Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"To rule and do according to their wills"

Now for a topic I normally don't talk about, wild sex parties. Yesterday I read a news update about the trial of the former head of the International Monetary Fund. What struck me was how removed the whole thing is from any sense of right or wrong or even a hint of morality.

It reminds me of a friend of mine who was robbed while on his mission in Argentina. After being assaulted in the street and being forced to give up whatever cash he had, his assailant reached his hand into his pocket and removed my friend's watch. When my friend went to the police to file a report they were entirely unconcerned that my friend had been assaulted in the street. They were not willing to even write up an official report, even when he told them that the guy had taken his money and had stolen his watch. It was only when my friend added the detail that his mugger had reached his hand into my friend's pocket and removed the watch himself did the police suddenly get concerned. Somewhere in there they felt a line had been crossed.

My friend got a black eye from the altercation, had his money and watch stolen but, according to the police, that was OK and he should just deal with it. But reaching into my friend's pocket? Now that had gone too far. Usually the legal lines are drawn long after the moral outrage is long past.

Returning to the story of the former head of the IMF (and potential president of France), I could not help but think about the ridiculousness of what was being argued about. This supposedly respectable leader of government and the prosecutors in the case were reduced to arguing whether four wild sex parties per year were excessive and regular. As one blogger put it:
""The prosecution gives the impression of unbridled activity," [the former head of the IMF] testified Tuesday. But in fact, "[t]here were only 12 parties in total. That is four per year over three years," he added helpfully, although that makes it sound a lot more "regular" than he probably intended. Mon Dieu, can the head of an international monetary fund not enjoy one group licentious evening per quarter? he seems to be asking. Yes, he just can't be the organizer, say prosecutors."
 The thing is the current law that he is being prosecuted under, and probably won't be convicted under, were probably written by the former head of the IMF or by his fellow politicians and in the French government. That is, the very laws that make their actions unprosecutable were written by the very people involved in these wild sex parties. As I read these news stories a certain scripture came to mind:
4 And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;
5 Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills—
Seems to describe the state of law in certain countries at the moment.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Stories from My Mission: Thanksgiving in Argentina

In my second area of my mission in the city of Sáenz Peña I had been in the country for about nine months. I was with my third companion, Elder Palazuelos, in the area. The neighborhood where I worked was generally very poor, and most of the streets were unpaved. So when it was dry, which was often, we were very dusty, and when it was raining, which was often, we were very muddy. But it was a relatively large city (about 80,000 people) and "el centro" (downtown) area was richer than the rest of the city. Richer is a relative term since it meant that some people were not in danger of starving and may have even had a small disposable income. My area didn't cover el centro so I really didn't get to talk to people who had much money or access to basic resources.

One of the members that lived in el centro, who had plenty of money, had heard from different missionaries about the American tradition of Thanksgiving. He wanted to give the American missionaries a treat so he told them that he could prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for all the American missionaries in the zone. The member happened to live in the zone leader's area so our zone leader let us know that there was a member who was willing to fix us a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We were all excited to hear this because generally Argentine food was not know for being particularly tasty. We were all looking forward to having something different and to celebrate Thanksgiving half a world away from our families.

As Thanksgiving drew near our zone leader let us know the details about when and where the dinner would be held. Unfortunately for our zone leader, Elder Adams, he found out that he had a zone leader conference he had to go to so he was quite disappointed that he would miss it all. The day before Thanksgiving Elder Adams left for Resistencia and his companion stayed with Elder Palazuelos and me.

The entire week of Thanksgiving was wet and rainy and miserable. My companion was sick a lot so we couldn't get much done. I think that week we only managed to log 18 hours of actual missionary work with one lesson taught the entire week (it turned out that my companion really was really sick, he wasn't faking it, he eventually had to go home because of it, like it was potentially life threatening kind of sick).

Thanksgiving day I spent with my companion and with the zone leader's companion. At one point the other Elders in the zone showed up and my companion went with them to take care of business and I was left with the zone leader's companion, and that is another story for another day.

