The Things We Covet

Chris Anderson

      A 28-year-old black man by the name of Coleman Hughes popped up on Chris Anderson’s radar screen towards the end of 2022. In his capacity as head of TED Conferences, LLC (Technology, Entertainment and Design), Anderson was always on the lookout for individuals with a fresh perspective on scientific, cultural, and political topics to speak at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver, Canada. 

      Mr. Hughes had become an item not because his ideas are novel. Rather, his popularity was the product of his quaint, counter-cultural message: that people should be treated equally in all circumstances—public or private—regardless of their race. Since TED’s avowed mission is to “spread ideas that spark conversation” and that move people “to think differently,” and to pursue “knowledge—without an agenda,”[1] Anderson invited Hughes to make his case for “color blindness.” Mr. Hughes accepted the invitation with alacrity[2] and delivered his remarks at the annual TED Conference held in April 2023.

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Duty, Honor, Country

      I have an office on the fourth floor of our town home in Arlington, Virginia. Weather permitting, such as yesterday, I like to open the sliding glass door next to my desk. The ambient sounds below—the wind passing through the trees, children playing in the small park below, and birds chattering in the majestic oaks—have a soothing effect.

      On occasion, military jets pass swiftly overhead. When I hear them approach and am not otherwise engaged, I’ll open the screen door and step onto our balcony to watch them fly in formation. It brings back memories from my childhood in East Central Illinois when my father would take my brothers and me to watch the Thunderbirds perform during the annual airshow at Chanute Air Force Base.

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The Election Scandal that Rocked BYU and the Young Man Who Saved the University

Author’s Note: The events described below are all true, with the exception of one unconfirmed report. They are documented by both contemporaneous news stories and eye witness accounts.

A Warning:  The scandal described below occurred about 50 years ago in what today would be considered a primitive culture, one totally foreign to our learned and refined society. Out of respect for our modern sensibilities, each paragraph containing a disturbing anecdote will be preceded with this symbol—🔫 ⚠️—so as to allow vulnerable readers to skip the offensive material. (I chose a water pistol, instead of a Glock 19 (my weapon of choice), as my trigger emoji out of respect for my readers.)

A Request: I ask you, gentle reader, to make allowances for the unenlightened attitudes of several of the participants in this story. Their periodic displays of cluelessness and gauche behavior are often troubling. Your patience, and most importantly, your condescension, are greatly appreciated.

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Jewish Decide

      “Let me here say a word to the Jews. We do not want you to believe our doctrine. If any professing to be Jews do so, it would prove they were not Jews. A Jew cannot now believe in Jesus Christ. The decree has gone forth from the Almighty that they cannot have the benefit of the atonement until they gather to Jerusalem, for they said, ‘Let his blood be upon us and our children.’”

      So said the prophet Brigham Young in 1866.[1]

Brigham Young, photgraph by Charles William Carter (ca 1872)
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On Marriage

The sum which two married people owe to one another defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged through all eternity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      In February 1973, an article called “Strengthening the Patriarchal Order in the Home,” appeared in the Ensign, the flagship publication of the Mormon Church.[1] The author, Brent Barlow, expressed deep concerns about certain disturbing trends in family governance. Most troubling was the transition “from a patriarchal to a democratic or even matriarchal type of family organization.” Further, this shift from an authoritarian to an equalitarian family structure coincided with an increase in the number of wives and mothers entering the work force. This, Barlow said, can place added stress on family relationships.[2]

      Barlow blamed these developments on society’s departure from biblical teachings.[3] We should heed the counsel of the Apostle Paul, he said: “the husband is the head of the wife,”[4] and wives should submit to their husbands.[5] In defending the patriarchal order in the home, he placed special emphasis on the Lord’s words to Eve immediately prior to her expulsion from Eden: “I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”[6]

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“Hypocrisy is the Tribute Vice Pays to Virtue” —Francois de La Rochefoucauld

N.B.  The person who is the subject of this essay never saw or read its contents prior to its publication, had no foreknowledge of this essay, or my plans to write it. He is at liberty to repudiate it in its entirety. The views expressed below are mine and mine alone.

      Several years ago, Aaron Sherinian saved my life. Since then, he has become my closest—and, perhaps, my most intimate—friend, apart from my wife (and my dog). We counsel each other frequently, break bread together periodically, and engage in irreverent behavior constantly. He’s an exceptionally good listener, laughs at my jokes, and bathes regularly. In other words, he’s the perfect friend. 

      Aaron was recently named Director of Global Communications for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, “the Mormon Church”). As the managing director of the Church’s Communication Department, he will oversee Church interactions with the media, promote the Church’s humanitarian initiatives, coordinate major events (e.g., the reopening of the Salt Lake Temple), and, in consultation with Church leaders, communicate the Church’s message to the world. In other words, he’s a PR Guy.

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Where Words Fail

      One day in the mid-1960s, I wandered into a music store in downtown Champaign, Illinois. By “music store” I mean a store where you can purchase musical instruments, sheet music, and the like.

      While perusing the rock-and-roll section, I spied a piano arrangement of the Beatles’ hit song, “Yesterday.” This is what I had been hoping to find: a soulful tune that, if played with deep emotion, would prompt the cool girls in my junior high school to notice me. The moment I returned home, I headed straight for the Yamaha upright in our living room and began to practice the song.

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Pork Belly-up

     Set forth below is a short piece I wrote several years ago about my father for an essay competition sponsored by Jana Riess, a prominent Mormon blogger for the Religion News Service. Even though it was selected for publication on Jana’s website, I am republishing it this Father’s Day weekend as a tribute to my father, one of my heroes.

     Not too long ago, stakes and wards were expected to devise fundraising schemes—everything from bake sales, to service auctions, to car washes—in order to subsidize their local operating budgets. Today, funds are dispensed from church headquarters, and local units are discouraged from raising money on their own.

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The Color of God (2nd Edition)

Note to reader: I am republishing this essay—with substantial revisions and additions—to mark the 45th anniversary of the day on which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lifted its “Priesthood Ban,” becoming the last major Christian religion to accord equal treatment to individuals of African descent.

     The whole concept of…the image of God is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected…that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: There are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that….

Martin Luther King

     One of our favorite family traditions when I was young—one we shared with millions of other Americans—was gathering around the television every Sunday evening to watch Bonanza, an American Western set in Nevada near Carson City. The show chronicles the adventures of the Cartwright family, owners of one of the largest ranches in the state: the Ponderosa.

      The family patriarch was the thrice-widowed Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene), who had three sons of varying temperaments. The show, which ran a record 14 seasons on NBC, was popular because it offered both comedy and drama, and told compelling stories about the family, and those in its orbit.

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The Fifth Commandment 2.0

Author’s Note: This essay was first published in October, 2020. I have since revised it, adding some additional observations about the Abrahamic Covenant and what it means to “honor our father and mother.” I have, of course, retained the touching story at the end about one man’s (and one nation’s) eternal debt to his mother. I have chosen to republish it today as we commence our annual tribute to the matriarchs in our lives.

      When my parents married, my mother was not a member of the church and my father, who hailed from a long line of Latter-day Saints, had been inactive for some time. But each of them had strong religious convictions and desired to find a place to worship where they would feel comfortable. 

Cutest Baby Ever
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