A Punky Brewster World I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California in the early 80s.
It was a different world back then, before 1080i HD and personal computers, when televisions were 13 inches wide and weighed two tons.
We listened to music on vinyl records or cassette tapes because compact discs (CD's) weren't sold yet. And no one had heard of VCR's or cell phones except on the cartoon The Jetsons.
Media was fairly limited; I woke each morning to a radio alarm without emails or Facebook. To learn what was going on in the world we (1) watched the evening network news (we weren't cool enough to have cable); (2) read the newspaper; or (3) thumbed through a magazine like Time in the dentist's office.
The Nintendo (NES) was released when I was 7 years old; we didn't own one but my friend Brandon did. Without the internet, there were no cheat codes or the ability to look up solutions to puzzles (I remember my stunned, surprised reaction playing Castlevania and finding a "secret" area; it was the talk-of-the-playground the next day).
If you wanted to connect with friends and family, you basically had three options: send a letter through the US Post, use a fax machine (yeah, right), or pick up the telephone.
No texting. No apps. Those really were the good old days!
Well, not quite. Despite the relative stone age (technologically) I grew up in, human nature is what it is, and I grew up among many prejudices.
We all do.
Children are alarmingly perceptive and have an uncanny ability to intuit the political landscape they grow up in.
At a young age I was told Jane Fonda was a bad person (though I didn't really understand why, but knew it had to do with Hanoi and the Vietnam War when she campaigned for the enemy).
I learned Martin Luther King, Jr. was an adulterer, having up to 40 affairs. That sort of tarnished the beauty of "I have a dream" in my young mind.
And for reasons still unclear, we didn't listen to Barbara Streisand's music in my home ― I suppose because her political viewsdid not coincide with ours (and don't even get me started on the Kennedys).
Nowadays social media has made it easier for people to share their dislike online, expanding our ability to "cancel" complete strangers whose views differ from our own (like J.K. Rowling).
It's been 50 years since the Watergate scandal and we've learned little. What President Nixon was impeached for has now become a national pasttime — destroying our opponents.
In 1973 the Senate Watergate Committee hearings made Richard Nixon's "Enemies List" public.
Nixon's Enemies List contained the names of people the president did not like, such as actor Paul Newman (tough critic).
I know it sounds silly to carry around an actual blacklist, but I think many of us have an informal list in our minds.
Who is on your list? Trump? Hillary? Madonna? Chris Pratt? Dallin Oaks? Denver Snuffer? Joseph Smith? John C. Bennett?
My Personal Enemies List
I suppose having enemies is normal; it's a complicated world. Searching my own heart, I decided to list on paper all of my enemies.
Because the Savior said:
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
You see, it is actually a good idea to have an Enemies List. Because then you'll know who to love.
What if we turned our Enemy Lists into Love-Lists-in-progress?
"Surely Not Hitler"
How can we love someone who is . . . evil? Someone who is worthy of our condemnation? Who is actively working against God and Zion? Surely someone like that is undeserving of our love.
When the Lord commanded us "to forgive all men" (D&C 64:10), did He really mean all of them? Heaven help us.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
At the conclusion of World War II, President George F. Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had a dream. During General Conference in 1946, President Richards said:
"A few years ago, at the closing of a conference of the St. Johns Stake ... I was sleeping in the home of the president of the stake, Brother Levi Udall, and that night I had a remarkable dream.
"I have seldom mentioned this to other people, but I do not know why I should not. It seems to me appropriate in talking along this line.
"I dreamed that I and a group of my own associates found ourselves in a courtyard where, around the outer edge of it, were German soldiers, and Fuhrer Adolph Hitler was there with his group, and they seemed to be sharpening their swords and cleaning their guns, and making preparations for a slaughter of some kind, or an execution. We knew not what, but, evidently we were the objects.
"But presently a circle was formed and this Fuhrer and his men were all within the circle, and my group and I were circled on the outside, and he was sitting on the inside of the circle with his back to the outside, and when we walked around and I got directly opposite to him, I stepped inside the circle and walked across to where he was sitting, and spoke to him in a manner something like this:
"'I am your brother. You are my brother. In our heavenly home we lived together in love and peace. Why can we not so live here on the earth?' And it seemed to me that I felt in myself, welling up in my soul, a love for that man, and I could feel that he was having the same experience, and presently he arose, and we embraced each other and kissed each other, a kiss of affection.
