Thursday, December 8, 2011

The LDS life of an LDS President

Apostles Visit UK and Ireland Saints, Build Faith

Joseph Smith was the first one way back in 1844. George Romney was the second one (Yes, Mitt's father). Midas Udal was third in 1972 followed by Bo Gritz in 1992, Orin Hatch in 2000, and Mitt Romney in 2008 and again for the 2012 election. They are all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, who have run for President of the United States.

Lee Davidson of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a news article detailing past church member candidates for President of the United States, or "POTUS" for short: interesting history and well worth the read.

It's fun using the term POTUS because in the Mormon church we sometimes refer to the Prophet as the "President," since he is the President of the church and head of the "First Presidency." It also sounds pretty cool when you say, "POTUS." Go ahead and try it 5 times fast and tell me it doesn't sound cool?

A couple days ago my wife and I were toying with a another topic: how would the life of an active member of the church change, in regards to the church-related aspects of their life, if they were elected President of the United States? Even if Romney misses his opportunity to be POTUS the odds of another member of the church running for the office again are quite high given the number of church members in Congress and politics in general.

The culture of the church is quite different than most other Christian religions in that the church has many cultural aspects that integrate with doctrinal principles. Living our religion is more than just going to church on Sunday. Many aspects of regular worship, doctrinal adherence, and sociality would be adversely affected by the rigorous schedule, daunting logistics, and intense security associated with the office of the President. Here is my take on some of those issues and impacts.

Instead of explaining each aspect in depth I only address the issues and impacts. Follow the linked title of each section to read more about the details of this part of our faith at

