Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Is Saul Alinsky?

Dear Madame L,

Sorry if this question sounds like the opening line of a really bad novel, but I hear all these Republicans accusing everyone else of being like Saul Alinsky, and I've never heard of this guy, so I'm wondering: Who is he, and why do the Republicans dislike him so much?


Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Dear Inquiring,

Saul Alinsky was a community organizer who taught the same tactics many Republicans are now using against each other. Here's a short answer from someone more familiar with his work. 

Madame L used to have a book by Saul Alinsky, titled "Rules for Radicals." She read it for a sociology class in college and kept it because it was so interesting. She liked it especially because it claimed to be radical, but its radicalism consisted entirely of teaching democratic principles based on the teachings of the Bible. 

Here's a quote from the book, from the link above: 
"Believing in people, the radical has the job of organizing them so that they will have the power and opportunity to best meet each unforeseeable future crisis as they move ahead in their eternal search for those values of equality, justice, freedom, peace, a deep concern for the preciousness of human life, and all those rights and values propounded by Judaeo-Christianity and the democratic political tradition. Democracy is not an end but the best means toward achieving these values. This is my credo for which I live and, if need be, die." [Page 12, Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky]

Calling these principles "radical" was in itself a pretty radical thing. And it still is, as evidenced by the fact that some conservative Republicans hate the idea of using democracy to establish equality, justice, freedom, peace, and the valuing of human life.

As to why Gingrich and others accuse Pres. Obama and everyone else they dislike of being "Saul Alinsky radicals," Madame L can only suppose that it's part of Gingrich's attempts to make Obama seem like "Other" while throwing around epithets calculated to inflame his base electoral base of racist insular ignorant lowlives.

Oops, now, Dear Readers, you see why Madame L has to stop writing about Gingrich every once in awhile. You can get "Rules for Radicals" from Amazon.com for $9.73, and Madame L recommends this book highly, even if you're not taking a sociology class.


Madame L

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cain Endorses Gingrich

Dear Madame L,

Have you really sworn off commenting on Newt Gingrich, or would you be willing to answer this one last question: I read that Herman Cain has thrown his support to Newt Gingrich, just before the Republican voters of Florida will be completing their primary voting.

What do you think about that?


Really Surprised

Dear Surprised,

Madame L is surprised that you're surprised, and she also wants to point out that you asked three questions. 

Which one should Madame L answer? That's the real question.

Oh, well, Madame L will answer all three:

First, swearing off commenting about Newt Gingrich has proven as effective as making a New Year's resolution for Madame L. She probably won't be able to refrain from commenting on the antics of Newt Gingrich even after he has (inevitably) dropped out of the Republican presidential primary process.

Second, therefore, she's willing to answer your question, as follows:

Third, Madame L thinks Stephen Colbert should be really angry at Herman Cain for endorsing Newt Gingrich instead of him. Really, really angry. And no one else in the whole world should care. Because it doesn't matter. Because the so-called leadership of the Republican Party have finally made their point about Gingrich and the people of Florida have finally recalled what a slippery, slimy, irresponsible, and downright wacky politician the former House speaker is. Even if an endorsement from Herman Cain could help anybody, it won't help Gingrich.

Thanks for giving Madame L another chance to vent. Have a great week, and be ready for Madame L to comment on the results of the Florida voting.


Madame L

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, January 29, 2012: William Stafford

Dear Gentle Readers,
Please read these words and then pause before going on:

...And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.
There will be that form in the grass.
How does that make you feel?  Reading this poem has been a kind of balm for Madame L many times in her life.  

Madame L doesn't know why a lot of literary people in Oregon and Southwest Washington are celebrating William Stafford's birthday this week, because he was born January 17, 1914 (according to Wikipedia).

Maybe they think better late than never, and Madame L agrees with them. William Stafford is probably Madame L's favorite modern American non-comedic poet. (Madame L started to write that he was her favorite poet, but then realized she had to clarify, because she has so many favorite poets and even among modern American poets there's always Ogden Nash, about whom Madame L will be writing again soon.)

