Thursday, May 17, 2012

Over-Ruling Jesus

It was never my intention to use this blog as a forum for ragging on my fellow latter-day Saints. I prefer shining love and light around as much as the next person, over seeking out things to be critical about. But back in February I felt compelled to call out Mitt Romney as a disgrace to his religion, and now I'm about to pick on some poor guy in Oregon.

I shouldn't have to do this. The religion restored through Joseph Smith allows every one of us freedom of thought, so I ought to be the last person to call out others for erring in doctrine.  One of the things Joseph Smith found most appealing about the restored gospel was that when converts accepted it, they were not required to abandon other convictions they might already hold.  Within the inchoate Church of Christ, converts were allowed to believe pretty much whatever they wanted, as long as those beliefs did not contradict the teachings of Christ, or impose restrictions on the liberty of others.

Strict religious dogmatism smacked "too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints," the Prophet insisted.  "Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." (Lyndon Cook,editor, The Words of Joseph Smith, pg 184)

Whether we are likely to admit it even to ourselves, most of us have our own personal religions nestled snugly inside the larger religion we call Mormonism. And we have a right to hold those dissimilar beliefs so long as they don't contradict Mormonism's core tenets.  Unlike other faiths, our religion allows us to speculate to our heart's content on all manner of things that have not actually been declared official doctrine.  So whether you believe that Jesus was married (as I do), or that God drives a flying saucer (I don't), you are entitled to your opinion, no matter how "out there" it may appear to others.  Your religion is your religion. Help yourself to as much as you want.

We Mormons are all over the map, for instance, when it comes to the Word of Wisdom.  And that's fine.  What foods you care to put into your body, and how much, is your choice, and since section 89 was offered to us "not by way of commandment or constraint," how far you care to interpret the dietary laws for your own use is a matter of your own free agency. Are you convinced that Coke and Pepsi are bad for you? Fine. I won't make you drink either one.  Do you believe colas are okay and you like guzzling down a daily Big Gulp? It's your body, man. Not for me to say.  I am fully aware that my addiction to root beer is not doing me any good, but I keep drinking the stuff anyway. To each his own.

Do you believe the eating of ham and bacon is an abomination?  You're entitled to that belief too, which happens to have been shared by many of the early Saints, including Presidents George Q. Cannon and Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff felt the eating of pork was a greater breach than having a morning cup of coffee.  Is it your position that we should abstain from all other meat except in in dire emergencies? Again, that was the belief held by Cannon, Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow, along with many others. President Woodruff felt so strongly against the eating of meat that he believed it was the only part of the Word of Wisdom the Saints should be encouraged to obey. (See Mormonism In Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints 1890-1930) .

My own personal religious practices may be a bit stricter than yours.  Along with abstaining from pork, I no longer eat shrimp, crab, clams, oysters, lobster, or catfish. I adopted this creed after a study of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, which prohibit eating these creatures for the same reason we are warned against eating vultures: these animals get their food from ingesting the filth of other animals.

As a descendant of the House of Israel (through both Judah and Ephraim), I made a personal decision twelve years ago that those dietary laws were still binding after I was unable to find any place in scripture or the teachings of the prophets where God had repealed them.  Modern science (as well as plain common sense) appears to agree with God that when you take into your body these sea insects that subsist on filth, you are effectively eating that filth yourself.  I can see why God considers the eating of such things to be an abomination.

But here is the point I wish to emphasize: my decision to live by these dietary laws is my personal religion.  It does not have to be yours, and I wouldn't think to push it on you.  If you like eating catfish, I don't think that means you're going to hell.  All it means is you like to eat a fish that likes to eat other fish's feces.  You and I can still be friends. Just don't ask me to kiss you.

Taking It Too Far
There are instances where it is best to keep your private religion to yourself. On my mission I knew a couple whose interpretation of the Word of Wisdom at verse 17 led them to conclude that processed  flour and sugar are not for the body. (I tend to agree with them, although I have never put that belief into practice due to my inveterate taste for flummery.)

My companion and I began teaching some neighbors of this couple, and they started coming to church with us.  But we almost lost these investigators when our zealous members took their neighbors aside one day and told them that Mormons don't believe in eating white flour or sugar, and if they joined the church they would have to give those foods up.  My companion and I had to go into damage control mode to convince our investigators that what they were told was not strictly doctrinal.  They could be Mormons and still eat donuts, we insisted, and we even ate some glazed donuts in front of them to prove it. (To this day I stand ready to prove that point anytime and anywhere to anyone who cares to furnish the donuts.)

But think of the difficulty the church would have if such dietary restrictions were promulgated not by mere rank and file members like that couple in Nebraska, but by someone in a leadership position.  What if a bishop or stake president had told these people they could not be baptized unless they conformed to his personal beliefs?  What if missionaries imposed their personal beliefs onto their investigators?  How about if a mission president did?

Which brings us to my current candidate for Worst Mormon In the World: Brother C. Jeffery Morby, currently serving as president of the Oregon-Portland Mission.  His crime: instructing the missionaries under his charge that "no individual who smokes marijuana for 'medicinal' purposes can be baptized a member of the Church in this mission."

Now please note that in 1998, the people of Oregon passed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, allowing patients with certain medical conditions access to marijuana with a doctor's prescription.  This act has never been repealed or superseded, despite what President Morby might personally believe. That he has misinterpreted the legal controversy surrounding the act there can be no doubt, and I will address that momentarily.  What should be of immediate concern to us as Latter-day Saints is Brother Morby's use of his office and calling to over-rule an imperative of Jesus Christ.

I have no doubt that Brother Morby considers himself a devout disciple of Christ.  Yet here he is, having accepted a call from the Lord to leave his home in Bloomington, Utah to labor for the Lord in Oregon, the specific purpose of which is to bring people to Christ and see them baptized.  And almost immediately upon his arrival, rather than fulfill the mission the Lord called him to perform, Morby has chosen to implement his own personal religion and impose that religion upon every single missionary under his charge.

I don't think the importance of baptism in this church can be overstated.  It is a fundamental tenet of our faith that Jesus Christ desires everyone to be baptized.  That was the prime directive he gave to his apostles prior to his ascension. Our founding prophet considered baptism a "holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost" and that "there was no other ordinance admitted whereby men could be saved."  We Mormons consider baptism of such importance that we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on temples and untold thousands of man hours in an attempt to make sure everyone who has ever lived on the earth gets the chance to have this ordinance performed for them, by proxy if necessary.

The LDS Church recently received some unwanted publicity when it was discovered that Adolph Hitler was not only baptized posthumously, but also sealed to his mistress, Eva Braun, for time and all eternity.  Good thing Hitler didn't have a doctor's prescription for medical marijuana, or he might have been given the thumbs down.

