Reader Mail

Founding Mormonism

A short course in impressive achievements. Also: Earned esteem at Alcoholics Anonymous. Matching with the penguins. Plus much more.

12.20.06

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EARNED ESTEEM
Re: Shawn Macomber's Self-Help Cries Out for Help:

I read Shawn Macomber's interview with Steve Salerno (author of SHAM) with interest. While I agreed with many of his observations, on Oprah, or self-esteem being granted as a right instead of something to be earned, or the elevation of emotions over logic, I saw one sentence that I could not let pass unchallenged.

Salerno said "The 'diseasing of America,' too, can be traced to AA's successful crusade to de-stigmatize alcoholism."

AA has never undertaken such a campaign. This statement shows a basic lack of familiarity with the fundamental tenets of the "Big Book" and the companion "12 Steps" edition. AA has a single goal and that is to help the alcoholic who wants to stop drinking.

I am an alcoholic and AA has helped me. I never went to formal treatment but rather just started attending meetings and began working the program. It has been many years since I have taken a drink or felt the need to do so.

AA "gives" self-esteem to no one. You earn it by learning what you need to do daily to stay sober. And anyone who has actually been successful in AA knows that self-absorption and self-pity are the mortal enemies of sobriety. You help yourself by getting out of yourself and helping others. Putting yourself first is not an AA mantra. The closest AA comes to that sentiment is to point out that you are no good to anyone when drunk. As such, sobriety comes first but that is not based on selfishness but rather the opposite.

It is sad that others have glommed onto the 12 steps for their own purposes. Many of these are warped, pale imitations of the original and are indeed guilty of the sins Salerno describes.

I realize many people have a distorted view of what Alcoholics Anonymous is and isn't. Prior to finding myself in need of their help, my own view of AA was based on stereotypes that proved to be wildly off base.

Thank you for this opportunity to offer an inside
view.
-- Anonymous

STRICTLY NEUTRAL
Re: The Washington Prowler's Mormonism in the Spotlight and Kim Farah's letter (under "Strictly Neutral") in Reader Mail's Season's Jottings:

Let a fool leap in where Saints fear to tread. Although the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is not planning an information campaign, and maintains a strict political neutrality, it is clear that misconceptions about Mormons abound. For example, Mormons are classed in a different category than Protestants, yet Mormonism is a Protestant Christian religion. Yes, George Romney, Mitt's father, lived in Mexico as a child, where a Mormon colony was established (Colonia Juarez) in the 19th century, and Mormons who practiced polygamy went there to escape prosecution in the U.S. Mormons still live there, and run prosperous farms, but no longer officially practice polygamy. Many left Mexico during the time of Pancho Villa. Romney headed American Motors, and was credited with rescuing the company at one point, as Lee Iacocca later did for Chrysler, with his emphasis on the Rambler compact.

Interestingly, another Mormon from the Mexican enclave, a contemporary of George Romney, was Henry Eyring, one of the greatest physical chemists of the 20th century, who got a Ph.D. from Berkley, worked with the great Ferrington Daniels in Wisconsin, did further training at the Kaiser Wilhelm lab (now the Max Planck Institute) between the wars, authored the "green bible" of Quantum physical chemistry and Statistical Thermodynamics, trained a generation of stellar physical chemists as a faculty member and contemporary of Einstein at Princeton, and was the first to show chemical reaction rates could be predicted (a feat that should have earned him the Nobel Prize, but the Nobel committee didn't know what to make of a first rate scientist who was also an extremely devout Mormon -- see his book, Faith of a Scientist).

Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, was also a Mormon. Jack Anderson, the muckraking Washington journalist, was a Mormon. Bay Buchanan is a Mormon. Of course, J. Willard Marriot is a Mormon. A former Director of the CDC was a Mormon. Mormons, believe it or not, even founded Las Vegas (the 150th anniversary of that founding, led by William A. Bringhurst, under the direction of Brigham Young, along with the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the city, was celebrated last year).

Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is arguably the most creative religious figure since Martin Luther, or perhaps of the last 2,000 years. Even Harold Bloom cannot figure out how this un-tutored early 19th century American frontier farm boy came up with the concepts and writings he did, simultaneously advancing highly original notions of Christianity while appearing to tap into an ancient mystical Judaism. One letter noted the idea of God as a man, and indeed, this is the foundation of the very fundamental Mormon concept of "Eternal Progression." This idea vastly outstrips the notions of current "Progressives." His was a vision that bound, irrevocably, all humans who have ever lived in truly a "Great Chain of Being," with the planet, the biosphere, and the Cosmos. And it placed infinite value on human life and existence, not to mention the rest of the biosphere. No religion or philosopher has valued humans, the planet, or the biosphere more, or given a more powerful reason for their existence. This is Evolution writ large and with an infinite perspective.