Madame L will definitely try to attend one of the readings of William Stafford's poems at local bookstores this week. Madame L loved Stafford's work before she ever moved to Southwest Washington and before she knew anything about this poet besides this one poem, "A Message from the Wanderer.

Here's the whole poem: 

A Message from the Wanderer

Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occurred to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.

Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Now---these few more words, and then I'm 
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.

There will be that form in the grass.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union address, 01/24/2012

Dear Madame L,

Did you watch Pres. Obama's State of the Union address last night? What did you think of it? I heard that some Republican members of Congress declined to attend, and I wonder what you think about that, too.


Just Wondering

Dear Wondering,

Madame L did indeed watch the one-hour-and-five-minute-long speech last night, and was very proud of our President. 

Madame L was impressed not only at all the points Pres. Obama made on all the issues his Republican opponents have been raising lately, but also at how he addressed those issues: in a calm and Presidential manner, listing the accomplishments of his administration and showing that he can't keep waiting for Republicans to join him in bi-partisan efforts to improve the state of our union.

Madame L thinks the members of Congress and the Supreme Court who declined to attend showed themselves (in case anyone was still in doubt) to be churlish boors whose opinions nobody cares about in the least, anyway.

In case you were hoping Madame L would provide you with a summary of the main points of the address, which she won't, she will at least provide you with a link to Foreign Policy's summary.

And in case you don't, Dear Reader, actually care what Madame L thinks about President Obama and his State of the Union address, Madame L provides you with this link to a focus group of Ohio voters and their reactions and these quick highlights of that article:

--- In a before-and-after test, the proportion of participants describing Obama as “a strong leader” rose from 39% to 71%.

--- Fully 78% said after the speech that Obama “looks out for the middle class,” up from 59% before the speech.

--- The share of participants who said Obama has good ideas for improving the economy rose from 39% before the speech to 79% after the speech.

Madame L thinks this goes to show that if voters in general paid attention to what the President is actually saying and doing, instead of what Fox News or random Republicans say he's doing, they'll be impressed with his success in the job.

Oh, and by the way: Did you see in this morning's papers that just before he gave the speech, Pres. Obama had heard that the mission to rescue an American woman and a Danish aid worker from Somali pirates had been a complete success?  Again, as he did the night of the White House press correspondents' dinner, the President proves how strong he is against terrorism, how cool he is in the face of opposition, or, in other words, how exactly Presidential he is...and how non-presidential his opponents are.



Madame L 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And the Pig Got Up...

Dear Madame L,

Your use of Porky Pig's famous sign-off for your post about Newt reminded me of that old Peter, Paul, and Mary song about the pig and the drunk:

The drunk couldn't stay upright, so he lay down in the gutter alongside a pig. Along came a high-society lady, who pronounced, "You can judge someone who boozes by the company he chooses," and the pig got up and slowly walked away.


Not a Drunk, Not a Pig, And Certainly Not a Politician

Dear Not Drunk,

Thanks for that blast from the past! Madame L has looked up the song you mention, did not find it in a list of songs by Peter, Paul, and Mary, but did find these lyrics on Peter Ghiringhelli's Poetry Page: 

The Pig

It was an evening in November,
As I very well remember,
I was strolling down the street in drunken pride,
But my knees were all a-flutter,
And I landed in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
Yes, I lay there in the gutter
Thinking thoughts I could not utter,
When a colleen passing by did softly say
'You can tell a man who boozes
By the company he chooses' —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away. 

Madame L also found this version of the song, which she hopes you'll enjoy:


Thanks for making Madame L's day,

Madame L

Is Hollywood Bribing Congress?

Dear Madame L,

After you mentioned those "SOPA" and "PIPA" bills, I signed the petitions against them. But now I hear that Chris Dodd, the former senator who now works for the entertainment industry, is threatening less support for Democratic Party election campaigns than in the past.

Is it true that the Democrats will founder without Hollywood support?


Not a Fan Anyway, But Just Wondering

Dear Not a Fan,

Madame L thinks that Mr. Dodd made a huge mistake by threatening to cut donations for members of the Democratic Party because they voted against SOPA and PIPA.

