Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Arizona Legisture: Committed To Executing God’s Will (Whether He Wants It Or Not)

I’m starting to feel like an unwilling resident of Masada in 73 AD. (Or, for the benefit of my politically correct friends, 73 CE.)

As the story goes, a group of over 900 Jewish zealots retreated from the Romans and closed themselves up in a fortress atop a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. When the Romans found a way to finally breach the fortress, what they discovered was every building burnt and all but seven of the 900+ residents dead from having their throat slit. Or in other words, they walked into Arizona, politically speaking, in 2014.

I mean, how else can you describe the destruction our legislature keeps trying to heap upon our backs. And each time, they claim they are doing it out of either a religious obligation or something similar. It’s starting to enter the realm of insanity.

For those who are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, let me take you back to the beginning. And the beginning would be SB 1070.

SB 1070 was a bill passed in Arizona to combat the issue we have in this state with illegal immigration. The impetus for this bill was the murder of an American citizen, a rancher simply monitoring his fence line, along the Mexican border. He was killed by members of the criminal cartels of Mexico who consider our border to be a running joke. It was a serious issue that demanded a serious response.

Instead, we got a law that did little to address the criminal cartels and instead urged cops to demand that anyone with a Hispanic appearance produce paperwork proving their American citizenship or face deportation. These requests/demands could be made during any type of “criminal” investigation up to and including a traffic stop. Sadly, I will admit that in the early going of this law being drafted, I bought into the hype regarding our illegal immigration issues and supported this law. The resulting fall-out forced me to look deeper into the issue and in the end led me to a complete reversal of my illegal immigration stance.

It was a bad law. And if a person of sound logic took time to think through the ramifications of it, they would quickly realize just how bad it was. But the worst part of the whole thing is what it did to businesses, or rather individual’s livelihoods. It caused a boycott of our state (not the first as we were the one state to refuse to acknowledge MLK day decades ago, again out of religious protest, supposedly.) It hurt literally thousands of jobs reliant on tourism. And for what? Not much. Some of it got thrown out by the Supreme Court and the rest has been deemed unenforceable by much of our state’s law enforcement.

But at the time, it was presented as necessary in order to fulfill our moral obligation to our nation’s laws. In fact, Senate President Russell Pierce, a good upstanding Mormon from the East Valley who introduced the law, said his impetus in creating the law was to uphold his belief in the 12th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.


Anyway, after this debacle was finally put to rest, legislators then took up a new crusade. They decided they needed to teach the federal government a lesson or two about fiscal responsibility. Under the ACA (Obamacare), states must use their federal Medicaid dollars along with their own budgets to fund Medicaid coverage up to 133% of the federal poverty level. Despite a voter approved measure some years earlier, legislators had dropped Medicaid funding down to well below the poverty level in order to “balance the budget.” Or in other words stopped paying hospitals and doctors for care they were legally obligated to provide in order to be “self-sufficient” and “fiscally responsible.” Never mind those people still get sick and go to hospitals or doctors with no way to pay. According to some legislators way of thinking, those ne’er-do-wells were sinking our economy and must be cut off. But when the ACA demanded the level of funding be returned to 133%, those same legislators said, “Screw the federal government and their money. We don’t think they should be spending it on this in the first place so we won’t do it and we will write off $7 billion that would be used to pay hospitals and doctors that desperately need it for the care they currently providing for free.”

Thankfully, Governor Jan Brewer stepped in and forced a plan through that would meet the federal government’s requirements and restore the $7 billion to our state. And what was the response of those legislators who consider themselves the moral arbiters of our state? They sued the governor to stop her plan from being enacted. Thankfully, their lawsuit was eventually thrown out.

But, not wanting to let a few discouragements get in the way of their religious fervor, the Arizona legislature this last week passed a law allowing anyone who owns a business to cite “religious beliefs” as a reason to deny services to someone else. At an initial glance, it seems like a fairly reasonable law. People should not be forced to go against their religion in order to do business, right?

However, what this is really about is the fear that homosexual couples will sue businesses associated with the wedding industry who don’t want to provide services to those seeking a same-sex marriage. And this knee-jerk reaction masking itself as a law is an abomination that will again give Arizona a black-eye and hurt its citizens badly in the short term.

The main problem here as I see it is that those supporting this law who belong to the LDS faith are treading on thin ground-for many reasons. First, aren’t we the church that likes to point to the extermination order in Missouri as an example of government overstepping its bounds? Well, what’s different here? So we belong to a faith that doesn’t theologically agree with the practice of homosexuality or its off-shoot of same-sex marriage. But aren’t we also the faith that claims the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience while allowing all men the same privilege?

Being a Mormon business owner who doesn’t want to provide services to individuals who don’t hold the same religious standards as they do is a dangerous precedent to get into. For instance, what justification does a wedding photographer have if they agree to service a wedding where the bride is wearing a strapless gown, or take pictures at a reception where alcohol is flowing but then refuses to be the photographer at a gay wedding? Theoretically, on religious grounds, they should refuse all three.

Oh come on, that’s not the same!

Isn’t it? What’s the difference?