Misconstruing The Mission
President Morby has made a mistake many of us do, in forgetting the true purpose and importance of baptism. We have come to think of it as a rite that initiates a person for membership into our Church.  It is no such thing.  Gaining membership in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ancillary to baptism at best, but the ordinance of baptism has little to do with "joining the Church" as we often erroneously conflate it.

"Always keep in mind," Joseph Smith preached, "that it is one of the only methods by which we can obtain a remission of sins in this world, and be prepared to enter into the joys of our Lord in the world to come." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 262)   "It is a sign," the prophet taught, "for the believer in Christ to take upon himself in order to enter the Kingdom of God." (ibid, 198)

And in case you need reminding, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the Kingdom of God.  One of the primary purposes of the Church is to provide saving ordinances such as baptism, in order to prepare us for the coming Kingdom; it is not the Kingdom itself. As Brigham Young pointed out, a person need not even be a member of our church to have a place in the future Kingdom of God. (Journal of Discourses 2: 310)

We make a grave mistake in placing baptism for the remission of sins on par with entrance into our particular denomination, for such assumptions inevitably lead to tests regarding whether we think certain persons are good enough to join our little club.  John the Baptist did not conduct interviews to determine the worthiness of those who entered the water.  Neither did Alma, who performed hundreds of baptisms quickly and in secret to keep knowledge of those baptisms from the unapproving eyes of governmental authorities. The only actual requirement for baptism is repentance, and a desire to be baptized.

We deserve to change our thinking on this.  As Charles Harrell writes in This Is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology, "Scholars note that baptism was initially performed by John the Baptist and Jesus's disciples as a cleansing rite to prepare them for the coming kingdom of God, which was perceptually distinct from the Church."

It appears that equating baptism with joining our particular denomination is something we picked up in the 19th century from the protestants, as it was not an issue in the early church of Christ. As LDS religion scholar Kevin L. Barney explains, "[Baptism's] full significance as a rite marking formal initiation into the church is a later Christian innovation." (Quoted in Harrell, ibid.)

In other words, if a person was "saved" through the efforts of Methodists, he tended to be baptized by Methodists and naturally joined with the Methodists after being baptized.  If he was converted and baptized by Presbyterians, he tended to become a Presbyterian.  Thus, when candidates are converted by Latter-day Saints and baptized by Latter-day Saints, they usually end up joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  But the ordinance of baptism is a separate thing from membership in the Church, as evidenced by the confirmation process which is a separate ordinance that often isn't even performed until the following Sunday.

If, as Joseph Smith taught, "there is no other way beneath the heavens whereby God hath ordained for man to come to him and be saved, and enter into the Kingdom of God" (TPJS 198), what then are we to make of a mission president who orders the missionaries under his control to deny this sacred ordinance to those who might desire it?

If you see baptism primarily as a means of initiation into a particular church denomination, and yourself as the gatekeeper to prevent the riff-raff from getting in, the next step is believing you have a sacred charge as to who you'll accept and who you won't.

Well, that's fine. After all, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the trademarked name of a private religious association. It has the right to refuse membership to anyone it pleases.

But what we are not permitted is to deny baptism to someone who desires it. Baptism is an ordinance we are commanded to extend to all mankind, living and dead. I would not want to find myself at the judgment bar attempting to explain to the Lord why I refused to allow some of his children the privilege of baptism, especially on the flimsy excuse that I disapproved of the medication their doctors had prescribed for them.

How Many Masters Can One Man Serve?
President Morby has an odd justification for his stance against baptizing those who number among the sick and afflicted. Instead of hearkening to the commandments of the Lord, who he has ostensibly accepted a call to serve, he appears to take his marching orders from the U.S. government.  Here is the full text of Brother Morby's instructions as codified in the Oregon-Portland Missionary Handbook:
"The fact that Oregon state law allows doctors to prescribe the smoking of marijuana for 'medicinal' purposes does not change the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug according to the federal laws of the United States, and the Supreme Court of the United States specifically ruled in 2005 that federal law takes precedence over state legislation in this matter. Therefore, the Church Handbook statement quoted above (“members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs”) applies in this situation. Unless we receive different instructions from the Brethren, no individual who smokes marijuana for 'medicinal purposes' can be baptized a member of the Church in this mission. The prescription drug Marinol (synthetic THC), a capsule approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, provides legal relief to those who take it. Its use under competent medical supervision is not a violation of the Word of Wisdom and therefore does not prevent a person from being baptized.”
We might never have learned of these strange orders had it not been for a returned sister missionary who happened to mention it to her mother, who broke the story at MormonMentality.org in a piece entitled Heavenly Father's Favorite Drugs.  That mother, writing under the byline "Living In Zion," commented on the above rule:
"This statement brings all kinds of interesting questions into my mind. I think it is fascinating that taking a synthetic drug, a profit-generating substance created by a drug company, is fine but the natural occurring substance is against God’s will. The argument presented in the last sentence, that the prescription drug is okay because it is recommended under medical supervision, also makes me take pause. In Oregon naturally occurring marijuana is legal under medical supervision, so what is the difference? Heavenly Father wants to protect profit margins?"   
In his zeal to promote a synthetic imitation of God's natural medicine as "not a violation of the Word of Wisdom," Morby seems to have overlooked the fact that use of a medicinal plant placed on earth by the creator doesn't violate the Word of Wisdom either. "All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man," the Lord tells us right there in verse 9.

Ah, but Brother Morby might argue, Marijuana is not a wholesome herb, it is a drug! The federal government has classified it as such, so that settles the matter.

No, marijuana is not a drug. Marinol is a drug. Marijuana is a wholesome herb placed on the earth by our creator for the purpose of alleviating suffering. It has a purpose, as do all the other wholesome herbs He has provided for us.

A typical marijuana smoking Beatnik.
The fact that many people choose to misuse God's medicine for purposes other than palliating illness does not change the fact that God did place it here to be used for medicine.  I find it quite telling that Morby puts the words "medical purposes" in quotes.  I'm guessing he's not buying the idea that marijuana can actually have a legitimate use.  In his opinion, anyone claiming to use marijuana for "medical purposes" is pulling a fast one, because marijuana is a drug people use to get high, and that's all it is.

I wonder what Brother Morby would think about President George Albert Smith taking brandy every evening for medicinal purposes. He was certainly not alone among the Saints in his day.  Just as Joseph Smith had, a great many Utah Mormons ended their day with a glass of  beer until prohibition forced all the Mormon-owned breweries in Utah to shut down in 1920.  Prohibition was the only reason Mormons stopped drinking beer, as in those days the Saints were well aware of the Lord's approval of that traditional beverage, since he told them in verse 17 that that was what he gave them barley for.