According to the petition writers, "Recently on FOX News former Senator Chris Dodd said (as quoted on news site TechDirt), 'Those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.' This is an open admission of bribery and a threat designed to provoke a specific policy goal. This is a brazen flouting of the 'above the law' status people of Dodd's position and wealth enjoy.

"We demand justice. Investigate this blatant bribery and indict every person, especially government officials and lawmakers, who is involved."

You can sign this petition, but Madame L warns you, as the petition website itself does: "Note: When you sign this petition, your first name, last initial and city and state will be publicly displayed on the petition page. Once you sign a petition, your signature cannot be removed."

Madame L acknowledges that Dodd was just doing the job he's getting paid an incredibly huge (think 1 percent) salary to do: to lobby for Hollywood, as CEO at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). But Madame L thinks he was not as subtle as he should have been----nowhere near as subtle, for example, as Newt Gingrich was, when he was being paid millions of dollars to lobby for Freddie and Fannie under the guise of providing them with his historical expertise.

Madame L predicts we're far from seeing the end of this battle.

Best wishes,

Madame L 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The PLON Ploy

Dear Madame L,

I'm guessing you're happy that Newt Gingrich won so strongly in South Carolina. But I'm wondering what you think about his performances in the last two debates there, where he played so brilliantly to the audience's many prejudices.


Disaster-Avoidant Republican

Dear Disaster-Avoidant,

Madame L thanks you for your question but wonders what you and other disaster-avoidant Republicans are going to do about Newt. Because the subtext for your question is obviously that the Republican Party leadership recognize that if Gingrich does actually become their nominee, they would be handing the Democratic Party a great gift.

Whenever such a non-Party-approved candidate, whether Republican or Democratic, has made such a strong showing in the past, the parties have done everything in their power to get that candidate to back off the stage graciously. But we've seen that Newt isn't going to go quietly into that good night of political oblivion.

Oh, yes, Madame L admits that she may have been wrong in her sarcastic comments about Newt running just for the future speaking engagements and book deals, because Newt seems to be serious now. At least he seems to have his back up, as it seems to be part of his character to just want something because someone else told him he can't have it, or because (remember this?) someone didn't give him a nice enough seat on a certain airplane.

But even the staunchest Republicans may get sick of Newt's blatant use of the "Poor Little Old Newt" ploy (PLON Ploy), even though it's been a mainstay of conservatives for a few years now. (See "The Power of Conservative Victimhood.")

One clever commentator notes that while Newt wishes everyone thinks he's a second Reagan, he's really acting like a second Nixon with all the rabble-rousing paranoia.

Newt certainly showed he has the power to make an audience to actually believe that the "liberal media" are out to get him, simply because of his mainstream American values, which audience members think they share with him: both the values and the victimhood. 

But do most conservative Republicans really want to have a racist, cheating, lying, law-breaking, hypocritical Washington insider represent them? Do they really think he would make a good president? Madame L thinks not. But she's been surprised before, and undoubtedly will be surprised many more times in her life.

Many members of the liberal press think the Republican Party is "flirting with suicide" if they give Newt the nomination---but that's only because of past experience, and they've been wrong before.

Madame L may recuse herself from future comments on Gingrich, but only because she can't stand to look at his smug, pudgy little face on the news all the time.

So, th-th-th-that's all for now, folks,

Madame L

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, January 22, 2012: The Art of Peace

Madame L found this book when she was doing her Annual Post-Christmas Clean-up of the Living Room and Family Room Bookcases. She doesn't know who it belongs to or how it got in her home, but she has been enjoying it.

"The Art of Peace" is a compilation of sayings of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the martial art we know of as Aikido. The compiler and translator is John Stevens, who has collaborated on other books about Morihei Ueshiba and the art of Aikido.

Madame L can't even find at Amazon.com the paperback edition she has, which was published in 2007, though Amazon would love to sell the Kindle e-book version of it to anyone who wants it for $6.60.