When the zone leader had arranged with the member to have Thanksgiving dinner Elder Adams had clearly told him, "The most important part of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. You have to get a turkey." The member told Elder Adams that he would have no problem getting a turkey since he knew a farmer who raised turkeys and was willing to sell him one. Elder Adams explained to the member the importance of the turkey and said, "If for what ever reason you can't get a turkey, then get a duck. If you can't get a duck then get a chicken. The important thing is it's a bird. It has to be a bird."

So in the evening we traveled to the member's apartment (bigger than most houses in Argentina) to have Thanksgiving dinner. All of us were thinking of turkey, which had been promised to us, rolls, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and all the other goodies that somehow are entirely absent in the Argentine diet.

We got to the apartment and the member and his family greeted us warmly and then said, "Sorry Elders, we couldn't get a turkey. So we got a pig. It's in the oven."

Fortunately they didn't speak English so they couldn't understand what the American missionaries said. We were good natured about it but we were all a little like, "Really? You couldn't get a bird? Any bird would do." Further more the "rolls" were standard Argentine stick bread (bought by the kilo). The potatoes were boiled but not mashed (and not seasoned, not even salt). The pumpkin pies were bought from a local bakery, where apparently the baker had never heard of the invention of sugar, or salt.

Then the pig came out.

It still had the hair on it.

Not that it had much hair to begin with, but what hair it had was still there.

Then they served it to us.

My slice came from right near the surface. It had about 3-4 inches of fat covered in 1/2 inch skin (still with the hair on it) and then the barest trace of meat on the bottom.

I didn't eat it.

I think the only thing good about the dinner was the canned corn.

Then for an after dinner treat they served us a drink called Anana Fizz. The members in Argentina like it since it's like Sparkling Cider, but pineapple flavored. The great selling point for members of the church is that it is "alcohol free", which as I found out later, "alcohol free" in Argentina means less than 3% alcohol. So not really "alcohol free". I think all the other Elders woke up the next morning with headaches. They blamed it on the food. I read the label on the bottle carefully in the middle of my second glass, and I didn't have any more after that. I woke up the next morning just fine.

Elder Adams, who was so upset to miss Thanksgiving dinner returned the next day. Heard all about our misadventures, and then didn't feel so bad about going out of town for a zone leader conference.

Rosh Hashanah and the Angel Moroni

Recently I was thinking about certain historical dates and noticed a coincidence that was too symbolic to be just a random coincidence. I know that I am not the first to think of this connection but it is not too widely known. So I thought I would mention it spread the knowledge to my two readers (Hi Mom!).

The angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith on the night of September 21, 1823 (this happened to be a Sunday). This happened to be the third day of the Jewish holiday Sukkot, which is a week long holiday to commemorate the 40 years that the children of Israel spent in the wilderness.

After showing the gold plates to Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni instructed him to return to where the gold plates were buried in exactly one year's time. Joseph returned to the place on September 22 for the next four years, until Moroni finally allowed Joseph to get the plates, in 1827.

In 1827 the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah happened to fall on September 22 (or from sundown on the 21st until sundown on the 22nd). The holiday of Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year but it is not called Rosh Hashanah in the Bible, instead it is referred to as "a memorial of blowing of trumpets". By tradition it is a day of judgement when the books of life are presented before the Lord and everyone is judged "by the books" so to say. The righteous are sealed up to eternal life, the wicked are sealed up to destruction and everyone else is given 10 days to repent when final judgement is pronounced on Yom Kippur, which is the day of atonement.

So we have a holiday that is celebrated by blowing a horn, the books of life are presented out of which men are judged, but a space is given for men to repent before final judgement on the day of atonement. And it was on that day that the angel Moroni chose to give the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith. We have picked up some of this symbolism with how we portray Moroni on our temples, but perhaps he should have a rams horn and not a straight trumpet.

We associate Moroni with the angel spoken of in the Book of Revelation:
6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
In the revelation the next angel to follow proclaimed the downfall of Babylon. But between those two angels the gospel must be preached and carried to all nations. Only then will Babylon be overthrown.

I like to think that Moroni chose that date to fulfill the Law and for the significance that it had for him even if Joseph Smith didn't know the significance of the date.