Like many of his generation, Morby's prejudices against marijuana seem to be informed by those who have traditionally misused it.  This is unfortunate, because long before the dreaded Mexican migrant workers introduced smoking the leaves of this plant to the scary negro jazz musicians, who in turn introduced it to the unsavory beatniks, who in turn introduced it to the hordes of pinko-commie-hippie scum, this plant was a common medicine that might very well have been in the home of Brother Morby's own grandparents. The only difference is, they never thought to smoke it.


The Big Scary Lie
When William Randolph Hearst and Harry Anslinger began their propaganda campaign against marijuana in the 1930's, they were careful to never call it by the name most Americans were familiar with.  The tincture known as "Cannabis Indica" or "Cannabis Americana"  was a common medicine extracted from the whole plant, and a helpful remedy many Americans already kept in their medicine chests.  If anyone had proposed banning this product, there would have been a huge public outcry.  Two or three drops of this tincture placed under the tongue was known to instantly calm hysteria, relieve pain, cure insomnia, and increase the appetite in those who suffered from wasting disease.  It was a near-perfect panacea for a variety of complaints.

To disguise their intentions, Anslinger and Hearst railed against those on society's fringes who smoked what they dubbed "the devil's weed," referring to the plant only by it's Spanish name, "Marijuana," a name which was unfamiliar to most Americans.  Had Americans understood that marijuana was the same thing as Cannabis Indica, the propaganda would never have worked, and congress would not have been fooled into legislating against it.  Anslinger successfully induced fear in the population by creating visions of "crazed Negroes hopped up on the devil's weed" raiding white neighborhoods and raping white women.

Fear tactics such as those used by Hearst and Anslinger are still effective today, convincing credulous souls like Jeff Morby that a medicine God ordained for our use is in reality a substance so evil that anyone found using it in the manner God intended if for should be locked out of the Kingdom forever.

The very reason the Lord tells us he gave us the Word of Wisdom was "in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days."  Almost weekly we hear of government SWAT teams descending on small organic farms and Amish dairies which provide some of the healthiest food on the planet. Why? because the profits of "evil and designing men" are threatened by a population that is largely waking up to the idea that much of what they have been putting into their bodies is soft killing them.

Likewise, the rediscovery of the ability of Cannabis to alleviate a long list of maladies is a threat to those evil and designing men whose profits are threatened by a vastly superior medicine anyone can grow in their own backyard for free.  An increasing number of people choosing a diet of healthier food and using wholesome herbs as medicine, are finding their dependence on expensive drugs suddenly obviated.  In spite of anything you might have been conditioned to believe, Cannabis is medicine, and many who use it have found it to be far superior to their former prescription drugs.  It doesn't matter that the plant has gotten a bad rep because of slackers and dead-heads  It is still real medicine. Merely calling it a "devil weed" does not prove it was planted here by the devil. It was put here by God.

Supporting That Which Comes of Evil
I wonder if Brother Morby has even read the ruling he depends upon which he uses to justify denying baptisms.  For those not familiar with the 2005 case he refers to above, you can read it here, but it may leave you scratching your head in bewilderment over the convoluted bibble-babble contained therein.  Be assured, however, that the ruling was carefully reasoned. You just have to understand the politics behind it, which I will explain in a moment.  Here is Thomas Wood's short summary of the case from his excellent book, Nullification: How To Resist Federal Tyranny In The 21st Century:

 "California's Angel Raich suffers from an astonishing range of afflictions, including fibromyalgia, seizures, nausea, and an inoperable brain tumor. Scoliosis, endometriosis, and temporal-mandibular joint dysfunction put her in constant pain. She loses a pound a day as the result of a mysterious wasting syndrome.
"Cannabis alone has granted her any relief worth speaking of, without burdening her with intolerable side effects, and has arrested her weight loss. Her physician testified in court that she would die without it.
"California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, passed into law in the wake of a popular referendum in defiance of federal prohibition, allowed her to have recourse to the one treatment that could help her. When a series of raids by federal agents in 2002 led to a wave of arrests, Angel Raich and fellow sufferer Diane Monson sought an injunction against further raids by the federal government. Although they lost in district court, a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came down in their favor and forbade federal agents from seizing the women's marijuana.  The Justice Department, in turn, appealed the case, which would go before the Supreme Court as Gonzalez v. Raich.
"The Justice Department pointed to the Constitution's commerce clause to justify the federal prohibition on the use of marijuana even for medical purposes. The presence of medical marijuana in one state, it was argued, could have spillover effects on other states.  Even though the marijuana was grown in one state, was never transported out of that state, was never sold at all, and was immediately consumed in that state, the Justice Department wanted it to be treated as interstate commerce and therefore subject to federal regulation.  It was the typical absurdity for which the commerce-clause jurisprudence has become notorious.  As usual, the court's liberals, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, took the nationalist position against the states. It was the much maligned conservative, Clarence Thomas, who composed the most withering critique of the Court's decision and the inane jurisprudence that informed it.  "One searches the Court's opinion in vain for any hint of what aspect of American life is reserved to the States," Thomas wrote.  The Court ruled against Angel Raich, and declared that medical marijuana suppliers and users could be prosecuted even when the states had legislated to the contrary.
"Had the Supreme Court been correct about the alleged spillover effects of medical marijuana from one state into another, we should expect some of those state governments to have filed amicus briefs in support of the federal government's position.  To the the contrary, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, three southern states known for their conservatism, filed amicus briefs in support of Angel Raich. They opposed California's policy on medical marijuana, they said, but they were much more strongly opposed to a federal government so oblivious to restraints on its power that it would actually disallow California's policy.
"Now consider: the federal government defied the state's resistance efforts, launching a series of raids on medical marijuana patients and dispensaries.  The Supreme Court ruled against the states.  And yet the use of medical marijuana goes on as if none of this ever occurred. There are as many as one thousand functioning dispensaries in Los Angeles County alone, each of which operates in direct defiance of the federal will."
What concerns me about a member of my own church relying on a dubiously reasoned Supreme Court ruling to justify his personal prejudices, is that our scriptures require us to be vigilant in standing firm against this very thing. The Lord tells us in D&C 98: 7 that "pertaining to the law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this [the Constitution] cometh of evil."

In case you need that spelled out for you, the Lord is telling us in that chapter that any government entity that takes more power unto itself than is granted to it in the Constitution, or allows less power to remain with the people in whom all power is supposed to reside, is involved in evil works. God takes his children's freedom very seriously.

