Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lighting the Stones

I had started an extremely lengthy post about why I voted for Barak Obama and luckily took a break and returned hours later to realize that perhaps I was missing my own point. What I will post instead, rather than delve into policy, and issues, and the reasons behind my vote, is to say something about God talking to us.

When the leaders of the LDS Church across the country stand up in front of their congregations and read the official statement about political neutrality, it isn't merely obligatory, or to reassert their tax exempt status. And I certainly don't think it is meant to be read with a ::cough, cough, voterepublican:: wink in the eye. We are all encouraged to study and pray for heavenly inspiration to aid us in making a decision. I've done that, and I'm confident you have as well. There are General Authorities of this Church who will vote for McCain in this election and there are General Authorities who will vote for Obama. Does that mean that the person who votes one way is less in tune with the Spirit of God than the other? Not necessarily. Is it possible that two persons could thoughtfully and prayerfully come to a conclusion about two different candidates? I will answer that with a resounding Yes!

Allow me to draw a bit of a scriptural analogy, and forgive me if you feel I'm twisting a principle out of context. The Brother of Jared found himself in a predicament after he had built eight barges in which he and his people would cross the ocean. They had no light. No windows, because they would be dashed to pieces, and no fire because the Lord commanded it so. Because of that commandment the Lord had put them in a position that required an exercise of faith. The Brother of Jared was left to come up with a solution to take them out of darkness, which he did. He "did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones" which he took before the Lord in an almost shamefully apologetic way. "O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee...we are unworthy before thee...O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock." These do not sound like the words of a man who is entirely confident in his plan. But whatever confidence he lacked in those molten "things" he made up for elsewhere. "And I know, O Lord, that thou has all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this."

So my analogy is this: We voters are going to go (or already have gone) into the voting booth with an armful of stones, varying degrees of confidence, and very likely feeling a bit inadequate despite how transparent or clear the stones may seem. But let's not roll our eyes at our neighbor because his stones are granite and ours are marble. Both plans have elements that may be lame, and/or bad, and/or ridiculous. But they're just stones, man-made and full of thought, energy, and good intention. The best we can do is pray for God to touch them and do our part and act! Neither Barak Obama nor John McCain, in and of themselves or even their own platforms, is the answer to the woes of the country. But God can easily touch either of them and make it so. And I'm committed, regardless of who wins, to make that my ongoing prayer, and to act, otherwise I'll be stuck in a ship with no light on a very long boat ride.

Much love to you McCain supporters. Despite all the rhetoric on both sides, I feel your good intentions and I admire them. If he wins I'll be praying for God to light the stones, and will in turn do my small part in my small sphere. I hope, and hope in good faith, that the feeling is reciprocal.


Jessica Marie said...

Wow, great post. I loved the analogy. I hope my comments last night didn't bring this out, though. This is the first time I've voted for a democratic presidential candidate, and it's been an interesting ride. I've learned a lot in the process.

Les said...

No worries Jessica. Your comments didn't prompt this, though I am happy to see some fellow ward members who feel similar.

Many people, not just one in particular, have prompted the post. I've been feeling a bit of an itch that needed scratching, a desire to explain myself. Most of my friends and family are McCain supporters. Most of them frame their stances based on religious principles - same as me. I just wanted to emphasize that its a gate that doesn't just swing one way.

Tim said...

What a super post.

My vote was simple. I looked at who was supporting either candidate and I vote accordingly.

I was tipping toward Obama until I came across (myself because the media won't touch this guy) the fact that he tends to say things that make sense and he uses words that are familiar and make us feel good, but he changes the meaning of the words in his "small print."

An example is this... when he talks about merit pay for teachers he redefines what merit is. So, on the surface he sounds very logical; even a little right of the issue but he is using very slippery methods to appease the union (this happened in Illinois when he was a Senator).

He is too slippery for me. So I voted for Mccain and I don't really like either choice to be honest with you.

UtRider said...

You're such a maverick.

Don't forget to post from the ship. Perhaps a few pictures of the buffet table? :)

Quinn and/or Lauralee said...

Hey Les -- it's me: Lavy! Long time, no talk.

I voted for McCain because I wanted to cancel your vote. Kidding...

Seriously, though: I was impressed by your scriptural approach to the election, so I decided to follow suit:

"If the right offend thee, cut it off and cast it out" Matt. 5:30

I voted for Obama.

Mandy said...

Les, I loved that scriptural take on this. I would have so much fun talking with you and hearing your thoughts in more detail. It's been a tough one for me, and I also pray that the Lord will touch some stones here. Maybe one day we'll see you again and can have a fun discussion???? I hope at least that we can get together some day in the near future. Tell Christy and Gus "hi" from me.