Sunday worship
  • Assigned Ward: The assigned ward for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is the Washington DC 3rd Ward, Washington, DC Stake (according to Would their membership records remain in their pre-election home ward, go to this new ward in Washington, or some other ward? Since their residence will be the White House I assume it would be the Washington D.C. 3rd Ward. Although some people prefer to keep their membership records at their "home ward" when they travel abroad or move for short-term missions (1-2 years), the term of the presidency (4-8 years) would most likely necessitate them moving their records to their new home.
  • Actually getting there: Weekly attendance at church services for the first family could be weekly but POTUS may only be able to attend up to a couple of times per month due to scheduling. Visiting other wards/branches is another option given the schedule and travel concerns but site security becomes an issue.
  • Site security and screening: The entire church building would have be cleared in advance of the presidential visit (think bomb-sniffing dogs), along with screening of everyone entering the church. Does this create too much hassle/disruption to the rest of the ward to allow POTUS regular sacrament meeting attendance? It did for President Reagan. Imagine everyone, including 80-year-old widows and little 2-year-old boys/girls getting a pat-down every time they came to church. 
  • Sacrament at the White House: Assuming that attending a regular family ward every week is not possible or practical, it would be MUCH easier to bring the sacrament to the White House every week. You simply screen a group of Aaronic Priesthood brethren, along with their parents, and choose a few of them to visit the White House each week on a rotating schedule.
  • Sacramental bread/water: the sacramental bread/water would have to be screened before consumption just like any other food served to the POTUS.
  • What about Camp David? Camp David has a chapel which has been used by past presidents and could be used for sacrament services. Pres. George W. Bush used it frequently for church services. The only snag is getting other people there to join in the service. Which Bishopric would you invite to preside, the  Washington D.C. 3rd Ward or the Frederick 1st Ward, Frederick Maryland Stake, where Camp David is located? The Church usually defers to local (i.e. geographic) authorities to be the presiding authorities at meetings. If this becomes the church location of choice local authorities may ask that the membership records be moved to the Frederick 1st Ward.
  • I would assume that all callings for POTUS would be off the table. Their entire time in office would be more than filled with the requirements of office.
  • First family: First Lady most likely will not have any callings but older children may be able to serve (i.e. Aaronic Priesthood quorum or YW presidency). Imagine a family in the same age ranges as the Kennedys or Obamas? How would their kids participate in primary and youth activities?
Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching
  • Can POTUS be a Home Teacher? The short answer: no. There is simply not enough time available for this calling. It would be cool if he tried but I think his schedule would be too full to get in even a few visits every year. And the site security question always comes up if POTUS is going to a private home so he would probably have to perform these visits in the White House.
  • Can the First Lady be a VT? She might be able to fill this calling but it is very schedule dependent. Security is also an issue but not to the same degree as the POTUS.
  • Receiving visits from Home or Visiting Teachers: very schedule dependent but also very doable. HT/VT persons would be required to go through all security protocols for visiting the White House. Can you imagine going to the White House every month to present a message and ask, “Is there anything we or the Ward can do to better meet your spiritual needs?” or “Have you been holding FHE?” "How's your food storage?" "When was the last time you invited someone to attend church with you?" The comedic possibilities are endless.
  • Presidential records: Would these HT/VT visits be considered “public record” of the Office of the President and need to be recorded? Not sure how that plays out. I would hope that personal activities such as this would not need to be public record.
Family Home Evening
  • Scheduling: Good luck getting the entire first family in the White House one day a week, let alone the same day every week.
  • Security: no real issue here since only the first family would be invited.
Scripture Reading
  • Personal Scripture Study: Scheduling is the only issue. Past presidents have done regular scripture study, George W. Bush most recently (not sure on Obama).
  • Family Scripture Study: Once again scheduling is the only real issue. Regular family scripture study will be a problem.
Priesthood Interviews: Temple Recommend, PPIs, and Tithing Settlement
  • POTUS alone in a room with a Bishop or Stake Pres. (confidentiality of recommend interviews): Not impossible but the Bishop and Stake Pres. would be required to go through all security protocols to see the POTUS. This may be a problem if the Bishop or Stake Pres. cannot pass the background check: counselors that can pass the background check could substitute.
  • Location: Similar to church visits. May be easier to just do it at the White House or Camp David.
Temple Attendance – This is the toughest nut to crack.
  • Support Staff: Would require all Secret Service, White House Staff, and other support personnel (i.e. medics, military, etc) entering the temple to be recommend-carrying members of the church. All personnel outside the temple can be non-members.
  • Site prep: Same issues as church attendance but on a larger scale. One of the smaller temples would be a MUCH better option in terms of site security. You could designate a single day reserved for the POTUS and his entourage and have a much smaller staff to screen. It would also impact far fewer temple patrons. Would the church allow bomb-sniffing dogs inside the temple?
  • Location: DC is closest temple to the White House but its sheer size presents a problem. Next closest is NYC/Manhattan but that has the complexities of a very large metro city. Other options are Rochester, NY; Columbus, OH; and Raleigh, NC. POTUS may also elect to visit smaller temples around the US/World based on his travel schedule.
  • Best Bet: Schedule a smaller temple in the US, randomly chosen, and pick a day and time that works. Temporarily close the temple for a day or so and keep it private and low-key: only a few key people at the temple, such as the Temple President, need to know exactly who is coming. Let everyone else be surprised and honored to meet the sitting POTUS. There are some pretty remote temples around the US that would fit the bill.
Word of Wisdom
  • Not really an issue: George W. Bush was a recovering alcoholic and this did not appear to be a show stopper. Presidents are not required to drink alcoholic beverages.
Ward Activities/Socials
  • Basketball: Many presidents have been physically active, including President Obama, so the act of playing basketball is not a problem. Might not be able to participate in church ball due to scheduling and security issues.
  • Ward Socials: Same issues with scheduling and security as sacrament attendance. A one-time visit may be possible but recurring visits may be impossible. Perhaps the best idea would be to hold the ward social at the White House?
Post-Term Issues – impacts after POTUS leaves office and returns to “normal” life, or as normal as it gets for a former President.
  1. Secret Service escort: former presidents receive secret service protection after leaving office. This makes for fun times at church, in the temple, and any private priesthood interviews, as I have described above, but on a somewhat smaller scale.
  2. Callings: given the need for security even after leaving office, there may be additional headaches to serving in the church later in life. Imagine a mission or temple president with a secret service escort? How about an Apostle? (might be a stretch for a politician but not impossible)
As I was writing this post, my wife sent me this which addresses a lot of the same issues:

So the main point here is that trying to live a "normal" church-attending life for a member of the Church would be nearly impossible. The commitment level of the person filling the office of the POTUS must weighed against the rigorous religious observance and practices, which will be left to fall behind while in office. This is a sacrifice one makes with that level of commitment. Think of it as the opposite of what happens with General Authorities: they give up everything but their church and their families to focus on their jobs. The President of the United States makes a similar sacrifice to serve the people in the greatest nation on earth.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Geek Links of the Week - 05DEC2011

Just when you thought it was safe to come back to my site, I bring you...

My Geek Links of the Week!

Link #1: Your Android Phone Is Secretly Recording Everything You Do
"If you have any decently modern Android phone, everything you do is being recorded by hidden software lurking inside. It even circumvents web encryption and grabs everything—including your passwords and Google queries."

This "Carrier IQ" controversy is just now blowing up. I won't belabor you with links to other summaries because there simply are too many. This may not only affect Android but the jury is still out on that one.

Here's my take on it- the developer of the software missed a key feature: turning it off. What it does makes sense as a feature-improvement data gathering service similar to other features in Windows, MS Office, MacOS, iOS, and countless other products that count how many times you use a specific feature and how you use it. The one things most of them have: a way to turn it off. The big problem here isn't that there is a piece of technology to track how you use the device and send back usage stats and data to a 3rd party, it's the fact that there is no way to disable the feature once the user has  decided NOT to consent to this "feature."

This will blow over soon but it is a major breach of trust in a very popular platform.

Link #2: Why Hypercard Had to Die
"Does anyone really believe that Mr. Jobs genuinely 'thought you could do everything in Cocoa and ProjectBuilder that you could do with HyperCard'? He was far too intelligent a man to believe any such thing.  One may as well say that you could do everything with a magnetized needle and a steady hand that you could do with a text editor. Or that you could do anything with Roman numerals that you could do with Arabic numerals. Or that you could do anything in INTERCAL that you could do in Common Lisp.  And so forth.  Jobs was almost certainly familiar with HyperCard and its capabilities. And he killed it anyway. Wouldn’t you love to know why?"

-Stanislav Datskovskiy

I used Hypercard for about a month when I was about 12. My "Computers" professor (yes, I had a class in Junior High simply called "Computers") got his hands on a couple of them and we played with it for several weeks before they had to go back to wherever it was he "borrowed" them from.

My second favorite quote from the article...
"Jobs supposedly claimed that he intended his personal computer to be a “bicycle for the mind.” But what he really sold us was a (fairly comfortable) train for the mind. A train which goes only where rails have been laid down, like any train, and can travel elsewhere only after rivers of sweat pour forth from armies of laborers. (Preferably in Cupertino.)"

This is what bothers me about Apple today and its current slate of products: they look the same, they all work the same, and most of the apps on the iPhone/iPad can generally be classified into several categories. What is different about that? How can you think "outside the box," to continue the overuse of an over-used pun, when the box is a wall-in garden and overseen by an army of overseers that must approve your app? Unfortunately I see too many other platform manufacturers going this direction as well (Windows Phone, Android to a certain extent, etc). What made the PC so cool 20 years ago was the ability to customize it to the n'th degree and write code or develop a periferal device to make it do whatever you wanted. I think that utopia died in 1994 when we connected everything to the internet. OK, now I'm sounding like an old geek-fart.

Link #3: The Psychology of Nakedness
"Looking at a naked person filled us with sexual desire, and that desire induced a form of mindblindness. Instead of seeing the individual as having agency, he or she became a means to an end, nothing but a vessel for our satisfaction. Kant was describing a phenomenon known as objectification, in which seeing a body turns the entire person into a physical object."

This may seem to fall into the "well-DUH!" category until you read the entire article and realize the impact of exactly what they are saying. When a person reveals even slightly more skin than they did just a moment before the brain shifts more toward objectification. I can't summarize it better than that. Read the article... }B^)

Link #4: Complaint: medical "copyright over your comments" contracts are illegal
“When I walked into the offices of <the Doctor>, I was looking for cleaner teeth, not material for an Ars Technica story. I needed a new dentist, and Yelp says <the Doctor> is one of the best in the Philadelphia area. The receptionist handed me a clipboard with forms to fill out. After the usual patient information form, there was a "mutual privacy agreement" that asked me to transfer ownership of any public commentary I might write in the future to <the Doctor>. Surprised and a little outraged by this, I got into a lengthy discussion with <the Doctor>'s office manager that ended in me refusing to sign and her showing me the door.”

-Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica staff writer

Amazing. You go to a dentist's/doctor's office and give away your right to publicly say anything about the services rendered? I doubt this will pass legal scrutiny but the idea is simply absurd. I'm not going to pay for a product or service if I cannot tell others in person, in print, or online, what I think about it. Most of the time I don't but that's not the point.

Link #5: Institutional memory and reverse smuggling
"Institutional memory comes in two forms: people and documentation. People remember how things work and why. Sometimes they write it down and store that information somewhere. Institutional amnesia works similarly. The people leave and the documents disappear, rot, or just become forgotten (as it were)." -an engineer

What would it be like if you were a new engineer and given a set of 30 year old specs and schematics. Your new job is to figure out what the heck this thing/plant/process is all about and be able to not only explain it to someone but redesign part of it or add a new feature/thing to it. Sounds totally cool. This guy almost had to do it in real life, except he wrote most of the specs/schematics he was now studying. The company had lost many of the docs but this engineer had "unofficially" made his own archive. How does he now smuggle the intel BACK into the company? Great geek read.