Doubtless Brother Morby holds the opinion that the Supreme Court of the United States is the final arbiter of legal questions regarding the rights of individuals, but this is a view that was certainly not shared by the founders who created and outlined the duties of that branch of government.  Would it not have been smarter for the mission president to have consulted the constitution itself before enthusiastically agreeing with a line of reasoning that an untold number of constitutional scholars have decried for decades as untenable legal acrobatics?

One has only to consult the tenth amendment to our Constitution to suspect something is screwy about the High Court's recent ruling. That amendment, which the people at the time insisted must be included in the Constitution before they would allow it to be ratified, reads very simply:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
You can search in vain for any clause or section of the Constitution which delegates power to the federal government allowing it to make blanket prohibitions against the people's ownership of private property for private use.  The only time that occurred was when prohibition was enshrined in the Constitution itself by way of the 18th amendment, which was ultimately repealed via the 21st when it proved unworkable.
As James Madison, the acknowledged Father of the Constitution commented on the tenth amendment, "the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."  in spite of what you might have been taught in school, the federal government is not the boss of the states that created it. It's the other way around. The individual states have jurisdiction regarding what goes on within their borders.

Wicked And Designing Men
A good deal of the the history of Mormonism is a history of a people ever faithful to the constitution in the face of government officials who were constantly dumping on it.  Joseph Smith lamented this growing penchant when he wrote his political tract, Views on the Powers and Policies of the Government of the United States.  "Wicked and designing men have unrobed the Government of its glory," the prophet wrote, "and the people...have to lament in poverty her departed greatness."

The prophet was not the first one to notice the Republic was headed for the rocks. Thomas Jefferson was already sounding the warning about the danger of reliance on the Supreme Court a full seven years before Joseph Smith was even born:
"To consider the Judges of the Superior Court as the ultimate Arbiters of Constitutional questions would be a dangerous doctrine which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.  They have with others, the same passion for party, for power, and for the privileges of their corps -and their power is the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the Elective control.  The Constitution has elected no single Tribunal.  I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves."
Most of us are familiar with Joseph Smith's prediction that the day would come when "the Constitution would hang as if by a thread." That's why I find it unsettling when a member of my own church does not see it as his duty to resist that unraveling, but instead vocally supports it. Thomas Jefferson foresaw that the Constitution would be chipped away bit by bit at the hands of the very men charged with upholding it:
"It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression,... that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary--an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed."
Another reason I doubt President Morby has read the the ruling is his apparent confidence that it settled the question on federal jurisdiction over the states, since it does no such thing. In actuality the court avoided that question, and they avoided it on purpose.

How Did Things Get So Upside Down?
Whenever the Supreme Court issues a ruling that tightens the noose around the American people while expanding the power of the federal police state, you can almost count on that ruling having been justified by the Commerce Clause.  This has become our Republic's Achilles heel; the method by which those who seek to conquer the nation from the inside long ago found their toehold.

Originally intended to facilitate commerce between states that had been taxing each other silly every time a wagon load of merchandise entered and left various state borders, the true purpose of the commerce clause has been eroded bit by bit until it has lost all its original meaning.  The term "regulate commerce," which once meant to assist in seeing that the traffic of commerce flowed freely and unrestricted between the states, gradually came to mean "restrain commerce," until today we have a court that relies on the most absurd and convoluted reasoning by which it clamps down on the rights of the people.  Over time the commerce clause has come to justify the federal government's restrictions on the type of goods -and how many- a business could produce, and the amount of crops a farmer was allowed to grow, until now it is used to restrict a person's right to control his own health. This absurdity reached its apex under Wickard v. Filburn, a ruling so ridiculous I can't begin to explain it to you.  I defer again to Professor Woods:

"In Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the Court ruled that the federal government could regulate the amount of wheat grown on an individual's farm even though the wheat never left the state, and the farmer and his livestock consumed it themselves.  Had they not grown and consumed that wheat, the argument went, they might have purchased it from another state, and hence their abstention from this purchase indirectly affected interstate commerce." (Nullification, ibid.)
Pretty laughable, huh?  Well, it would be funny if such rulings didn't lead inexorably to a police state mentality where federal SWAT teams often end up killing people while enforcing this nonsense.  You will note from a reading of Gonzalez v. Raich that the Supreme Court relied heavily on the precedent created in Wickard, for even though Angel Raisch and Diane Monson used Cannabis that did not enter or leave the state, and even though they never sold it, and even if they were to grow their own plants inside their own homes and consume it themselves in their homes, then...ah, hell. You try and make sense of it. I can't, and I'm a trained legal analyst.

Most people think the justices of the Supreme Court exist to settle Constitutional questions. Not if they can help it, they don't.

In a case entitled Ashwander v. Tenessee Valley Authority, Justice Brandeis let leak the way things really work in those hallowed chambers.  Operating under the theory that one branch of government must not "encroach upon the domain of another," Brandeis formulated the Avoidance Doctrine, which states that if the court can find any other way of disposing of a case other than ruling on the constitutionality of an issue, the Court will always strive to avoid the constitutional question and instead rule on a lesser technicality.  Thus in Gonzalez, the High Court wiggled out of its duty by relying on a narrow precedent under the Commerce Clause, thereby avoiding answering the major federal question: whether or not state governments are subservient to the federal government. (Hint: they most decidedly are not.)

The incessant reliance of the Supreme Court in recent years on the Avoidance Doctrine in order to avoid "embarrassing another branch of government" demonstrates Jefferson's prescience in recognizing that the federal justices would eventually become just another chummy part of the federal oligarchy, arrogating more and more power to itself at the expense of the citizenry.

The Avoidance Doctrine might as well be called "The Weasel Doctrine," as it allows the Court to weasel out of its responsibility of protecting your rights from encroachment by the Executive and Legislative branches, at the same time leaving the uninformed masses with the impression that the question that was never asked has somehow been settled and put to rest.

It is evident from the instructions published in the Oregon-Portland Missionary Handbook that this trick worked like a charm on President Morby.  It worked so well that even in questions where the government has no say, such as ecclesiastical matters of who should or should not be baptized, the president of one of our own LDS missions rolled over like a compliant dog and eagerly licked the boots of his oppressors.

If you happen to live in Oregon and are a marijuana user -medical or otherwise- and you have a hankering to be baptized for the remission of your sins, I have an open invitation for you.  My home near Sacramento is about 400 miles from the Oregon border.  If you can make it down this way, come see me.  I'll baptize you myself.

(For more on the many myths and Urban Legends that have been built up around the Word of Wisdom, see my earlier piece, "Too Bad I Don't Like Beer.")

Related Post: Where Did the Oracles Go?