What makes this law even more offensive is that it opens the door far beyond wedding services. And my question then becomes, where does this end? Can a Baptist business owner who considers the Mormon faith a cult deny services to any Latter-Day Saint? If his religious convictions can theoretically be “offended”, I would say he has a case under this law.

Bottom line, is this really where we want to go? At least as Mormons, we have been counseled to show kindness and respect to those with whom we disagree, including those who support gay marriage. We are counseled to love everyone, including those who are homosexual. Finding excuses to exclude doesn’t seem like kindness, respect or love to me. If a person’s business takes them to a gay wedding, even though they may personally not believe gay marriage is conducive with God’s teachings, it doesn’t affect their faith any more than attending a heterosexual wedding presided over by a Wiccan priestess would. So how about our legislators stop trying to suggest that it does.

Furthermore, if our governor doesn’t veto this bill, we will once again become the target of boycotts and thousands of jobs will be adversely affected. And for what? So that some politicians can score political points by saying they are protecting the religious freedoms of their constituents? Bull Crap! The law will be struck down eventually anyway, and everyone knows it. So instead of doing things that will benefit our communities and our economy for decades to come, these law makers will slit the throats economically of thousands of Arizona citizens for a cause and a law that won’t last the year.

I vote we slit the throat of their political careers instead.

Governor Brewer, for the good of every Arizonan, please veto SB 1062. Our state has enough issues to keep it busy without it.

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I’d Be Better Off In A Pine Wood Derby Box

I have a serious question.

No seriously, I do. It’s a question I I believe deserves a respectable amount of thought and consideration. And here it is:

Is there a more effective device of torture for a father than the annual Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby?

Now wait. Before you roll your eyes and blow off my query as the silly ramblings of an avoid Scout Non-Enthusiast, let me present my argument.

Every year, the torment begins from the second you are handed that little seven-inch box with a block of wood and four silly little plastic tires in it. (As an aside, I have two boys and have thus far been involved in the making of three pinewood derby cars. In two of the three pinewood derby car kits we were assigned, an axle was missing. I actually had to go buy another little kit of four tires and four axles just to get a fourth axle for the car we were making. $*@& BSA!!! They get you coming and going.) ((As an aside from the aside, I scheduled a boys day away in Tempe last year to watch the ASU/UofA basketball game on the same day as the derby, thus getting out of the one year when I would have been on the hook for two cars as my boys ages overlapped. Don’t think for a second I regret that decision. Now back to the original discussion.)) You are handed that kit and some nice lady gives you a big smile and wishes you luck, totally ignoring the beads of sweat that have broken out on your forehead.

See, the question running through a father’s brain long before the box is even opened is this: How involved am I going to let my son be in the construction of his own car?

And through the miraculous waves of Wi-Fi, I can already hear the judgement of women everywhere as they sanctimoniously scream at their computer, “They have to be totally involved. Only a jerk would keep his son from being the main builder of his own car.”

But any man reading this knows better.

He knows that any amount of joy a young boy derives from building of his own car will be annihilated and then some on race day when he finishes dead last in every heat. And if you let the boy do all of the design and most of the work, that is exactly what is going to happen. Trust me, I know. I learned that horrible lesson in year one. And trust me, I may not be the smartest guy in the pack, but staring at your devastated son’s face time after time from across some plastic barrier is enough to drive that lesson home for good.

But the flip side of this issue isn’t any better. If a father takes over too much of the responsibility, the boy has no buy-in and you end up building an entire car by yourself while your kid is watching TV. Maybe some fathers are okay with that, but I am not one of those fathers. I have better things to do than build model cars by myself in my free time.

So each year, the day arrives. You’ve gotten on-line, you’ve hopefully followed enough of the internet suggestions to get a decent amount of speed out of your car, and you’ve graphited the living crap out of the tires in the hopes that it will magically over compensate for any failure on your part. Now there is nothing left but to settle in your chair and begin praying.

Now some might think you’re praying your kid will have the fastest car. That would be completely incorrect. You want to be the father of the kid whose car finishes second or third out four in every race but one. You do want him to have the glorious experience of full-fledged victory, but only once.

And why would you want that?

Because you don’t want to be drying tears when the whole thing is over, but heaven forbid the car does well enough to place in the top three of your child’s age range. Because a top three finish lands you in the district pine wood derby…and provides you another Saturday lost in a crowded cultural listening to rambunctious cub scouts and their multitudes of younger siblings.

So how did things go for us this year? As he walked to the head of the track for his first race, I almost couldn’t look. But not looking wasn’t going to change the result so I watched in morbid fascination as the cars were released. And???

We got second.


But sadly, as the races continued, I realized we had overshot the mark by just the tiniest of margins. He never finished below second and actually won about five of his twelve races. Sure enough, when the final results were called, he had won third place and we are now scheduled for districts on March 29th.

That’s right. A full Saturday right in the middle of March Madness.

With only one year left in my car building career, I may have to rethink this whole thing one last time.  Yeah, drying the tears can be pretty brutal. But it only lasts an hour or two and you generally get ice cream out of the deal. Frankly, that sounds a whole lot better than possibly missing a classic UofA game where they qualify for the Final Four.

