Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What I Should Have Said

Two things we would almost never think of together - poker and religion - had an odd meeting just last night. I can't say why, but those poker shows on ESPN are a big enough hit to justify millions in stakes and prize money. Last night was some kind of final, and a winner emerged, a younger man with no special aura or image. There, surrounded by a stack of cash the size of a pitchers mound and sporting a new jewel-encrusted bracelet gaudy enough to give "bling" a bad name, the winner thanked "God, for making it all possible." Let's hope some of the cash goes towards a home study course in Religion and Ethics.

The trip to Iowa for Marla's wedding gave us the opportunity to do a few new things, one of which was to ride on the BART train from Jake's home in Orinda to the San Francisco Airport. It was very early in the morning. Our fellow passengers, no doubt mostly commuting to their jobs, looked more sleepy than anything else. I noticed a large man perhaps in his thirties wearing sunglasses even though it was pitch dark outside. He had twin images of the famous Nike "flying man" on the backs of his calves. They didn't seem tattooed so much as branded onto his skin, though that part left me guessing. I was surprised, however, to see that although he was wearing sneakers, they weren't Nikes. Go figure.

Not long ago in this space I mentioned Phil, one of our local tennis players. He doubles as a sometime critic of Mormonism, which is perfectly legal. A week or two ago, he said he had a question. How much, he wanted to know, do the Mormon leaders get paid, and why don't they say publicly how much it is?    
I wish I could have given a snappy answer, but found myself falling back on the fact that many of the LDS leaders serve at reduced pay from what they were making in the private sector, and that other church critics have tried to mine this field before and have come up empty. These answers didn't seem to satisfy Phil, who no doubt would have reeled in horror if I had asked how much he makes doing the laundry of Humboldt County's rich and famous.
Now I know what I should have said: "Phil, with all due respect, I think you're asking the wrong question. If someone is a con artist intent on fleecing the faithful for big bucks, which I freely admit happens pretty often in this country, then such a person shouldn't be paid anything, should they? But if, on the other hand, these are leaders who really do deliver revelations from God as useful to us as those of Isaiah's or Daniel's or Moses' day, then the value of these people would be more than almost anyone on earth, wouldn't you agree? The real question, then, should be 'Are these true leaders, genuine successors in a line of prophets?' We know no real prophets would try to scam their believers. Would you like to get your own answer to this question, Phil?" I'm not sure what he'd say to such a proposal, but I hope I'm better prepared the next time tShouldheology breaks in on tennis at Hammond Park.   


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