Over-Ruling Jesus

It was never my intention to use this blog as a forum for ragging on my fellow latter-day Saints. I prefer shining love and light around as much as the next person, over seeking out things to be critical about. But back in February I felt compelled to call out Mitt Romney as a disgrace to his religion, and now I'm about to pick on some poor guy in Oregon.

I shouldn't have to do this. The religion restored through Joseph Smith allows every one of us freedom of thought, so I ought to be the last person to call out others for erring in doctrine.  One of the things Joseph Smith found most appealing about the restored gospel was that when converts accepted it, they were not required to abandon other convictions they might already hold.  Within the inchoate Church of Christ, converts were allowed to believe pretty much whatever they wanted, as long as those beliefs did not contradict the teachings of Christ, or impose restrictions on the liberty of others.

Strict religious dogmatism smacked "too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints," the Prophet insisted.  "Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." (Lyndon Cook,editor, The Words of Joseph Smith, pg 184)

Whether we are likely to admit it even to ourselves, most of us have our own personal religions nestled snugly inside the larger religion we call Mormonism. And we have a right to hold those dissimilar beliefs so long as they don't contradict Mormonism's core tenets.  Unlike other faiths, our religion allows us to speculate to our heart's content on all manner of things that have not actually been declared official doctrine.  So whether you believe that Jesus was married (as I do), or that God drives a flying saucer (I don't), you are entitled to your opinion, no matter how "out there" it may appear to others.  Your religion is your religion. Help yourself to as much as you want.

We Mormons are all over the map, for instance, when it comes to the Word of Wisdom.  And that's fine.  What foods you care to put into your body, and how much, is your choice, and since section 89 was offered to us "not by way of commandment or constraint," how far you care to interpret the dietary laws for your own use is a matter of your own free agency. Are you convinced that Coke and Pepsi are bad for you? Fine. I won't make you drink either one.  Do you believe colas are okay and you like guzzling down a daily Big Gulp? It's your body, man. Not for me to say.  I am fully aware that my addiction to root beer is not doing me any good, but I keep drinking the stuff anyway. To each his own.

Do you believe the eating of ham and bacon is an abomination?  You're entitled to that belief too, which happens to have been shared by many of the early Saints, including Presidents George Q. Cannon and Wilford Woodruff. Woodruff felt the eating of pork was a greater breach than having a morning cup of coffee.  Is it your position that we should abstain from all other meat except in in dire emergencies? Again, that was the belief held by Cannon, Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow, along with many others. President Woodruff felt so strongly against the eating of meat that he believed it was the only part of the Word of Wisdom the Saints should be encouraged to obey. (See Mormonism In Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints 1890-1930) .

My own personal religious practices may be a bit stricter than yours.  Along with abstaining from pork, I no longer eat shrimp, crab, clams, oysters, lobster, or catfish. I adopted this creed after a study of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, which prohibit eating these creatures for the same reason we are warned against eating vultures: these animals get their food from ingesting the filth of other animals.

As a descendant of the House of Israel (through both Judah and Ephraim), I made a personal decision twelve years ago that those dietary laws were still binding after I was unable to find any place in scripture or the teachings of the prophets where God had repealed them.  Modern science (as well as plain common sense) appears to agree with God that when you take into your body these sea insects that subsist on filth, you are effectively eating that filth yourself.  I can see why God considers the eating of such things to be an abomination.

But here is the point I wish to emphasize: my decision to live by these dietary laws is my personal religion.  It does not have to be yours, and I wouldn't think to push it on you.  If you like eating catfish, I don't think that means you're going to hell.  All it means is you like to eat a fish that likes to eat other fish's feces.  You and I can still be friends. Just don't ask me to kiss you on the lips.

Taking It Too Far
There are instances where it is best to keep your private religion to yourself. On my mission I knew a couple whose interpretation of the Word of Wisdom led them to conclude that processed flour and sugar are not for the body. (I tend to agree with them, although I have never put that belief into practice due to my inveterate appetite for flummery.)

My companion and I began teaching some neighbors of this couple, and they started coming to church with us.  But we almost lost these investigators when our zealous members took their neighbors aside one day and told them that Mormons don't believe in eating white flour or sugar, and if they joined the church they would have to give those foods up.  My companion and I had to go into damage control mode to convince our investigators that what they were told was not strictly doctrinal.  They could be Mormons and still eat donuts, we insisted, and we even ate some glazed donuts in front of them to prove it. (To this day I stand ready to prove that point anytime and anywhere to anyone who cares to furnish the donuts.)

But think of the difficulty the church would have if such dietary restrictions were promulgated not by mere rank and file members like that couple in Nebraska, but by someone in a leadership position.  What if a bishop or stake president had told these people they could not be baptized unless they conformed to his personal beliefs?  What if missionaries imposed their personal beliefs onto their investigators?  How about if a mission president did?

Which brings us to my current candidate for Worst Mormon In the World: Brother C. Jeffery Morby, currently serving as president of the Oregon-Portland Mission.  His crime: instructing the missionaries under his charge that "no individual who smokes marijuana for 'medicinal' purposes can be baptized a member of the Church in this mission."

Now please note that in 1998, the people of Oregon passed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, allowing patients with certain medical conditions access to marijuana with a doctor's prescription.  This act has never been repealed or superseded, despite what President Morby might personally believe. That he has misinterpreted the legal controversy surrounding the act there can be no doubt, and I will address that momentarily.  What should be of immediate concern to us as Latter-day Saints is Brother Morby's use of his office and calling to over-rule an imperative of Jesus Christ.

I have no doubt that Brother Morby considers himself a devout disciple of Christ.  Yet here he is, having accepted a call from the Lord to leave his home in Bloomington, Utah to labor for the Lord in Oregon, the specific purpose of which is to bring people to Christ and see them baptized.  And almost immediately upon his arrival, rather than fulfill the mission the Lord called him to perform, Morby has chosen to implement his own personal religion and impose that religion upon every single missionary under his charge.

I don't think the importance of baptism in this church can be overstated.  It is a fundamental tenet of our faith that Jesus Christ desires everyone to be baptized.  That was the prime directive he gave to his apostles prior to his ascension. Our founding prophet considered baptism a "holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost" and that "there was no other ordinance admitted whereby men could be saved."  We Mormons consider baptism of such importance that we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on temples and untold thousands of man hours in an attempt to make sure everyone who has ever lived on the earth gets the chance to have this ordinance performed for them, by proxy if necessary.

The LDS Church recently received some unwanted publicity when it was discovered that Adolph Hitler was not only baptized posthumously, but also sealed to his mistress, Eva Braun, for time and all eternity.  Good thing Hitler didn't have a doctor's prescription for medical marijuana, or he might have been given the thumbs down.

