well.

6. Learn Tai Chi and more yoga.
Current status: Sort-of.

Tai Chi we did not learn, only because it’s difficult to find Tai Chi teachers in Utah. Not impossible, but difficult. We’re hoping in Seattle, it will be easier.

However, I can do a mean tree pose, though daily practice has never coalesced into reality. It remains a goal of mine.

7. Be at a healthy BMI of 22.
Current BMI: Don’t ask.

This is just a sad question. I don’t know about my BMI as I’m in a hotel room in Portland and have no access to my Wii Fit, but I’m sure it’s bad. Bad, bad, bad. I need to get better.

8. Figure out how to go to school and work at the same time without doing poorly in one area while prospering in another.
Current status: Meh.

This is the most difficult area in my life, and while I knew of this problem’s existence in the beginning of the year (as evidenced by me trying to tackle it with a resolution), the causes are only beginning to unravel. Life pre-mission is straight forward: school, work, mission, with very little overlap. I went to school. Then I worked for my mission. Then I went on my mission. But when you get back from your mission, suddenly, school, work, and church must all be handled at once, and I’ve never been good at it.

My zeal in life comes in sporadic bursts, and always from one subject to another. My wife is beginning to understand this and learns to deal with it. Without her, my life would certainly be anchorless; with her around, she can tell when my focus is waning and gently directs the flow of my productive energy into something else. We’re also beginning to learn that there is only one consistency when it comes to the productive side of my life – my love of constant learning. When whatever I’m working on ceases to challenge me, I become bored and move on. Thus, we’re trying to find a good career balance for me where I can turn my weaknesses into strengths, rather than trying to change them completely (which rarely ever works, I hear).

9. Learn enough Java, CSS, XML and PHP by the end of the year to be able to do some neat stuff with it.
Current Status: In progress.

I don’t know Java and PHP as I don’t possess the programming mind. I do possess the designing mind, and so scripting comes easily for me. Unfortunately, my designing energy relies heavily on visual sensory input, and without any graphics editing software, my project in overhauling my parents’ company’s website has stymied. I’m currently trying to find a way around this obstacle and pouring much of my creative energy into it.

10. Volunteer more often, preferably at the Habitat for Humanity or something akin to it.
Current Progress: Not as good as I would have liked.

I’ve never been a good volunteer of my time. I’ve compensated with material possessions, and this year is no different. This winter, my wife and I have donated a great deal of material possessions to food banks and places like Deseret Industries. But I didn’t volunteer much. I hope to change this in the coming year. I am planning on hopefully volunteering at libraries, as I love libraries. The only thing I love more than libraries is my life. And possibly food. Maybe.

Post-Game Analysis:

It’s never easy admitting mistakes made in the past, and this year is no different. Still, I want to continue onward and look forward to 2010. I’ve been secretive/vague about my moving to Seattle, mostly because my pride and ego simply can’t take the fact that I’m coming back home without a college degree. In essence, this year may end on what could be conceived as absolute failure – New Years Eve, I will officially arrive home without any paper saying I succeeded in college.

Like the prodigal son, I come broken, battered, bruised, and lacking any more excuses. Still, my parents come running to me and offer the robe and ring, though I do not deserve it. I’m content with living as a servant, earning back whatever trust and confidence I’ve surely lost in my peers and family. Still, while I castigate myself in shame, my friends have been incredibly supportive and have thus far spared the rod – which only invigorates me to truly deserving their love. The flood of support and love shown by my friends, family, and dear, sweet, patient wife has literally moved me to tears on more than one occasion. For reasons I cannot understand, they’re still there, wanting for me to succeed.

So poised at the cusp of 2010, I’m cautiously optimistic. Set back? Yes. Bruised pride and ego? Check. Humble circumstances? Yep. But I’m surrounded by the support of family and friends, with only potential in my path, and a burning desire to earn back the respect of those around me (though they assure me I’ve not lost it, I don’t believe it for one second). This year has been difficult and hard with many a lesson learned. Here’s hoping the next year will be less brutal, more educational, and certainly more fruitful and meaningful as this one.

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Filed under life stories