My Sample Ballot for the 2018 Election

 

Office Candidates My Vote Arizona Republic’s Choice Commentary Debate
US Senate Kyrsten Sinema, Martha McSally Kyrsten Sinema Kyrsten Sinema Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally are both credentialed, qualified, moderate and pragmatic. McSally has taken a hard turn in Trump’s direction especially in her campaign. That’s enough for me. AZ Senate Debate
US House Dist 9 Greg Stanton, Steve Ferrara Greg Stanton Greg Stanton was a good mayor for Phoenix and as far as I can tell a pragmatic, get things done moderate lefty in the mold of Kiersten Sinema. Ferrara was a little to partisan right for my taste. Congressional Debate
Governor Doug Ducey, David Garcia David Garcia Doug Ducey Both are quality candidates, but education is the most important job in state government, taking about half of the budget. David Garcia has more experience in education and understands the issue deeply because of it. He’s veered too far left for my taste and I worry about his effectiveness, but I trust he’s competent enough to work thorough the political and economic constraints that will act as a real damper to his progressive leanings. I think the state could use some democratic leadership at the top after a long drought. Governor Debate
State Senate District LD26 Rebecca Speakman, Juan Mendez Juan Mendez I’m still open to Rebecca Speakman, but I wasn’t impressed with her debate performance. She did not make a case (at all) why she would be a better choice for the position than Juan Mendez, the incumbent. I needed to hear something. Debate
State House District LD26 Raymond Speakman, Isela Blanc, Athena Salman Isela Blanc, Athena Salman Isela Blanc is the best of the bunch by a large margin. She’s experienced, passionate and articulate. She expresses her positions as if she’s dipping into deep knowledge of the issues, something I don’t see quite as much from the other candidates. I was open to voting for the Republican here, but Rayond Speakman was less than inspiring. Debate
Secretary of State Steve Gaynor, Katie Hobbs Katie Hobbs Katie Hobbs The AZ Republic makes a great case for Katie Hobbs. I refer you there. Debate
Attorney General Mark Brnovich, January Contreras January Contreras Mark Brnovich Update, this seat has become politicized and Brnovich has politicized it. Given my personal politics, I’m voting partisan here. And Contreras is certainly qualified.

This is a toss up for me and I reserve the right to change my mind. They are both imminently qualified. I hate some of the partisan ways Brnovich used the office and that is almost disqualifying for me. I kind of feel like challengers to an incumbent, especially an incumbent with a single term, should be thrust out by a better candidate. Tie goes to the incumbent in this case.

Attorney General Debate
State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, Mark Manoil Kimberly Yee Kimberly Yee Yee is smart, driven, experienced and hard working. That’s enough for me. Debate
Superintendent of Public Instruction Frank Riggs, Kathy Hoffman Frank Riggs Kathy Hoffman I think Frank Riggs has a good approach to the position, he has a more well rounded experience, that includes political experience. I think he would do a better job at the position. Debate
State Mine Inspector Joe Hart, Bill Pierce Joe Hart Some Good Information I was going to vote for Bill Pierce because Joe Hart refused to participate in the debate, but then I heard him in the interview on PBS… Probably safer to stick with the incumbent. Mining Inspector Debate
Corporation Commissioner Rodney Glassman, Justin Olson, Sandra Kennedy, Kiana Sears Rodney Glassman, Sandra Kennedy Olson, Kennedy I think we have four quality candidates for this position. I think Rodney Glassman is credentialed, confident with unique perspectives and expertise. Kennedy has been there before and has a record of challenging the utilities. The commission has a record of corruption. That and a move to alternative energy is high priority. Corporation Commisioner Debate
Clerk of the Superior Court Jeff Fine, Roberta Miller Jeff Fine Fine has a really good record with relevant experience. Some good info
Justice of the Peace Kyrene Bob Robson, Sharron Sauls Sharron Sauls Sauls has more relevant experience and education to the position. Reasons not to vote for Robson – looking to boost his pension perhaps.