Misconstruing The Mission
President Morby has made a mistake many of us do, in forgetting the true purpose and importance of baptism. We have come to think of it as a rite that initiates a person for membership into our Church.  It is no such thing.  Gaining membership in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ancillary to baptism at best, but the ordinance of baptism has little to do with "joining the Church" as we often erroneously conflate it.

"Always keep in mind," Joseph Smith preached, "that it is one of the only methods by which we can obtain a remission of sins in this world, and be prepared to enter into the joys of our Lord in the world to come." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 262)   "It is a sign," the prophet taught, "for the believer in Christ to take upon himself in order to enter the Kingdom of God." (ibid, 198)

And in case you need reminding, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the Kingdom of God.  One of the primary purposes of the Church is to provide saving ordinances such as baptism, in order to prepare us for the coming Kingdom; it is not the Kingdom itself. As Brigham Young pointed out, a person need not even be a member of our church to have a place in the future Kingdom of God. (Journal of Discourses 2: 310)

We make a grave mistake in placing baptism for the remission of sins on par with entrance into our particular denomination, for such assumptions inevitably lead to tests regarding whether we think certain persons are good enough to join our little club.  John the Baptist did not conduct interviews to determine the worthiness of those who entered the water.  Neither did Alma, who performed hundreds of baptisms quickly and in secret to keep knowledge of those baptisms from the unapproving eyes of governmental authorities. The only actual requirement for baptism is repentance, and a desire to be baptized.

We deserve to change our thinking on this.  As Charles Harrell writes in This Is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology, "Scholars note that baptism was initially performed by John the Baptist and Jesus's disciples as a cleansing rite to prepare them for the coming kingdom of God, which was perceptually distinct from the Church."

It appears that equating baptism with joining our particular denomination is something we picked up in the 19th century from the protestants, as it was not an issue in the early church of Christ. As LDS religion scholar Kevin L. Barney explains, "[Baptism's] full significance as a rite marking formal initiation into the church is a later Christian innovation." (Quoted in Harrell, ibid.)

In other words, if a person was "saved" through the efforts of Methodists, he tended to be baptized by Methodists and naturally joined with the Methodists after being baptized.  If he was converted and baptized by Presbyterians, he tended to become a Presbyterian.  Thus, when candidates are converted by Latter-day Saints and baptized by Latter-day Saints, they usually end up joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  But the ordinance of baptism is a separate thing from membership in the Church, as evidenced by the confirmation process which is a separate ordinance that often isn't even performed until the following Sunday.

If, as Joseph Smith taught, "there is no other way beneath the heavens whereby God hath ordained for man to come to him and be saved, and enter into the Kingdom of God" (TPJS 198), what then are we to make of a mission president who orders the missionaries under his control to deny this sacred ordinance to those who might desire it?

If you see baptism primarily as a means of initiation into a particular church denomination, and yourself as the gatekeeper to prevent the riff-raff from getting in, the next step is believing you have a sacred charge as to who you'll accept and who you won't.

Well, that's fine. After all, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the trademarked name of a private religious association. It has the right to refuse membership to anyone it pleases.

But what we are not permitted is to deny baptism to someone who desires it. Baptism is an ordinance we are commanded to extend to all mankind, living and dead. I would not want to find myself at the judgment bar attempting to explain to the Lord why I refused to allow some of his children the privilege of baptism, especially on the flimsy excuse that I disapproved of the medication their doctors had prescribed for them.

How Many Masters Can One Man Serve?
President Morby has an odd justification for his stance against baptizing those who number among the sick and afflicted. Instead of hearkening to the commandments of the Lord, who he has ostensibly accepted a call to serve, he appears to take his marching orders from the U.S. government.  Here is the full text of Brother Morby's instructions as codified in the Oregon-Portland Missionary Handbook:
"The fact that Oregon state law allows doctors to prescribe the smoking of marijuana for 'medicinal' purposes does not change the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug according to the federal laws of the United States, and the Supreme Court of the United States specifically ruled in 2005 that federal law takes precedence over state legislation in this matter. Therefore, the Church Handbook statement quoted above (“members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs”) applies in this situation. Unless we receive different instructions from the Brethren, no individual who smokes marijuana for 'medicinal purposes' can be baptized a member of the Church in this mission. The prescription drug Marinol (synthetic THC), a capsule approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, provides legal relief to those who take it. Its use under competent medical supervision is not a violation of the Word of Wisdom and therefore does not prevent a person from being baptized.”
We might never have learned of these strange orders had it not been for a returned sister missionary who happened to mention it to her mother, who broke the story at MormonMentality.org in a piece entitled Heavenly Father's Favorite Drugs.  That mother, writing under the byline "Living In Zion," commented on the above rule:
"This statement brings all kinds of interesting questions into my mind. I think it is fascinating that taking a synthetic drug, a profit-generating substance created by a drug company, is fine but the natural occurring substance is against God’s will. The argument presented in the last sentence, that the prescription drug is okay because it is recommended under medical supervision, also makes me take pause. In Oregon naturally occurring marijuana is legal under medical supervision, so what is the difference? Heavenly Father wants to protect profit margins?"   
In his zeal to promote a synthetic imitation of God's natural medicine as "not a violation of the Word of Wisdom," Morby seems to have overlooked the fact that use of a medicinal plant placed on earth by the creator doesn't violate the Word of Wisdom either. "All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man," the Lord tells us right there in verse 9.

Ah, but Brother Morby might argue, Marijuana is not a wholesome herb, it is a drug! The federal government has classified it as such, so that settles the matter.

No, marijuana is not a drug. Marinol is a drug. Marijuana is a wholesome herb placed on the earth by our creator for the purpose of alleviating suffering. It has a purpose, as do all the other wholesome herbs He has provided for us.

A typical marijuana smoking Beatnik.
The fact that many people choose to misuse God's medicine for purposes other than palliating illness does not change the fact that God did place it here to be used for medicine.  I find it quite telling that Morby puts the words "medical purposes" in quotes.  I'm guessing he's not buying the idea that marijuana can actually have a legitimate use.  In his opinion, anyone claiming to use marijuana for "medical purposes" is pulling a fast one, because marijuana is a drug people use to get high, and that's all it is.

I wonder what Brother Morby would think about President George Albert Smith taking brandy every evening for medicinal purposes. He was certainly not alone among the Saints in his day.  Just as Joseph Smith had, a great many Utah Mormons ended their day with a glass of  beer until prohibition forced all the Mormon-owned breweries in Utah to shut down in 1920.  Prohibition was the only reason Mormons stopped drinking beer, as in those days the Saints were well aware of the Lord's approval of that traditional beverage, since he told them in verse 17 that that was what he gave them barley for.

