Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Utah Medical Cannabis Debate - An LDS-Libertarian Perspective

I always get sideways looks when people find out that I'm both libertarian AND Mormon (LDS), really I understand why. On the surface many of the two belief systems seem to be in direct conflict - no drugs, alcohol, tobacco, tea vs. no regulation on substances, being loving to all people vs. no (or very little) restriction on arms/manufacture and trade, "Pro-life" vs. "Pro-choice, the list goes on.

The key is the role I feel each plays in my life. I view my Christian belief system as directing my actions. It's how I should act, it's how I should treat other people, while I my libertarian views direct how I think government should interact with me and everyone else.

The medical cannabis debate is a perfect illustration of this.

Recently in Utah (where the LDS Church is headquartered) there has been a big push for a citizen led ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis. This was countered by attempts to get citizens to remove their name from the petition and press releases by the LDS Church showing disapproval of the proposed initiative.

How do I reconcile this? As a libertarian I believe there should be very little if any restrictions on what substances a person chooses to put in their body but as a Mormon don't I also believe it should be banned?

For me the question comes down to one of free agency. For those that don't know free agency is a somewhat unique but central tenant of LDS doctrine. We believe being "free to choose" and using that freedom is the primary reason we have an earthly existence. Commandments, such as the Word of Wisdom (which governs what we do and don't take into our body), are viewed as small opportunities to show our willingness to be obedient. What then happens if through government intervention artificially limit our ability to choose to be obedient?

Take for example a Mormon walking into a convenience store to buy a candy bar vs. a teenager in a group of friends when one starts handing out cigarettes. For the first the temptation to purchase and use tobacco may exist but it is relatively easy to resist. For the second it is much much more difficult. You could even say that the first hasn't really been tested at all, while the second has been through a very challenging test and will be much stronger for it.

And so it is with medical cannabis. Prohibition of Cannabis sativa  and related plants has effectively removed a person's ability to choose whether or not it's use is in accordance with Gospel Principles. Currently in the state of Utah it is easy to choose to not partake of cannabis - the temptation is minimal.

I firmly believe that a person is stronger after going through trials and the harder the trial the more strength that is gained. The trial in this case is not just one of medical cannabis but also of responsible parenting, I won't use/abuse medical cannabis but have I taught my children to do the same?

As an aside, the LDS Church hasn't, to my knowledge, directly stated that medical use of cannabis is contrary to the teachings of the Word of Wisdom. They haven't been shy about their displeasure of the proposed ballot initiative but they have been very careful to not condemn it's use - a significant number of Mormons reside in states and countries where it's use is completely legal. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Going home for the first-last time.

A number of years ago my family and I moved leaving behind our home state of Arizona after taking employment in Utah. We were sad to leave the place we had called home for all of our lives but also excited about the new adventure.

Since moving away we have made an effort to visit home as often as possible, 2-3 times a year for the five plus years we have lived in Utah. We love "going home" - everything about walking it, the drive, seeing the changes, walking in the front door of the homes we were raised in the whole thing.

But things have started to change. Slowly Arizona has started to feel less and less like 'home.'

A little over two years ago my MIL passed away. It's taken almost this whole time to not be sad when walking in the home now only occupied by my FIL. Gratefully we have made new memories with him and walking in the door is once again "coming home." We now celebrate a life well lived and the sadness has been replaced with joy.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Merry Christmas - say it all year long!

While celebrating Christmas with my family this year I began reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas - well not 'Christmas' but the phrase "Merry Christmas."

We live in a world that is timid to use the phrase "Merry Christmas" in conversation with people we meet in passing. Fear of offending someone of a different (or no) faith has spawned a plethora of alternative phrases - "Happy Holidays" - the generic catch-all, while some ignore Christmas as a whole and opt for Seasons Greetings or Happy New Year!

Why are some people offended? The core is a difference in belief systems (regardless of how big or small they are) and the perception that one person is pushing their beliefs on another, just casually, in passing.

Briefly stated no two people share the same beliefs. Period. Sure, groups of people may share a huge litany of common individual beliefs but at the core your beliefs are shaped by your experience and since no two people have identical experiences no two sets of belief are the same. Meaning - everyone who hears "Merry Christmas" should be offended, yes even "Christians." After all how can you know the person saying Merry Christmas believes in Christ the same way you do?

I would presume that most reading this are Christian or at least Christian leaning. Whatever the case may be, ask yourself how you would react if a Muslim friend/co-worker said "Eid Mubarak" upon seeing you in the break room? 

The reason I point out why everyone (even those of the same faith) should be offended when greeted with "Merry Christmas" is to show that NO-ONE should be offended. We are all different and we all have different beliefs. Instead take the holiday greeting as it is intended. Translate Eid mubarak or Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas and instead of thinking about the implications of the phrase, focus on your intention in returning the phrase. Consider returning the phrase in kind, knowing that for a Christian to say "Eid Mubarak" doesn't deny, but rather magnifies and expands your faith. Think of what you really mean when you say "Merry Christmas." You are really saying you wish the person a safe year, that it will be a time of love and peace, that they will have a joyful time with family and loved ones - and so much more, things we should wish on everyone regardless of what we do or don't believe. 

And with that I will end by saying Merry Christmas. Yes - in January I am saying Merry Christmas. I want you to carry that meaning and message with you regardless of what month is on the calendar. Please, when you see me, feel free to offer whatever greeting you want, I promise to take it in the spirit it is intended.