Les said...

Thanks for your thoughts everyone! Sorry I haven't had time to respond, we have been on vacation and completely cut off from the internet.

Lavy, it has been a long time. I'll be sending you an email here in the next day or so. Thanks for rearing your beautiful head.

Tim, I understand where you are coming from. Because of my geeky English background I understand the importance of semantics. I wasn't crazy about the Education platform of either candidate. There were aspects of each that I liked and disliked, so that was a crapshoot issue for me. Maybe you can point me to what you are referring to when Obama redefines the definition of "merit". It must be clearly defined or redefined if any tupe of merit pay system were ever to be implemented. Merit Pay is a lovely idea, but would be very difficult to implement, and perhaps even more difficult to implement fairly.

Mandy! It is good to hear from you. I hope you and the family are doing well. I know things at Goldman have been crazy over the last few months, and we hope that Brian survives the bloodletting. I'm sure that he will come out on top, he's a sharp man! We'd love to get together with your family.

This presidential race has been a very interesting one and I admire greatly your vote and what I've read on your blog about your thought process in getting there. I'm actually more hopefull about the outcome of this Presidential race than any of the 4 I've participated in, and am excited to see if we can come together as a nation to make some progress, esp. in regards to Healthcare, Foreign Policy, and Energy.

mfranti said...

oh less, i have too many things to say and not enough patience to type all the letters out into coherent sentences.

thanks for the post. very good thoughts. i knew there was a reason i like you.

i think i'm gonna go sulk for a while and try to understand those that,for whatever reason, think that my vote for mr. obama was a vote for the anti-christ and oppression and tyranny.


*feel free to delete this comment

mfranti said...

and i meant to say:

les, LES, Les.

please forgive me

Les said...

Melanie, no worries on name spelling. I think the first time you raised your hand in class I called you Melissa or something. Now we're even. I just hoped it wasn't you subliminally thinking less of me.

Don't get too depressed. Times are perilous and people are afraid. I can't think of any other presidential election where there were so many fear based votes from both sides(my opinion). It may be inevitable in this new media age.

People of faith will try to apply, as best they can, their understanding of gospel principles to the issues at hand, and do so with varying priorities. My older brother once told me that the only two issues he will ever vote on are abortion and 2nd amendment, and based on those two issues he will know all he needs with respect to a candidate governing over him. I'll respect that compeletly. I might feel it's a tad shortsighted, but I must be cautious not to lose track of people's intentions in all of this.

Your understanding of Christ's teachings inform your vote as much as your naysayers' understanding informs theirs. It will all play out in the end, and if Obama turns out to be the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, which will be determined by his fruits, I will humbly eat my words and admit my error. But my defense before the Lord will likely have something to do with the fact that he had a very convincing sheep costume on and I can't help it if elections are held during Halloween. Thankfully the Lord will judge, not the guy who hates you because of your vote.

mfranti said...

"Don't get too depressed. Times are perilous and people are afraid. I can't think of any other presidential election where there were so many fear based votes from both sides(my opinion)."

and i wonder if we've been so conditioned to be afraid of the boogeyman that when a political candidate comes along that attempts to appeal to our hopes, rather than our fears, we distrust him and eschew his message because we are afraid that he's out to change us.
(if i have learned anything from my terrible dramatic life, that living in the past and fretting about the boogeyman, is no way to actually progress. )

niel said if the savior, jesus christ himself, the "social agitator who stood for the poor and downtrodden, pissed off religious leaders, and shared meals with sinners and women", were to come to the US and proclaim his rebel ways, many a "god fearing" Christians would point a gun in his face, laugh him off their porch and tell him to read the bible. (i added a little to his thoughts)

i'm not saying obama is a savior. not even close. he's just a man (though some believe he's the Antichrist and if anyone can cite your source, i'd be interested in looking into it)with all of the frailties that come with mortality. but i think he's got the right temperment and intelligence for the current situation our country is in at this time. [insert all sorts of progressive rhetoric here if you like]

perhaps, it would behoove us as US Americans, if we can look forward with faith and hope that this country still has it's best years ahead of us. And come to not to be afraid of our leaders, but rather instill the fear of the people into them.

let's work on being nice to each other first,let us work on perfecing the greatest of Christ's teachings, that noble goal of charity and pure love before worrying about the end times and second coming non-sense that latter, i believe, is just an excuse to excuse the former.

mfranti said...


i had no idea how much gibberish was in that comment. that's what i get for doing it over a long period of time.

perhaps, i should do my own blog post on that?