Like many of his generation, Morby's prejudices against marijuana seem to be informed by those who have traditionally misused it.  This is unfortunate, because long before the dreaded Mexican migrant workers introduced smoking the leaves of this plant to the scary negro jazz musicians, who in turn introduced it to the unsavory beatniks, who in turn introduced it to the hordes of pinko-commie-hippie scum, this plant was a common medicine that might very well have been in the home of Brother Morby's own grandparents. The only difference is, they never thought to smoke it.


The Big Scary Lie
When William Randolph Hearst and Harry Anslinger began their propaganda campaign against marijuana in the 1930's, they were careful to never call it by the name most Americans were familiar with.  The tincture known as "Cannabis Indica" or "Cannabis Americana"  was a common medicine extracted from the whole plant, and a helpful remedy many Americans already kept in their medicine chests.  If anyone had proposed banning this product, there would have been a huge public outcry.  Two or three drops of this tincture placed under the tongue was known to instantly calm hysteria, relieve pain, cure insomnia, and increase the appetite in those who suffered from wasting disease.  It was a near-perfect panacea for a variety of complaints.

To disguise their intentions, Anslinger and Hearst railed against those on society's fringes who smoked what they dubbed "the devil's weed," referring to the plant only by it's Spanish name, "Marijuana," a name which was unfamiliar to most Americans.  Had Americans understood that marijuana was the same thing as Cannabis Indica, the propaganda would never have worked, and congress would not have been fooled into legislating against it.  Anslinger successfully induced fear in the population by creating visions of "crazed Negroes hopped up on the devil's weed" raiding white neighborhoods and raping white women.

Fear tactics such as those used by Hearst and Anslinger are still effective today, convincing credulous souls like Jeff Morby that a medicine God ordained for our use is in reality a substance so evil that anyone found using it in the manner God intended if for should be locked out of the Kingdom forever.

The very reason the Lord tells us he gave us the Word of Wisdom was "in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days."  Almost weekly we hear of government SWAT teams descending on small organic farms and Amish dairies which provide some of the healthiest food on the planet. Why? because the profits of "evil and designing men" are threatened by a population that is largely waking up to the idea that much of what they have been putting into their bodies is soft killing them.

Likewise, the rediscovery of the ability of Cannabis to alleviate a long list of maladies is a threat to those evil and designing men whose profits are threatened by a vastly superior medicine anyone can grow in their own backyard for free.  An increasing number of people choosing a diet of healthier food and using wholesome herbs as medicine, are finding their dependence on expensive drugs suddenly obviated.  In spite of anything you might have been conditioned to believe, Cannabis is medicine, and many who use it have found it to be far superior to their former prescription drugs.  It doesn't matter that the plant has gotten a bad rep because of slackers and dead-heads.  It is still real medicine. Merely calling it a "devil weed" does not prove it was planted here by the devil. It was put here by God.

Supporting That Which Comes of Evil
I wonder if Brother Morby has even read the federal ruling he depends upon which to justify denying baptisms.  For those not familiar with the 2005 Supreme Court case he refers to in the instructions to his missionaries above, you can read it here, but it may leave you scratching your head in bewilderment over the convoluted bibble-babble contained therein.  Be assured, however, that the ruling was carefully reasoned. You just have to understand the politics behind it, which I will explain in a moment.  Here is Thomas Wood's short summary of the case from his excellent book, Nullification: How To Resist Federal Tyranny In The 21st Century:

 "California's Angel Raich suffers from an astonishing range of afflictions, including fibromyalgia, seizures, nausea, and an inoperable brain tumor. Scoliosis, endometriosis, and temporal-mandibular joint dysfunction put her in constant pain. She loses a pound a day as the result of a mysterious wasting syndrome.
"Cannabis alone has granted her any relief worth speaking of, without burdening her with intolerable side effects, and has arrested her weight loss. Her physician testified in court that she would die without it.
"California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, passed into law in the wake of a popular referendum in defiance of federal prohibition, allowed her to have recourse to the one treatment that could help her. When a series of raids by federal agents in 2002 led to a wave of arrests, Angel Raich and fellow sufferer Diane Monson sought an injunction against further raids by the federal government. Although they lost in district court, a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came down in their favor and forbade federal agents from seizing the women's marijuana.  The Justice Department, in turn, appealed the case, which would go before the Supreme Court as Gonzalez v. Raich.
"The Justice Department pointed to the Constitution's commerce clause to justify the federal prohibition on the use of marijuana even for medical purposes. The presence of medical marijuana in one state, it was argued, could have spillover effects on other states.  Even though the marijuana was grown in one state, was never transported out of that state, was never sold at all, and was immediately consumed in that state, the Justice Department wanted it to be treated as interstate commerce and therefore subject to federal regulation.  It was the typical absurdity for which the commerce-clause jurisprudence has become notorious.  As usual, the court's liberals, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, took the nationalist position against the states. It was the much maligned conservative, Clarence Thomas, who composed the most withering critique of the Court's decision and the inane jurisprudence that informed it.  "One searches the Court's opinion in vain for any hint of what aspect of American life is reserved to the States," Thomas wrote.  The Court ruled against Angel Raich, and declared that medical marijuana suppliers and users could be prosecuted even when the states had legislated to the contrary.
"Had the Supreme Court been correct about the alleged spillover effects of medical marijuana from one state into another, we should expect some of those state governments to have filed amicus briefs in support of the federal government's position.  To the the contrary, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, three southern states known for their conservatism, filed amicus briefs in support of Angel Raich. They opposed California's policy on medical marijuana, they said, but they were much more strongly opposed to a federal government so oblivious to restraints on its power that it would actually disallow California's policy.
"Now consider: the federal government defied the state's resistance efforts, launching a series of raids on medical marijuana patients and dispensaries.  The Supreme Court ruled against the states.  And yet the use of medical marijuana goes on as if none of this ever occurred. There are as many as one thousand functioning dispensaries in Los Angeles County alone, each of which operates in direct defiance of the federal will."
What concerns me about a member of my own church relying on a dubiously reasoned Supreme Court ruling to justify his personal prejudices, is that our scriptures require us to be vigilant in standing firm against this very thing. The Lord tells us in D&C 98: 7 that "pertaining to the law of man, whatsoever is more or less than [the Constitution] cometh of evil."

In case you need that spelled out for you, the Lord is telling us in that chapter that any government entity that takes more power unto itself than is granted to it in the Constitution, or allows less power to remain with the people in whom all power is supposed to reside, is involved in evil works. God takes his children's freedom very seriously.