Joseph Smith appeared out of the fundamentalist Christian Evangelical fervor of early 19th Century America, and created a quintessentially American religion. One of his contributions was the suggestion to purchase the freedom of slaves with the proceeds of public land sales. This idea was re-iterated a couple of decades later by none other than Ralph Waldo Emerson. Another concept promulgated was the belief that the American founding documents were written by men whom God raised up for the very purpose of the American founding. No religion holds the American founding documents in greater esteem than Mormonism. The religion has all but canonized those founding documents. The only person I know who claims the same religious veneration of those documents is Nat Hentoff, who states that his only religion is the U.S. Constitution.

An indication of how reverential Mormons are to the U.S. founding documents is the fact that they officially abandoned their core principle of polygamy, an integral part of their concept of Eternal Progression (with of course, they affirm, Divine approbation), in order for Utah to become a State.

A very good recent biography of Joseph Smith is Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman, a noted American historian at Harvard and himself a Mormon. Every American should read it. Neither Jeff Flake nor Harry Reid should be chagrined about the religion they follow. They only show themselves to be American patriots by espousing that religion. I would also suggest Vardis Fisher's book, Children of God, a good novelization of Mormon history, and Wallace Stegner's Mormon Country, for anyone who wants to get a flavor of the Mormon experience.
-- Kent J. Lyon

FABULOUS FABRIZIO
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's A Visit from St. Hillary (2006):

Ms. (Mrs.?) Fabrizio, with this piece
You are now without peer
The unquestioned, unchallenged
TAS Poet Laureate, my dear.

This one will go on my most treasured shelf
Having put all the others to shame
Including the talented Diane Smith, myself
And Mimi Evans Winship, of LTE fame.

But, as the election of 2008 nears
And liberals lie through their numerous caries ("Kerrys")
I'll read it again amidst all my fears
And laugh as St. Hillary's victory tarries.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

SUNKEN ICE
Re: Patrick J. Michaels's Sealing the Fate of Antarctica:

Patrick J. Michaels writes: "First, Gore's science fiction. Due to the warming of the surrounding ocean, big ice-shelves begin to crack off and float away. Because that ice is floating, it doesn't raise sea level a bit. But then the ice cracks all the way back to where it is grounded on the ocean floor. That stuff isn't floating and the ocean rises dramatically, some twenty feet in a hundred years."

I haven't seen this movie, nor do I intend to, but how can ice be "grounded on the ocean floor" when ice floats? Further, if there was such ice, for it to come adrift and melt would surely lower sea levels, not raise them! I write some science-fiction, which doesn't claim to be anything more, but I don't think any self-respecting SF editor would accept a story grounded on such a plot.
-- Hal G. P. Colebatch
Nedlanbds, Western Australia

Dear Patrick, I like your title "Sealing" -- Republican (elephant) Seals, at that!

RE: the ocean-floor "grounded" non-floating ice you mention, (which al-Gore's "indocyoudrama" "depicts" elementary... to his envirocatastrophism- hysterics-induced scenario) -- as you know, that portion which is submarine contracts to 90% of its volume upon liquification. That in order not to reduce sea-level, it must be offset by 10% of its pre-melt volume in "grounded supra-marine" (above-water) ice, is obvious (with only that portion of above-water "grounded" ice exceeding the 10% necessary to offset the contraction of the submarine portion of "grounded" ice, being able to cause any increase in sea-level; and of that excess, only 90% of its pre-melt volume, were it entirely to melt). Decreased salinity from infusion of fresh melt-water would facilitate refreezing during six months of darkness.

Has anyone made any realistic calculations on actual net change in sea-level were the sun to go completely berserk and relegate the water-cycle to an exclusively two-state system (liquid-gas) vs. (solid-liquid-gas)? Such calculations would be essentially unambiguous quantitatively. I have yet to see mathematical documentation (all relevant factors considered) of any resultant sea-level under said parameters, much less any convincing argument to suggest the realization of such terms are in any way forthcoming.
-- Gary Clark
Hesperia, California

Thanks for the great article on Antarctica! It reminded me of a book I read years ago, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, by Charles H. Hapgood, which revealed that the 1513 Piri Re'is map portrayed an ice-free Antarctica. Here's a link to one web site about the book:. At the following site, you'll find other maps of Antarctica without ice.
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Pat Michaels commendably directs readers to Brenda Hall et al.'s paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Perhaps it will inspire them to read as well the Academy's 1990 report Sea-Level Change, produced by the NAS Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources (CGER).

It relates that the warming from 4000 to 6000 BC to which Pat refers -- what archaeologists refer to as the Climatic Optimum -- was attended by a rise in sea level of ten meters or more, inundating if not Manhattan, at least the Neolithic answer to The Big Apple -- the Flintstones conurbation now under the North Sea at Dogger Bank.

