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.
The Past is a Foreign Country: They do things differently there.
L. P. Hartley
Ever wonder why there were no economists before Adam Smith, the great British philosopher and pioneer of political economy? As odd as this may seem, prior to the 18th century no one had ever conceived of organizing a system around the notion of personal gain. Historically, all commercial and industrial activity—that of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and the people of the Middle Ages—was organized in just one of two ways.
The first was tradition, where occupations were passed from one generation to the next according to the accident of birth. You were born to your social task and you were expected to accept it. Religion was frequently invoked to justify this approach. If your lot in life was one of poverty and disease, remember: this brutish and brief mortality is simply a prelude to the sweetness of eternal life.
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 they each retained a strong belief in God and desired to find a place to worship where they both would feel comfortable.
When I, their firstborn, arrived, they were attending the Presbyterian Church in my hometown, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. So I was baptized and added to the church register shortly after my birth.