It's a good book, but Madame L wouldn't spend that much money for an e-book version. This is one of those books you want to hold in your hand, lean back and think about the sayings of the Aikido master, put the book down for awhile, and then go back to it.*

Okay, but it's not scripture. Some pseudo-eastern "philosophers" want people to read and study these kinds of books as if they're the Bible or something, and they're not. And, as another reviewer has pointed out, Aikido has become an industry and the writers of books about the art/sport and its practitioners have become rich selling these ideas. Madame L doesn't begrudge them their livelihoods, and this book is full of wisdom and helpful thoughts, ideas worth pondering and meditating on.

But if you want the real thing, the Bible is better. Look at the sayings of Jesus, who teaches the same ideas and many more profound and loving ones, and whose philosophy will lead you to God's love and peace.

Still, if you find this at a used book store or markdown bin or something, snap it up and learn about Aikido not only as a martial art but as a way to approach conflict in your life, as if you're defending yourself, and enjoy this unique approach. You'll learn from it, and that's why we read, isn't it.

*Maybe you can do all that with an e-book, but Madame L can't. Because she doesn't have an e-book reader and doesn't want one. Because she doesn't think she can enjoy reading that way.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Romney's (And Other Rich People's) Taxes

Dear Madame L,

I've heard that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has reluctantly agreed to release his 2011 tax returns when they're completed but doesn't want to release his tax information from past years.

I'm guessing that's because he doesn't want to have people know how rich he is, how well he has sheltered his wealth from being taxed, and especially how low his taxes are compared to the taxes paid by the 99 percent.

Could you please comment on this?


More Taxed Than Romney

Dear More Taxed,

Madame L sympathizes with you. Most everyone in this country pays a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney and other wealthy people, and there are reasons for that:

---Rich people have tax lawyers and accountants and lobbyists, and their contributions to politicians ensure that said politicians will grant pretty much any and every favor requested by said reach people ---

---Including ensuring that they have not just loopholes but nooks and crannies and extensive underground caverns in which to hide their money from the IRS.

---Also, rich people mostly don't work for their money, which comes from investments, and so

---Thanks to those same politicians, they don't pay as high a rate for that income.

On the other hand, you and Madame L and everyone we know personally* work for a living, which the rich people believe is not as worthy a way to earn a living. Therefore we give more of our hard-earned money to the government.

(*Full disclosure: Madame L knows several people who know and admire Mitt Romney.  Madame L is confident that Romney the person is indeed a fine and charming and upstanding individual, though that does not make Madame L believe he would make a good president of Madame L's country.)
Does this seem fair to you? No? Why is Madame L not surprised? It doesn't seem fair to anyone you and Madame L know personally. But it seems fair to the politicians, who are expecting a future as wealthy as that of their rich donors, and so it continues.

There IS something you can do about it: Pester and hound your elected representatives, asking them to represent you by lowering your tax rate while raising the taxes of the 1 percent.

For some talking points for your email message, letter, or phone call, you may want to read today's New York Times column by Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. 

Krugman points out that, "Back in 1986, Ronald Reagan — yes, Ronald Reagan — signed a tax reform equalizing top rates on earned income and capital gains at 28 percent. The rate rose further, to more than 29 percent, during Bill Clinton’s first term....

"And today’s ultralow rates — the lowest since the days of Herbert Hoover — date only from 2003, when former President George W. Bush rammed both a tax cut on capital gains and a tax cut on dividends through Congress, something he achieved by exploiting the illusion of triumph in Iraq.

"Correspondingly, the low-tax status of the very rich is also a recent development. During Mr. Clinton’s first term, the top 400 taxpayers paid close to 30 percent of their income in federal taxes, and even after his tax deal they paid substantially more than they have since the 2003 cut."

Surprised? Madame L is not surprised.  Krugman goes on to explain the reasons given for low tax rates for the very rich, but concludes, "At a time when all the self-proclaimed serious people are telling us that the poor and the middle class must suffer in the name of fiscal probity, such low taxes on the very rich are indefensible."

The wealthy 1 percent used to pay taxes on their capital gains at something close to the 30% tax rate most of the rest of us still pay. Let's go back to that! 

This isn't class warfare. It's about fairness.

And that is the point Madame L is making in email messages and phone calls to her Representative and Senators in Washington, D.C., and the point Madame L hopes YOU,  Dear Gentle and Overtaxed Readers, will also make.


Madame L

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Prez And The Rev

Madame L wants to share this short clip with all of her Dear and Gentle Readers:

This is why Madame L supported the movement to block the House and Senate from progressing further with their ill-conceived, corporate-sponsored, slush-fund-paid-for, and lobbyist-inspired proposals "Stop Online Privacy Act" (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Imagine a world in which Madame L couldn't have uploaded this video for all her readers to enjoy with her, on pain of some TV news network saying the footage belonged only to them. 

Imagine a world in which by uploading even something she knew to be free of copyright protection, Madame L could get herself and her blog and even her internet service provider in trouble because some government bigwig did not know that, and decided to go after her.

It just would not be a fair world. Thanks to all the others who called, emailed, and sent letters to their Senators and Representatives about this issue.

It's not too late to add your voice to the others. Numbers are all that count for those elected representatives of ours. 

Hugs and Kisses,

Madame L

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Starlings Dying---What Can Be Done?

Dear Madame L,

I was disturbed to hear in the news last week of the death of about 400 starlings in a park in Clearfield, Utah. The state agencies responsible for checking into such things have said that someone must have put poisoned them, but that they are not the ones that did it, and they have no intention of trying to find the guilty culprit because starlings are a nuisance bird and are not protected.

I know you are a bird lover, and are concerned about our earth and its environment and the politics that govern our societies. Do you think I should do something about this? Is there anything I can do?


Concerned Citizen

Dear Concerned Citizen,
Madame L thanks you for your question and apologizes for taking so long to respond.

As long as the birds killed in an incident like this are not protected by federal or state laws, which starlings, house sparrows, and pigeons are not, you can't do much. 

Madame L thinks this is very sad. She understands why these three common species are not protected: they are non-native, invasive species and have taken away habitat of native species. Yet she finds them all to be charming in their own ways, and she remembers that her own ancestors are non-native invaders of this continent. In fact, Madame L gets mad when she hears people from the Audubon Society talk about how to destroy starling and house sparrow eggs. 

Madame L has found a couple of websites for people like herself, and you, Dear Concerned Citizen, who would like to do something for birds that would otherwise not be cared for:

Starlings are very intelligent birds, and Madame L thinks they're quite beautiful. She would raise some, herself, if she had any energy left after taking care of herself and her current menagerie. She always enjoys the antics of house sparrows, and she even likes the pigeons that hang out everywhere. 

Madame L loves this quote from the Starling website:  

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man." ~St. Francis of Assisi 

So, Dear Readers, let's take care of all these creatures, and God bless us all,

Madame L

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Dog Whistler

Dear Madame L,

Did you watch the latest Republican debate in South Carolina? I was surprised at the crowd which booed the moderator and cheered candidate Gingrich. It made me not just surprised but sad and ashamed to see the crowd and Gingrich, as well as the other candidates, who said and did nothing to distance themselves from the racism, behave in such a shameful manner.

Or did I miss something? What's your feeling about this, Madame L? 


Ashamed to Be Part of This Process

Dear Ashamed,

Madame L thanks you for your comment. You and Madame L have no reason to be ashamed of the behavior of those people---unless we condone it by not responding publicly.

Madame L didn't see the entire debate, but saw the following day, on several news shows, clips of the parts you reference. Madame L was, like you, appalled. This use of the language of racism, carefully veiled in supposedly non-racist expressions, such as "the food-stamps president," the offer to teach the NAACP how to be proud of getting paying jobs, and the proposal to let poor kids work as janitors in their own schools, this language is like dog whistles: other people supposedly can't understand it, but the intended audience hears it loud and clear.

But here's the thing: The rest of us also understand it now, and we say:

Shame on you, Mister Gingrich! You have gone even lower than Madame L thought possible, appealing to the basest of the base of the Republican base.