This presents a quandary. How is An Inconvenient Truth to be unanimously elevated to a Coogler Prize if Pat insists that "because penguins feed along the edges of sea-ice, so if there isn't any, there aren't any birds." I am prepared to recuse myself, but perhaps the Editors should deny write-in ballots to residents of Melbourne and Capetown kept awake by the raucous creatures, and equatorial birdwatchers given to ogling them in their Galapagos feeding grounds.
-- Russell Seitz
Cambridge, Massachusetts

But you have to understand there is NO MONEY without the global warming scare. Follow the money.
-- Elaine Kyle

KILLJOYS TO THE WORLD
Re: Christopher Orlet's Merry Christmas as Hate Speech:

Christopher, thanks for sticking up for Christmas. Merry Christmas! To Tom Flynn and all the ilk out there like him, I sarcastically say, "Have a nice day :)." Tom Flynn, and folks like him, are the reason that America is becoming what it is -- a society governed by a squeaky wheel minority. The small percentage bothered by Merry Christmas, are the same folks hateful of a man opening a door for a woman, people who eat meat, voting Republican, Rush Limbaugh, any war ever fought anywhere for any reason, the Ten Commandments, corporations, and anything remotely patriotic. It's very refreshing to see the backlash of the majority, tired of listening to the whining of a few. These folks are small in number, but very passionate in their fight to destroy anything remotely moral, fun, or good. I call these people the San Francisco Forty Whiners, for their leftist attitudes, and small numbers.
-- RR
Wisconsin

Christianophobe Tom Flynn and brethren crabs surely know that "Merry Christmas" is not an edict, but a salutation well-wishers wish upon well-wishees. Flynn is free to be miserable to his heart's content if it makes him happy. To that end, I suppose we should wish him a most Unmerry Christmas which, no doubt, he will have in any event.
-- GnuCarSmell
Jacksonville, Texas

GOOD HAIR DAY
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Getting Iran Out of Our Hair:

I have been reading Jay's commentary for several years now, but his last opine was superb. Please send him my thank you for a stimulating and rhetorically excellent challenge. Were that he was not a prophet. Alas, I believe that he is. For now -- God bless, for soon it may be Allahu Akhbar.
-- Mike

KEITH AND KILL
Re: Florence King's Paper Tiger:

Florence King's review of Olbermann's small book could be a wonderful example of satire within satire, cleverly pretending to be serious about an author who is trivial; pretending that "the Sisyphus of morons" is a brilliant formulation of an agile mind actually comparable to George Carlin's; pretending that Olbermann's shallow slapstick shows "an inborn gift for human nature not unlike an ear for music." Unfortunately, Ms. King appears to be serious. Gag me.

Keith Olbermann is an obsessed, mean-spirited egoist who is still trying to be the smartest kid in 6th grade. And any reviewer (or editor, for that matter) who omits this crucial aspect of his personality is just a shill.
-- Robert Martins
Alexandria, Virginia

Well, so the Spectator has unearthed one of the three or four fans of this blithering blowhard of a buffoon. What on earth is this article doing on this site? Ms. King must have intended it for the Nation, or the Daily Kos, where the few other fans of this clown can be found, skulking around in their tin-foil conspiracy hats. Ms. King must be in her dotage. I will make sure to skip whatever she writes in the future, for she is clearly unhinged, and has execrable taste.
-- C.S
Ridgefield, Connecticut

COMPASSIONATE BUDDHISM
Re: William Tucker's A Christmas Offering:

The spirit of this article was really moving but the commentary about religions besides Christianity, especially Buddhism, was really simplistic and unfair. If the watchword in Christianity is "Forgiveness," the watchword for Buddhists is "Compassion." While I truly enjoyed what the author had to say about Christianity, it really wasn't necessary for him to comment on beliefs that he clearly does not understand. Mr. Tucker is currently reading a book about Buddhism so he feels qualified to write about what Buddhism is all about?
-- V. Pippins
Sacramento, California

BUGGED
Re: Michael D. Harding's letter (under "New Greek") in Reader Mail's Season's Jottings:

Mr. Harding's rejoinder to Mr. Settle contained the following passage: "[The cited article] also addresses the problems involved in equating a word's entomology and composite parts with its meaning."

Am I to infer that said composite parts include a head, a thorax (replete with six legs and, usually, two pairs of wings), and an abdomen?
-- David Gonzalez, amateur etymologist
Wheeling, Illinois

BACK IN THE USSR
Re: Ben Stein's A Scary Russian Bear:

Europe doesn't have to obey Russia, anymore than the U.S. has to obey Venezuela or OPEC. The problem is, Europe wants to be dominated by someone else. Back in Reagan's day, the Europeans were hot to trot for the national gas pipeline to Soviet Russia. The Soviets' abysmal record on human rights didn't bother the Europeans at all. If it didn't bother them then, why should Putin's Russia bother them now?
-- Andrew Vander Dussen
Cypress, California

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