Reasons not to vote for Sauls, a domestic violence related felony conviction in her past.

Constable Kyrene Brandon Schmoll, Kent Rini Kent Rini He’s the democrat. There’s not much at all in this race except their respective websites. Brandon Schmoll is the incumbent but not much on his website except this. Kent Rini has been a real estate agent and a volunteer silent witness for Paul Penzone.
Central AZ Water Conservation District Ronald Sereny, Rory Vanpoucke, Chris Will, Frank Archer, Lisa Atkins, Jim Ballinger, Alan Dulaney, Kerry Giangobbe, Terry Goddard, Jim Ainnuzo, Heather Macre, Jennifer Martin, April Pinger, Daniel Schweiker Atkins, Goddard, Macre, Dulaney, Martin Atkins, Goddard, Macre, Dulaney, Schweiker Going with the incumbents and two of the remaining with the most water experience.
Maricopa County Community College At-Large Roc Arnett, Kathleen Winn Roc Arnett Arnett’s experience seems deeper and more relevant for the position he’s running for. In his answers to the questionnaire, he seems more passionate about growing the effectiveness of junior colleges. Winn, however, seems more concerned about tax payers. I’d like a junior college board member to negotiate for funds rather than conceding. Allow the legislature to balance Junior colelge needs with other competing claims on government funds. A good questionnaire of the two candidates
Tempe Union No 213 High School Governing Board Andres Barraza, Don Fletcher, Brian Garcia Andres Barraza, Don Fletcher Brian Garcia is a law student with obviously less life experience. I’ve heard great things about Don Fletcher. Andres Barraza has a unique perspective to provide a different perspective on the board. Good info
Tempe Elem No. 3 School Governing Board James Lemmon, Patrick Morales, Charlotte Winsor Patrick Morales, Charlotte Winsor I happen to know Charlotte Winsor personally and she would be excellent at this position. I watched the debates in person and all three candidates are solid choices, I preferred Patrick Morales of the remaining two.
Proposition 417 Yes I’ll vote for funding for the arts all day everyday.
Proposition 418 No The criteria listed for removal is far too vague. What does due process mean in this case? A council member will already be removed if the due process of the judicial system convicts a member for a crime. What more do they want? There are ways voters can recall a council member, or just vote the person out in the next election cycle. This seems sufficient.
Judges No for Arthur Anderson, Warren Granville, Howard Sukenic, yes for the rest. Use the www.azjudges.info to make the selection. Using the www.azjudges.info, I’m voting no on any judge who received a “Does not meet” vote. See here
Proposition 125 No
Proposition 126 No No Removing an entire segment of the economy from paying taxes is the wrong approach. We need to fund our government as efficiently as possible, that requires broadening the tax base as much as possible with as low of a tax rate we can muster. More revenue should come by broadening the tax base not narrowing it as this does.
Proposition 127 Yes No I want to vote yes on this, but 50% of all retail energy of utilities from renewable energy that excludes pre-1997 hydropower or any kind of nuclear???? Why exclude nuclear from these percentages? Ok, global warming is a huge problem, I’m voting yes anyway.
Proposition 305 No I think both candidates for superintendent of schools were against this for different reasons. I think both reasons are valid, I’m voting no.
Proposition 306 Yes Seems like a reasonable thing to me.
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How Much Should Joseph Smith’s Life Matter to a Mormon Testimony?

book-of-mormon.jpgFor some context, I’m making my way through a recent Mormon Stories podcast with Kathleen Melonakos on her recently published book, Secret Combinations Evidence of Early Mormon Counterfeiting 1800-1847. I need to re-listen to segments and more importantly, I feel the need to read the book. It’s a pretty devastating criticism of Joseph Smith.

First of all, let me lay out a fairly obvious faithful critique of the book before we start – she has a clear critical bias. In the interview, the author explains both her Mormon roots and her long-ago departure from the faith. She is clearly approaching her research from a critical perspective. This fact doesn’t mean her book isn’t valuable, isn’t worth reading, or doesn’t provide important insights to the early church. However, it may also explain her less than generous interpretations of the cited historical evidence.