Then Madame L saw today, on another news show, a clip of an audience member thanking Gingrich for "putting Juan Williams in his place." The audience cheered, and Gingrich modestly bowed his head and thanked the woman.

Shame on you, Republicans of South Carolina!

And thanks again, Dear Reader, for giving Madame L the opportunity to vent. 


Madame L

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yes, Mormons Are Christians (Part IV)

Dear Kind and Faithful Christian Friends,

Madame L is discouraged to read that the hate-mongers are at it again, and all in the name of "True Christianity."  An article in the Jan. 14 issue of the New York Times explains the "theological unease" that impels some ministers to go around the U.S., and even around to other countries, "explaining" why Mormons are "not really" Christians.

Please, if any of you reading this blog has any further questions about this, post them in the "Comments" section or write an email message to Madame L at [ellemadame] at [gmail.com], and Madame L will do her best to answer your questions with love and understanding. However, Madame L will refrain from arguing about issues that some others may want to argue about. Madame L likes to discuss spiritual matters in a spiritual manner and finds that swerving from spirituality to engage in arguments and name-calling detracts from the love we all share as Christians.

Meanwhile, Madame L would like to discuss here the last four Articles of Faith, which explain more about the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

10. Do you believe in the Apocalypse, the Gathering of Israel, a restored Zion, and other scriptures of the Last Days? Yes, we do.

Tenth Article of Faith: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

Expanding on this belief, Elder L. Tom Perry wrote: 

"Article 10 tells of our belief “in the literal gathering of Israel,” that Zion will be built again and Christ will return and “reign personally upon the earth.” It was in June of 1830 that Samuel Smith, the brother of the Prophet, embarked on the first missionary journey to proclaim the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Thus began the gathering of Zion. The word went forth from Mount Zion to the peoples of the earth that the gospel had been restored. Today the work of uniting our Father in Heaven’s children continues as we prepare for His ultimate return, for His millennial reign over the earth. We are anxiously and personally engaged in that great literal gathering when we profess His everlasting gospel to our friends, our neighbors, and the other peoples of the earth."

11. Do you believe in freedom of religion for all people, or just for people who believe the same things you believe? We DO believe in freedom of religion and worship for all people.

Eleventh Article of Faith: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. Do you believe that your religious beliefs supersede your social and legal obligations? No, we don't.

Twelfth Article of Faith: We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

About the eleventh and twelfth Articles, Elder Perry wrote: "The 11th and 12th articles profess our belief in religious liberty, tolerance, and agency. Agency is one of the great gifts of God to His children. It allows all men and women the right to choose for themselves and to earn their own individual salvation. Also declared is our belief in secular governments and “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” of the land."

 13. Do you have any other beliefs that show you are part of "mainstream Christianity"?  Hmm, that sounds like a loaded question. Since we believe the Bible to be the word of God, as explained earlier, of course we fit in with "mainstream Christianity." But what I like about the Articles of Faith if how they expand upon and  illuminate such scriptures as the one in the New Testament that this may remind you of:

Thirteenth Article of Faith: We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Again, Elder Perry wrote about this article:  "The 13th article provides a special insight into how we should conduct our lives and present ourselves before the peoples of the earth. It reads: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

Elder Perry also pointed out, "The Articles of Faith were not the work of a team of scholars but were authored by a single, inspired man who declared comprehensively and concisely the essential doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They contain direct and simple statements of the principles of our religion, and they constitute strong evidence of the divine inspiration that rested upon the Prophet Joseph Smith."

Best Wishes,

Madame L

The Book Review, Sunday, January 15, 2012: The Tale of Custard the Dragon

Madame L hopes these four lines bring back pleasant memories for some of you Dear and Gentle Readers:

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio little pet dragon.

Why is the dragon called Custard? Ah, you'll have to read the rest of the poem to find out.

Madame L is delighted to report that she has just found this poem, which she loved as a child, "The Tale of Custard the Dragon," by Ogden Nash. This paperback book is charmingly illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.

Did you, Kind and Gentle Reader, know that The Atlantic Monthly called Ogden Nash "God's gift to the United States"? 