"I think the Lord gave me that dream. Why should I dream of this man, one of the greatest enemies of mankind, and one of the wickedest, but that the Lord should teach me that I must love my enemies, and I must love the wicked as well as the good?"
(President George F. Richards, Conference Report, October 1946, 140)
"Give Brother Joseph a Break!" I spend a great deal of time rolling my eyes, such as when I read arguments over Joseph Smith's character.
Why? Because Joseph Smith's flaws (or lack thereof) are irrelevant. It would be like trying to disprove a mathmatical equation by attacking the character of Sir Isaac Newton (who invented calculus).
Let's assume Newton was a jerk; okay, does that change the answer to the problem of ab ≤ 1/2(a+b)=xyz?
Using a person's character to discredit their work is called an "ad hominem attack." It is one of the most common logical fallacies we make.
Like calculus, one does not disprove the Book of Mormon by impeaching Joseph Smith or the manner of translation (looking at you, Book of Abraham). We've got the text in front of us, like a mathmatical proof. We can test whether it holds up or not! But not based on historical claims (which are subject to interpretation and re-interpretation), but by looking at the works themselves.
It is like holding the Hope Diamond in our hands and tossing it aside, "This came from dirt? Worthless!" Regardless of where the Hope Diamond came from, we can authenticate it by looking at how it holds and sheds light.
You can take a jeweler's loup to peer into the crystaline structure of the stone and grade its color; when you know what to look for, you can judge the diamond's bona fides for yourself.
Take the example of Jesus, whose character the Pharisees challenged ("This guy is of the devil; he has no authority; he's a hick from Galilee").
These were ad hominem attacks because they were "directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining."
How did Christ respond? Not by defending His character, oh no. He was too meek for that. Look at what He directed their attention to:
The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works.
(John 10:25, 37-38)
Isn't the devil clever to blind us by getting us to focus on the person ("so-and-so was a sourpuss, so forget everything they did")? After all, it is NOT hard to find fault in anyone since we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It's pretty easy to take potshots at our corruptible natures.
But what happens when we discount everything a person says or does simply because they are imperfect, frail, and sinful vessels? Think of what we lose by denying the words and works of God that He performs through shoddy sons and daughters.
Imagine Alma the Younger standing up in Church and someone shouting, "Sit down Alma; we know you were the very vilest of sinners! You have nothing worthwhile to share because how could God work through such a broken vessel?!"
If perfection was the prequalification for us to labor in the vineyard, there would be no one to tend the grapes but Christ.
In terms of LDS discourse (on both sides of the aisle) I see a lot of ad hominem attacks. I apologize if I have participated in some of that (I am trying to be better about focusing on ideas and not individuals).
There was something of a renaissance around 2009 - 2014 as everybody hopped online and began blogging, sharing their testimonies and preaching the gospel one post at a time.
It was quite beautiful: there was such a diversity of experience and viewpoints, and threaded through it all was a sense of genuine hope and anticipation for building a better community and Church. It was a kind of digital School of the Prophets.
I was somewhat late to the Prom, having been a bookworm (that is, a consumer of actual paper books and journals) and only began reading a lot online at the tail end of the renaissance.
Going back now, I've noticed that a bunch of LDS blogs went dormant around the time I found them in 2013-2014 (it has made me wonder why so many lost their steam and stopped blogging).
There remain a few stragglers, but that initial outpouring of floodwaters, like a dam breaking, has now become more of a trickle.
I want to credit some of the blogs that resonated with me, their voices helping to open my eyes and heart. I owe a great deal to those who took time to share the word of the God publicly for all the world.
Climbing our spiritual Everests requires many Sherpas (or what Nicodemus called Christ: "a teacher come from God"). I would not be the man I am today without many of you, who have taught me and continue to put up with my shinanegans.
As a disclaimer, I do not agree with everything I've read in the blogs below, nor with all of the things these folks have written. And yet I am filled with hope and love when I read their words, so that I know there is good to be found in what they've shared. (I have learned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.)
With gratitude, here are a few of the ones that have meant a great deal to me: