Two-Dimensional Thinking

It would serve us well as a society and individuals if we quit seeing the world two-dimensionally.  “There are two sides to every coin”, “Both sides of the political spectrum”, “Both sides of the isle”, are common terms used in an attempt to more easily understand issues or categorize people.  This pattern of thinking, though, severely limits other, often more viable options from being considered in the first place.

For example, take the scam known as the “political spectrum”.  Whether by design or accident we, as a society, have accepted the false notion that there are only two options available to us politically—either you’re a conservative on the right, or a liberal on the left.  If you are a conservative you are a republican.  If you are a liberal you are a democrat.  Deductively a two-dimensionalist would reason that if a person is not a democrat than they are automatically a republican and vise-versa.  Partisans who assume they know what others think based off of this mis-applied reasoning often find themselves puzzled or embarrassed when they discover that the labels they attempted to stick on people don’t always stick.  The reason for this is because, like individuals, possibilities and choices are unique.  When people follow a left to right scale that places big-government fascists and zero-government anarchists next to each other on the far right it is obvious why there is so much confusion and narrow-mindedness.

The monopolistic stranglehold that both major political parties have in the United States contributes to this inconsistent narrow way of thinking.  Perhaps this is why more and more people are considering themselves independents instead of affiliating themselves with one of the major political parties.  Or perhaps people are becoming disfranchised by partisan politicians saying one thing and almost always doing another.  Either way people are beginning to wake up to the failures of the American one-philosophy/two-party system.  Perhaps one day soon, if this trend continues, other parties and independents will receive mainstream attention and credibility.  In reality, a political system which truly reflected the will of the people would have more than just two “viable” options.

Us-vs-Them-syndrome is common amongst sports fans.  People grow up with “their team” not ever questioning why their team is so special or why the rivalry is the enemy. Team dynamics may shift.  Strategies may evolve. Players may change.  None of these seem to sway the loyalty of the sports fanatic though.  While this mostly harmless attitude exists amongst most sports fans this same attitude is detrimental when applied to the field of politics.  When people unquestioningly align themselves with an ever-changing philosophy/group they fall victims to groupthink and are tossed to and fro by the whims of the collective body or controlling bureaucracy.  Political fanatics care more about beating the rivalry than about winning what matters most—moral victories.  Partisan rivalship distracts participants from alternative solutions and perpetuates narrow-mindedness.  Even more common than partisan opposition is when both major political parties adopt the same horrible policy (ie- an aggressive foreign policy) or completely ignore a crucial policy.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught this applicable principle for the best way to prioritize our decision-making:

“As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best.” (Good Better Best)

While most choices made by the party-spirited don’t deserve the label of being “good” the principle still applies that there are better and even best choices to consider above what is “good”.  The idea that there is a best option coincides with the only true two-dimensional reality—that is that there is right and wrong, good and evil.  Considering alternative solutions is not moral relativism.  It’s acknowledging that there are more than two possibilities to a given scenario—especially when those two choices are bad.

Alternative solutions, thinking outside the box, or questioning the status-quo earns people labels such as being extreme or irrational but there are more than two possible solutions to the issues which face society—many of these solutions are better than what is being considered.  Only those who monopolize one of the top two mainstream ideas would have you believe otherwise.  Let us give alternative choices a chance by removing two-dimensionalism from our vernacular and thinking.

Voting: For LDS Dummies- The People’s Standard vs. The Lord’s

Qualifiers vs. Disqualifiers—There are many reasons people attempt to qualify or disqualify a candidate.  Many of those reasons are irrelevant and sometimes harmful, especially when compared to the standard the Lord set (D&C 98:5-11).  Some people might believe a candidate is qualified for office based on their political party while others might disqualify a person based their inability to speak eloquently.  Below is a list of reasons people (left column) and the Lord (right column) qualify or disqualify candidates.  Obviously we want to move away from the ridiculous and irrelevant reasons people (dis)qualify candidates and adopt the Lord’s reasons.

1 Sam 16:7 D&C 98:10
…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.
Reasons People Qualify or Disqualify Candidates: Reasons The Lord Qualifies or Disqualifies Candidates:
Personality Good
Rhetoric Honest
Eloquence Wise
Party Affiliation (whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil)

Good—Often we’ll learn of a candidate who is polite, outgoing or fun and we automatically like their personality.  We should be careful not to confuse our impression for their personality with their character though.  A person can have a “nice” personality but not have good character.  A person’s character is who the person truly is.  Finding out a person’s character requires more than a passive awareness of their outward words and actions.  It requires attention and focus to their inner core values.  It requires righteous judgment and the gift of discernment to learn a person’s character. Upright character is a necessary attribute in candidates we elect.  A person’s personality is irrelevant.  Also, just because a person shares the same religion as you doesn’t automatically make them good.

“Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.” (D&C 98:9)

Honest—Sometimes it’s not easy to tell when a candidate is being honest and a lot of times people will cast their support for someone in hopes that they stay true to what they’ve promised.  All too often, especially in politics, people are let down.  The difficult question is how to determine when a candidate is telling the truth.  First of all, when a candidate continually repeats the same campaign rhetoric (language used to please and persuade) but has a weak history of being loyal to those espoused principles, they probably aren’t being honest.  Most candidates will have a record—political or otherwise.  It is the people’s duty to learn that record when determining if a candidate is an honest one.  The more consistent a candidate’s record is the more honest they have been.  Beware!  When a candidate changes the tone of their message based on who the majority of their audience is, this is a sign of dishonesty.

Wise—How each individual determines how wise a candidate is will depend on that individual’s personal values.  Latter-Day-Saints believe that morality and truth are not relative but are sure and lasting based on eternal law.  As they choose secular representatives they should choose those who represent them based on their ability to judge what is right and act accordingly.

People should take into account the context of D&C 98:10 when determining whether the candidate in question is truly wise.  In D&C 98:5-8 the Lord reveals to Joseph Smith:

“And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.”

A wise candidate is one who strictly adheres to the Constitution and supports principles of freedom.

Forsake Evil, Cleave Unto Good— When referring to the law of man the Lord said “whatsoever is more or less than this (the United States Constitution), cometh of evil”.  It’s clear that any deviation from the Constitution is against the Lord’s will.  When referring to whom we should seek for secular office the Lord stated, “whatsoever is less than these (a good, honest and wise representative) cometh of evil.”  It’s clear that seeking, advocating or voting for anyone who isn’t good, honest and wise is against the Lord’s will.  He calls both of these deviations evil after which he commands:

“And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.” (D&C 98:11)

“Lesser of Evils”—Despite the clear and direct counsel to only seek out good, honest and wise candidates for office most latter-day-saints continue to participate in the electing of blatantly bad candidates. Mostly out of an urge to beat the worst candidate your typical voter will only see two options as viable (D & R) and choose the lesser of their perceived evils.  Supporting evil is still evil.  Even when fear clouds our judgment and tempts us to think that “the greater evil has a good chance of winning” this still isn’t adequate justification to deviate from the Lord’s instructions.   Hyrum Smith agreed:

“We engage in the election the same as in any other principle; you are to vote for good men, and if you do not do this it is a sin; to vote for wicked men, it would be sin. Choose the good and refuse the evil. Men of false principles have preyed upon us like wolves upon helpless lambs.…. Let every man use his liberties according to the Constitution. Don’t fear man or devil; electioneer with all people, male and female, and exhort them to do the thing that is right. We want a President of the United States, not a party President, but a President of the whole people…and…. Have a President who will maintain every man in his rights .” –Hyrum Smith (1844, DHC-6:323)

Principle vs. Practical—All too often we allow what’s practical in our minds to supersede what is right.  We justify disobedience because we get short sighted and we convince ourselves that pragmatism is more expedient than righteousness.  We fall victims to the lie that if we don’t choose a major candidate than we are throwing our vote away.  We forget that our support for evil is perpetuating a system which will only continue to produce more evil as long as we feed it with such votes.  We seldom realize that every raindrop is responsible for the flood and that we must each individually take stand for what is right before we can collectively make a positive difference.

“We must be devoted to sound principles in word and deed: principle above party, principle above pocketbook, principle above popularity.” -Ezra Taft Benson (God, Family, Country)