He wrote this poem in 1936, so he beat all those other dragon-story writers by decades. Madame L's discovery of this book has reminded her of many other rhymes by this great poet, which Madame L may just have to tell her Dear Readers about in future columns.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Yes, Mormons Are Christians (Part III)

Dear Gentle Readers,

Madame L interrupts her series of explaining the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the church's Articles of Faith to bring you this interesting item, thanks to Ellen:

Answering a question about his belief in Christ, President Gordon B. Hinckley answered that he does NOT believe ONLY in "the traditional Christ" --- the suffering Italianate Christ of many Renaissance paintings and romanticized characterizations of our Savior through centuries of tradition. Rather, he said, he believes ...

".... in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity. Believe that His matchless life reached back before the world was formed. Believe that He was the Creator of the earth on which we live. Believe that He was Jehovah of the Old Testament, that He was the Messiah of the New Testament, that He died and was resurrected, that He visited the western continents and taught the people here, that He ushered in this final gospel dispensation, and that He lives, the living Son of the living God, our Savior and our Redeemer."

The full article is found at fairmormon.org, the website of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, which provides facts and clarifications about misunderstandings of the church's doctrines.

The organization is not about "apologizing" in the sense most often thought of but about "apologetics," or defending the truth.

The organization's website is not only for doubters, but also for church members who want to know more than they've picked up casually over the years, as in this quote on the site's main page:

“No one knows anything about Christ’s work simply by being born a member of the Church, and often he knows little about it after years of unmotivated exposure in meetings or classes. He must learn. And learning involves self-investment and effort. The gospel should be studied ‘as carefully as any science.’ The ‘literature of the Church’ must be ‘acquired and read.’ Our learning should be increased in our spare time ‘day by day.’ Then as we put the gospel truth to work in daily life, we will never find it wanting. We will be literate in the most important field of knowledge in the universe, knowledge for lack of which men and nations perish, in the light of which men and nations may be saved.”

—Elder Marion D. Hanks, First Council of the Seventy, “Theological Illiterates”, Improvement Era (September 1969): 42

Madame L recommends this website to all who are interested in understanding the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Yes, Mormons Are Christians (Part II)

Dear Christian Friend,

With apologies for the long break between posts, Madame L now turns to some more of the Articles of Faith as answers to common questions about the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Madame L also wants to explain why she's using the Articles of Faith to explain LDS beliefs by quoting from a lesson manual for young children, which gives the history of this document:

"In 1842 a man named George Barstow was writing a history of the state of New Hampshire, and he wanted to include a chapter about the members of the Church living in New Hampshire. Mr. Barstow did not know much about the Church and wanted to find out what the Latter-day Saints believed. Since the headquarters of the Church were in Nauvoo, Illinois, Mr. Barstow contacted his friend John Wentworth, who was the editor of a newspaper in Chicago, Illinois.

"Mr. Wentworth asked Joseph Smith about the beliefs and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet answered with a letter that has become known as the Wentworth Letter. In it he told Mr. Wentworth about the First Vision and how he received and translated the gold plates, and he also described the organization of the Church and the persecution and history of the Saints. In the last part of this important letter, the Prophet listed some of the basic beliefs of the Church. This list has become known as the Articles of Faith."

Now, continuing with the Articles of Faith themselves, to answer your questions about the church's teachings:
5 and 6. How are your church leaders different from the ministers and priests of other Protestant churches and the various Catholic churches?
Fifth Article of Faith: We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Sixth Article of Faith: We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

From a church lesson manual, a little more discussion: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not break off from another church. It is a restored church, established by Jesus Christ through His prophets in the last days...The restored Church of Jesus Christ is patterned after the Church established during Jesus’ mortal ministry and the ministry of His Apostles, with priesthood quorums, gifts of the Spirit, sacred scripture, and continuing revelation from God."

7. Do you believe in the same spiritual gifts given to the members of Christ's early Church?

Yes, we do. Seventh Article of Faith: "We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth."