The main point of the book is to put the early Mormon church in historical context, but more importantly to find some answers to the fundamental question every critic of the Mormon church seems to want to answer – how did Joseph Smith do it? How did Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon? How did he get so many people to follow him and to sacrifice so much for his cause? How did he come up with so much theology that extends and expands upon the consensus Protestant Christian position?

The faithful Mormon answer to all of these questions is pretty obvious and easy to summarize in a one hour presentation every Mormon missionary has memorized and gives to an investigator within the first couple of visits. Joseph Smith as a fourteen year old boy was confused by all all of the religious contention happening at the time. He wanted to join a church but couldn’t decide which one. In the midst of the confusion and as a response to reading in James that if “anyone lacks wisdom they should ask of God”, he went out into the grove of trees to do exactly that. In direct answer to his prayer, he saw God and Jesus Christ tell him to join none of the churches. Soon after, visits from angels came, guided him to buried plates where he translated a historical scriptural record through the gift and power of God, the Book of Mormon, a record of the ancient Americans. From there, Joseph organized a church of early believers, recruited others, expanded westward until he was assassinated. Brigham Young led the church to Utah and the rest is history.

I am Mormon now largely because I descended from very early converts to the church, Theodore Turley on my dad’s side, Carl Carlquist  on my Mom’s side among so many others. I inherited this religion, my faith extends back into my ancestry.

Melonakos’ book, however, is pretty devastating if taking at face value. Her answers to the question, how Joseph Smith did it is well basically that he didn’t, at least not all by himself. His theology had early pilgrim roots, much of his theology innovations have their genesis  Dartmouth college of which Hyrum Smith had some connection. Ideas for the Book of Mormon were in the air at time time, pulling from sources like the View of the Hebrews and the Spaulding Manuscripts. Much of this is not new to Melonakos, but her contribution is to find Mormon connection to early counterfeiting that was reasonably common in the area of the time, and that Joseph Smith, with his family, participated in these activities, and that they are at the heart of how Joseph Smith founded the church.

In this view Joseph Smith was a fraud, convinced others, including the three and twelve witnesses included in the Book of Mormon, to go along with that fraud, used Masonic rituals to bind participants to secrecy.

My fundamental issue with this view is that this fraud would have to be powerful enough to inspire countless others through the generations, culminating in the modern, global church with millions of members worldwide, all finding inspiration and strength as members of this deeply American faith.

Elder Holland responds similarly, describing how Hyrum and Joseph took comfort in the book they supposedly made up just moments before their death. Could a book they made up really provide this kind support for so many?

A faithful Mormon response to this type of critique is to outright reject it. The church actually has their own take on early Mormon history, the book entitled Saints, written by scholars employed by the church describing early church history from a decidedly faithful perspective.

What should I do with these competing narratives? I’ve already read what I consider to be among the most important Joseph Smith biographies, Rough Stone Rolling written by the faithful Mormon scholar, Richard Bushman, with his own biases. I’ve also read Mormon Enigma, another really well-researched book with a focus on Emma Smith that corroborates much of Bushman’s book describing the same events through Emma’s eyes.

I think there is value in understanding our early history. I think history can and should increase our faith in God and deepen our appreciation and love for the sacrifices of our forebears. I’m not a descendent of Joseph Smith, but my early ancestors had a deep faith in his message and made deeply significant sacrifices to help build the church he founded.

I don’t think it’s useful to ignore the critics. I think their arguments are worth considering, especially those done in good faith based on careful research. More fundamentally, though, I think Mormonism can and should survive whatever we might discover about Joseph Smith. I don’t believe the church should live or die on the credibility of a single person. There were far too many people involved in the church, past, present and future.

More importantly, I think Mormons should be fearless. Increasingly, every member of the church knows and loves someone who has left the church. I think being willing to have interfaith conversations, conversations between the critic and the believer, conversations in good faith with a willingness to learn from each other, can lead to deeper understanding, wisdom and a better world.