So look out, Logan. Next year, you may be totally on your own.


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Orson Whitney and the Five Stages of Grief

When I started this blog, I vowed that while I would publish posts touching on a variety of subjects, my first goal was to document my experiences of becoming a published author. Since most of those experiences either occurred before or culminated near the date of August 13th when the book came out, not many posts have been related to that subject recently. However, an event I should probably acknowledge recently occurred.

Annually, an awards ceremony is held in Utah to recognize the best works of fiction by LDS authors throughout the previous year. These awards are called The Whitney Awards, named after Orson Whitney, a man who said something about us having our own Shakespeares and Miltons or something or other. I should be more respectful of my culture and heritage, but I don’t particularly want to take the time to go research what exactly he said and why he is worthy of having these awards named after him. Suffice it to say that The Whitney’s are probably the most coveted award an LDS author could be up for within the confines of the LDS culture. (A National Book Award, Faulkner Award or Hugo Award would probably be preferable to a Whitney, but if you are LDS and nobody else is recognizing your book outside of the faith, a Whitney is about as prestigious as your likely to get.)

Anyway, back in September, I learned that my book had nominated for a Whitney Award. I was ecstatic. I didn’t know much about them then, but I was a quick study and was very excited at the honor. I then learned that getting a nomination is not overly difficult, and what really matters is getting to the next round of being a Whitney finalist.

Whitney finalists are chosen by a committee that reads all of the nominated works and then decides on five finalists in what I believe are eight categories. Once I learned this, I immediately started doing what I had done when I submitted this book for publication. I tried to depress my expectations. I told myself there was no way. It simply was not going to happen and I needed to just put it out of my mind.

But then others started mentioning my book. People I had never met who blog about books. A review I hadn’t expected showed up on a site that is well-regarded and widely followed among LDS women. It outright stated that they hoped my book would be one of the finalists because they believed it was definitely one of the best LDS novels of the year. Other sites made similar statements. Suddenly, I had trouble keeping my expectations in check.

Then, last week, the list of finalists came out and…I was not included. I wish I could say it didn’t bother me too bad, but the truth was, it stung. Worse than I expected.

In a situation almost identical to the day I found out Cedar Fort would be publishing my book, I learned of this news in a room by myself, all alone. It kind of paralyzed me for a bit. In a very short amount of time, I went through five stages of grief. Denial – Surely their has been a mistake. They’ll realize it soon and let me know that due to some error, I was left off the list, but it has been fixed. Anger – What the @$%*!!! Who do these people think they are? My book is at least as good as some of those listed. This is joke! This is a conspiracy!! These lousy Utah snootypants (I don’t think that’s the word I actually used, but it seems to me like it started and ended in ‘s’. Hard to remember) they just hate people from Arizona. Bargaining – I don’t actually remember bargaining with anyone except maybe the lunch lady where I work (lunch time arrived right about the time I was moving past anger) over how many small boiled potatoes should constitute a serving. Depression – I don’t know what I was expecting. I’ve known from the beginning this book was crap. I suck!!! And then finally Acceptance.

Now the thing is, Acceptance came in waves over the next few days. The first wave hit me that night when I finally got around to watching the new documentary on Netflix, Mitt. For those who aren’t aware, it is a documentary with footage taken by a film maker who had unlimited access to the Romneys through both presidential elections he ran in. But the film isn’t political. It just shows what life was like for this family behind the scenes-including election night 2012 when he lost to President Obama on the world’s largest stage.

Watching it certainly brought my disappointment into perspective.

Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s a great film. And it certainly soothed my feelings.

The next round of Acceptance came as I watched Super Bowl 48. (Screw the Roman numerals. Once we got to the point where an L was showing up in the graphic, we should have stopped right then.) My favorite football player is Peyton Manning. And as I’m sure most everyone knows, he got CRUSHED!!! What made me sad is that there are so many people in the media and otherwise who I knew would use this loss to validate their beliefs that Peyton Manning is a) a choker b) only good in the regular season c) …all the other crap they say about Peyton Manning every time he doesn’t walk on water and single-handedly save all the children in Africa. It made me sad for him.

And again, I gained a different view of my own discouragement.

But the true scope of my setback came when a dear friend of mine came into my office to tell me that he’d lost his job. After we talked for a while, he left and unbeknownst to me, went home to discover that his grandson had committed suicide.

Suddenly, not being nominated for an award I hadn’t even known existed one year prior seemed pretty insignificant. When I saw him again and we hugged and cried, I gained a deeper understanding of what true sadness and disappointment really look like. I prayed for him that day. I’ll being praying for him again when he lays his grandson to rest tomorrow.

So come this April, I will not be traveling to Utah in hopes of receiving an award for my book. And I’m okay with that. Instead, I will spend that weekend celebrating my daughter’s fifteenth birthday. I hope we do something fun. But either way, she better expect a hug from me…or maybe ten. Because as I was so vividly reminded recently, those hugs, and hugs from my wife and other four children, are the things that really matter. Certainly more than some shiny award that would have ended up on a shelf and would never have hugged me back.


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