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America the Beautiful

I’m starting to like Iran. Not because it’s a great place to live. Not because I like how the government runs things over there. Because they and their president are like a mirror that shows the United States its own hypocrisy. George W. Bush and Ahmadinejad are like two peas in a pod. The only substantive differences? Ahmadinejad is a Muslim fundamentalist and doesn’t have global power on the same scale as Bush.

We think we’re the bastion of freedom and truth. To some extent that’s true, but we’ve gone a long way down the road to tyranny and imperialism. If we don’t think we have been just as guilty of atrocity and injustice as the Iranians, then we’re blind.

In response to Bolliger’s inhospitable introduction of Ahmadinejad after inviting him to speak at his university, seven Iranian chancellors and presidents responded with this open letter. I wish someone in the Bush administration would respond.

Mr. Lee Bollinger
Columbia University President

We, the professors and heads of universities and research institutions in Tehran, hereby announce our displeasure and protest at your impolite remarks prior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at Columbia University.

We would like to inform you that President Ahmadinejad was elected directly by the Iranian people through an enthusiastic two-round poll in which almost all of the country’s political parties and groups participated. To assess the quality and nature of these elections you may refer to US news reports on the poll dated June 2005.

Your insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with a population of 72 million and a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization and culture is deeply shameful.

Your comments, filled with hate and disgust, may well have been influenced by extreme pressure from the media, but it is regrettable that media policy-makers can determine the stance a university president adopts in his speech.

Your remarks about our country included unsubstantiated accusations that were the product of guesswork as well as media propaganda. Some of your claims result from misunderstandings that can be clarified through dialogue and further research.

During his speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad answered a number of your questions and those of students. We are prepared to answer any remaining questions in a scientific, open and direct debate.

You asked the president approximately ten questions. Allow us to ask you ten of our own questions in the hope that your response will help clear the atmosphere of misunderstanding and distrust between our two countries and reveal the truth.

1- Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech at Columbia University? And why have American TV networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond? Is this not against the principle of freedom of speech?

2- Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow Iran’s national government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah’s dictatorship?

3- Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own people?

4- Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it? And why does it oppose Iran’s proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a general referendum?

5- Why has the US military failed to find Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even with all its advanced equipment? How do you justify the old friendship between the Bush and Bin Laden families and their cooperation on oil deals? How can you justify the Bush administration’s efforts to disrupt investigations concerning the September 11 attacks?

6- Why does the US administration support the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) despite the fact that the group has officially and openly accepted the responsibility for numerous deadly bombings and massacres in Iran and Iraq? Why does the US refuse to allow Iran’s current government to act against the MKO’s main base in Iraq?

7- Was the US invasion of Iraq based on international consensus and did international institutions support it? What was the real purpose behind the invasion which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives? Where are the weapons of mass destruction that the US claimed were being stockpiled in Iraq?

8- Why do America’s closest allies in the Middle East come from extremely undemocratic governments with absolutist monarchical regimes?

9- Why did the US oppose the plan for a Middle East free of unconventional weapons in the recent session of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors despite the fact the move won the support of all members other than Israel?

10- Why is the US displeased with Iran’s agreement with the IAEA and why does it openly oppose any progress in talks between Iran and the agency to resolve the nuclear issue under international law?

Finally, we would like to express our readiness to invite you and other scientific delegations to our country. A trip to Iran would allow you and your colleagues to speak directly with Iranians from all walks of life including intellectuals and university scholars. You could then assess the realities of Iranian society without media censorship before making judgments about the Iranian nation and government.

You can be assured that Iranians are very polite and hospitable toward their guests.

(Global Research)

Where did America lose its way?

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Blind Obedience

I never realized the origin of the idea that if you follow the counsel of your Mormon priesthood leaders, even if it’s wrong, you will be blessed:

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident, which happened to him: I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home….Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

This is as quoted in Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet which was quoted from during last Sunday’s sacrament meeting. I was actually shocked to hear someone say that. The idea is so bass-ackward that I thought I had just imagined it. “People couldn’t be that wrong headed. I must have been dreaming that up.” Never underestimate the power of religious fundamentalism, I guess.

Combine that with the belief that priesthood leaders of all levels are inspired and the following gem (via Talking to God) and you have a perfect recipe for blind obedience and another Mountain Meadows Massacre.

What’s the point of personal revelation then? Just follow the prophet. He knows the way.

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Correct Principles

Is it just me, or does “Follow the living prophet” contradict “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves”? On the one hand we are exhorted to follow whatever the current prophet says. On the other, we are supposed to be given correct principles and then left to govern ourselves. So which is it: prophet or principles?

Some may say that the living prophet is the source of correct principles, but surely a correct principle won’t change with the changing of church administrations. If prophet A teaches X as the word of God and prophet B preaches the opposite of X similarly, then one of them isn’t teaching a correct principle. Or they make God changeable. Either way, they are not a source of principles as I understand the word.

For example, Brigham Young sounds uncompromising when he says “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, page 269). When we remember that the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage was historically understood to refer to polygamous marriage (hence the need to keep this section secret for years), it is evident that Doctrine and Covenants 132 supports Brigham Young’s view.

Gordon B. Hinckley sounds equally uncompromising when he says “I condemn [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal.” (Larry King Live, aired 8 September 1998) Hinckley receives support from Official Declaration 1, only if we accept the idea that a current prophet can flatly contradict what a previous prophet taught as an eternal principle.

Some may claim that this apparent contradiction reflects a deeper principle, the principle of Jacob 2 where polygamy is righteous when God commands it. If that is the principle, then Brigham Young and Gordon Hinckley have both proven themselves unreliable in providing the correct principle by which the people can govern themselves. Given their public statements, their hearers would be unable to govern themselves. The audience is beholden to the prophets for constant guidance. Nothing that a prophet states as the truth can be relied upon to remain in force, even if the prophet states that it is an eternal principle:

The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259, emphasis added)

Contrast this train wreck of conflicting doctrine with the conservation of energy: energy can not be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. This principle applies everywhere and for all time. We can rely on it to be true. When compared to the shifting sands of Mormon prophetic writ, this physical principle seems like an oasis in the desert.

The only principle that the Mormon church seems to preach is complete obedience to the titular head of its hierarchy. They are not, as Brother Joseph poetically put, taught correct principles and allowed to govern themselves. I wish they were.

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