"We believe that from the very beginning the Lord established a plan for His children on earth. He would, in times and seasons, have the priesthood on earth to bless mankind with the authority to perform the sacred ordinances that would prove man’s obedience to His will. There were tests to be conducted as we progressed in each step towards achieving God’s greatest gift, the gift of life eternal. Fundamental, then, is having faith in His plan, in His law, to be clean and holy and to repent of our sins, and to partake of the sacred ordinance of baptism required for admission into His celestial kingdom. And after baptism to be given the great gift, that Comforter, to abide with us, to lead and guide and direct us as we progress through mortality—all of these done under the authority given to mankind from God. Each man who officiates can trace that authority directly back to the Lord Himself, who bestowed that right on mankind.

"Building on the foundation established in the first five articles of faith, the sixth article tells us that an organization is necessary, and the same organization that existed in the primitive Church has been restored. The restored Church exists on the earth today, with the sacred power received through the restoration of the holy priesthood."

8. Do you believe in the Bible, and, if so, why do you also have the Book of Mormon?
We DO believe in the Bible: Eighth Article of Faith: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God."

"The eighth article states our belief in the Bible as the “word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” The Book of Mormon gives to us that second witness of the authenticity of the scriptures as recorded in the Bible. The Lord, in His divine plan for the restoration of the gospel in the latter days, brought forth the Book of Mormon as that additional witness to the mission of our Lord and Savior. It also provides a religious history that is profoundly important to our Father in Heaven’s children."

9. So you believe that God still provides revelation to humans, as He did in ancient times?
Yes, we believe God continues to provide revelation to humans individually and through prophets. We believe He will continue to provide revelation to us as He sees fit. Ninth Article of Faith: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

"The seventh and ninth articles profess that the heavens are not closed, that God continues to reveal His will to mankind; as He has in the past, He does now in the present, and He will in the future. Spiritual gifts are received by mankind today, just as they were in days past."

Madame L hopes this information has helped answer more of your questions. Madame L will write more about the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in coming days. 

Please submit more questions to Madame L through the Comments space below or by e-mail to Madame L at [ellemadame] at [gmail.com].

Best wishes,

Madame L

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yes, Mormons Are Christians (Part I)

Dear Christian Friend,

To answer your questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Madame L can think of no better way than the Articles of Faith. Madame L will discuss the first four of them today, with more to follow.

1. Do Mormons believe in the same God that other Christians believe in, and do they believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior of the world?

Yes. First Article of Faith: We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

From a church lesson manual, a little more discussion: "There are three members of the Godhead. God, our Eternal Father, and His Son Jesus Christ have distinct, glorified bodies of flesh and bones, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. The Holy Ghost reveals truth, testifies of the Father and the Son, and performs many other roles that bless the followers of God. The three members of the Godhead are one in purpose, working together in perfect harmony for our eternal salvation...Each person on earth is a spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents. As their children we have inherited the potential to become like them."

2. Do Mormons believe in original sin? 

No, not in the way taught by some churches. Second Article of Faith: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

More discussion from the lesson manual: "Adam and Eve brought about the Fall by using their agency, and although all are born innocent before God, the effects of the Fall, including sin and death, have come upon all mankind. The Atonement of Jesus Christ overcomes the effects of the Fall.

3. Do you believe, as "mainstream" Christians do, in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ's sacrifice for humans? 

Yes. Third Article of Faith: We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

More discussion from the lesson manual: "All are invited to come unto Christ by obeying the laws and ordinances of His gospel, thus being saved by His mercy and grace. Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by water, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands are the fundamental principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

4. Do you believe in faith, repentance, and baptism? What must we humans do in order to return to God's presence? 

Yes, we do believe in those principles, and more. Fourth Article of Faith: We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The lesson manual gives scriptural references for more information on each of these four principles:
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: Hebrews 11:1; Alma 32:21, 26–30; Ether 12:6 

Madame L will write about the other Articles of Faith in future posts.

Please write further comments and questions in the "Comments" space provided here or by e-mailing Madame L at [ellemadame] at [gmail.com].

Best wishes,

Madame L