Les said...

mfranti said:
let's work on being nice to each other first,let us work on perfecing the greatest of Christ's teachings, that noble goal of charity and pure love before worrying about the end times and second coming non-sense that latter, i believe, is just an excuse to excuse the former.

I agree that we should primarily be concerned with looking inward and developing charity, that being the motivator that will enable us to (paraphrasing Brother Joseph) range throughout the whole Earth eager to bless the whole human race.

I would tactfully clarify your comment (and correct me if I'm wrong) about worrying over end-times/second coming "non-sense". Obviously the doctrine of Second Coming and Latter Days is an integral part of our beliefs, and is a reality whether you like it or not. What can be "non-sensical" is how we approach our living through the signs of the times. We can either be fearful and overly worried and paralyzed etc. by the concept. Or we can go on living Christ's prime directive and love God, love our neighbors, and let it all sort itself out.

mfranti said...

i'd like to quote your entire last paragraph but it takes up a lot of space.

let me say that you took the bait and succeeded beyond expectation, you did indeed tactfully clarify.

let me say that i used the word "non-sense" intentionally because i fear too many of my fellow saints get hung up on the 'signs of the times' but don't get equally hung up on the greatest of commandments.

i'd hoped it would cause some readers, myself included, to reflect a bit on the small things that comprise the big picture.
instead of the letting the big picture (how trite do i sound?) consume the little things.

you are correct, les

"Or we can go on living Christ's prime directive and love God, love our neighbors, and let it all sort itself out."

it's much easier to live this way.

...and what does any of this have to do with the OP? i'm a known threadjacker. i'm dangerous to blog with.

ps. anyone know how to blockquote on blogger?

Les said...

All right Melanie, so you're baiting me now? I have enough traps to worry about without having to walk into one of my on friend's!

So, point taken. And the thread may have been slightly jacked, but to bring it back...I think your ideas about big-picture gospel living vs. little-picture gospel living, are exactly what I was getting at regarding issue based voting.

Politically speaking one person's big picture may be another person's polaroid, and vice versa.

If someone voted for McCain primarily because of his stance on abortion (which many did) they might see that issue in and of itself as the big picture. Maybe even the biggest picture. They feel that they are furthering the cause of Christ through that vote, and they may be right.

If someone voted for Obama primarily because of his Healthcare plan (which many did)they might see that issue in and of itself as the big picture, maybe the biggest picture. They also feel they are furthering the cause of Christ through that vote and they may be right.

We could go on issue by issue and argue the merits of those decisions. That is a healthy debate to have. It is what I did and I had checkmarks that came out on each side. In the end we all get to choose what comprises our own big political picture. What issues are likely to make the most positive impact on the country (and humanity) in the next 4 to 8 years?

It is important to be thoughtful, and prayerful, and really open minded in the face of such emotionaly charged issues. I refuse to begrudge a McCain supporter his or her vote because I see the good intent behind the issues that were of most concern to them (valid or not). If people can't see the same for my Obama vote so be it, but I truly beleive that much (though certainly not all) of his platform will further the gospel cause. Some of my most beloved friends and family felt the same about McCain. What can you do? I guess bake each other cheesecakes. Just a thought.

Mmmmm. Cheesecake.

mfranti said...

I told christy it's nice to comment on your blog because i get to practice being nice.

most of the time, the other very big target, i mean, blog causes me to be a cantankerous bag o guts/moderator.

it's so peaceful here. ahh...

and cheesecake is always good.

Les said...

Thanks Melanie.

It is good for you to comment here because I get to practice not being alone.

Perfect practice makes perfect.

Joe said...


This post spoke so deeply to me, I've been meaning to comment on it for awhile, but never could muster the eloquence to do you justice.

Now it looks like it's all been said. You do sum up in so many words the ways politics and religion do each other wrong. No guy in a nice suit with a heady title is going to thwart the purposes of a divine being, or throw the universe off course.

Of course the next four years will bring its share of mistakes and missteps. Things will happen that have nothing to do with who's president (they rarely do have anything to do with it, I think). So now it's the "other" side's turn to feel morally superior and righteously indignant for four years. Maybe someday we can tone all that down a little and realize that the things that divide us are power and the lack thereof, not a handful of social issues or government programs, and the challenge that faces us is how to balance a sense of community with a sense of security, not how we can make sure everyone has a lot of money.

p.s. You got me onto Bon Iver and I salute you. Just diggin' it.

Nick said...

Your a good man Les. I voted Obama just to piss off the neighborhood.