Doubtless Brother Morby holds the opinion that the Supreme Court of the United States is the final arbiter of legal questions regarding the rights of individuals, but this is a view that was certainly not shared by the founders who created and outlined the duties of that branch of government.  Would it not have been smarter for the mission president to have consulted the constitution itself before enthusiastically agreeing with a line of reasoning that an untold number of constitutional scholars have decried for decades as untenable legal acrobatics?

One has only to consult the tenth amendment to our Constitution to suspect something is screwy about the High Court's recent ruling. That amendment, which the people at the time insisted must be included in the Constitution before they would allow it to be ratified, reads very simply:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
You can search in vain for any clause or section of the Constitution which delegates power to the federal government allowing it to make blanket prohibitions against the people's ownership of private property for private use.  The only time that occurred was when prohibition was enshrined in the Constitution itself by way of the 18th amendment, which was ultimately repealed via the 21st when it proved unworkable.
As James Madison, the acknowledged Father of the Constitution commented on the tenth amendment, "the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."  in spite of what you might have been taught in school, the federal government is not the boss of the states that created it. It's the other way around. The individual states have jurisdiction regarding what goes on within their borders.

Wicked And Designing Men
A good deal of the the history of Mormonism is a history of a people ever faithful to the constitution in the face of government officials who were constantly dumping on it.  Joseph Smith lamented this growing penchant when he wrote his political tract, Views on the Powers and Policies of the Government of the United States.  "Wicked and designing men have unrobed the Government of its glory," the prophet wrote, "and the people...have to lament in poverty her departed greatness."

The prophet was not the first one to notice the Republic was headed for the rocks. Thomas Jefferson was already sounding the warning about the danger of reliance on the Supreme Court a full seven years before Joseph Smith was even born:
"To consider the Judges of the Superior Court as the ultimate Arbiters of Constitutional questions would be a dangerous doctrine which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.  They have with others, the same passion for party, for power, and for the privileges of their corps -and their power is the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the Elective control.  The Constitution has elected no single Tribunal.  I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves."
Most of us are familiar with Joseph Smith's prediction that the day would come when "the Constitution would hang as if by a thread." That's why I find it unsettling when a member of my own church does not see it as his duty to resist that unraveling, but instead vocally supports it. Thomas Jefferson foresaw that the Constitution would be chipped away bit by bit at the hands of the very men charged with upholding it:
"It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression,... that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary--an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed."
Another reason I doubt President Morby has read the the ruling is his apparent confidence that it settled the question on federal jurisdiction over the states, since it does no such thing. In actuality the court avoided that question, and they avoided it on purpose.

How Did Things Get So Upside Down?
Whenever the Supreme Court issues a ruling that tightens the noose around the American people while expanding the power of the federal police state, you can almost count on that ruling having been justified by the Commerce Clause.  This has become our Republic's Achilles heel; the method by which those who seek to conquer the nation from the inside long ago found their toehold.

Originally intended to facilitate commerce between states that had been taxing each other silly every time a wagon load of merchandise entered and left various state borders, the true purpose of the commerce clause has been eroded bit by bit until it has lost all its original meaning.  The term "regulate commerce," which once meant to assist in seeing that the traffic of commerce flowed freely and unrestricted between the states, gradually came to mean "restrain commerce," until today we have a court that relies on the most absurd and convoluted reasoning by which it clamps down on the rights of the people.  Over time the commerce clause has come to justify the federal government's restrictions on the type of goods -and how many- a business could produce, and the amount of crops a farmer was allowed to grow, until now it is used to restrict a person's right to control his own health. This absurdity reached its apex under Wickard v. Filburn, a ruling so ridiculous I can't begin to explain it to you.  I defer again to Professor Woods:

"In Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the Court ruled that the federal government could regulate the amount of wheat grown on an individual's farm even though the wheat never left the state, and the farmer and his livestock consumed it themselves.  Had they not grown and consumed that wheat, the argument went, they might have purchased it from another state, and hence their abstention from this purchase indirectly affected interstate commerce." (Nullification, ibid.)
Pretty laughable, huh?  Well, it would be funny if such rulings didn't lead inexorably to a police state mentality where federal SWAT teams often end up killing people while enforcing this nonsense.  You will note from a reading of Gonzalez v. Raich that the Supreme Court relied heavily on the precedent created in Wickard, for even though Angel Raisch and Diane Monson used Cannabis that did not enter or leave the state, and even though they never sold it, and even if they were to grow their own plants inside their own homes and consume it themselves in their homes, then...ah, hell. You try and make sense of it. I can't, and I'm a trained legal analyst.

Most people think the justices of the Supreme Court exist to settle Constitutional questions. Not if they can help it, they don't.

In a case entitled Ashwander v. Tenessee Valley Authority, Justice Brandeis let leak the way things really work in those hallowed chambers.  Operating under the theory that one branch of government must not "encroach upon the domain of another," Brandeis formulated the Avoidance Doctrine, which states that if the court can find any other way of disposing of a case other than ruling on the constitutionality of an issue, the Court will always strive to avoid the constitutional question and instead rule on a lesser technicality.  Thus in Gonzalez, the High Court wiggled out of its duty by relying on a narrow precedent under the Commerce Clause, thereby avoiding answering the major federal question: whether or not state governments are subservient to the federal government. (Hint: they most decidedly are not.)

The incessant reliance of the Supreme Court in recent years on the Avoidance Doctrine in order to avoid "embarrassing another branch of government" demonstrates Jefferson's prescience in recognizing that the federal justices would eventually become just another chummy part of the federal oligarchy, arrogating more and more power to itself at the expense of the citizenry.

The Avoidance Doctrine might as well be called "The Weasel Doctrine," as it allows the Court to weasel out of its responsibility of protecting your rights from encroachment by the Executive and Legislative branches, at the same time leaving the uninformed masses with the impression that the question that was never asked has somehow been settled and put to rest.

It is evident from the instructions published in the Oregon-Portland Missionary Handbook that this trick worked like a charm on President Morby.  It worked so well that even in questions where the government has no say, such as ecclesiastical matters of who should or should not be baptized, the president of one of our own LDS missions rolled over like a compliant dog and eagerly licked the boots of his oppressors.

If you happen to live in Oregon and are a marijuana user -medical or otherwise- and you have a hankering to be baptized for the remission of your sins, I have an open invitation for you.  My home near Sacramento is about 400 miles from the Oregon border.  If you can make it down this way, come see me.  I'll baptize you myself.

 Related Posts:
Too Bad I Don't Like Beer.
What Is The Law Of The Land?