By Marvin Payne
[I wrote this column right after Conference Weekend in October. It’s called “My Presidential Pick.” When it was submitted, I didn’t realize that the Meridian editors were in the Middle East for an extended period of time negotiating for lower oil prices (you’ve no doubt noticed the results at the pump). Consequently, it did not appear here before the election. This is probably good, because it may have thrown off the numbers pretty badly, as you are bound to see.
I’ve made some necessary changes in tense to accommodate the delayed release-these are indicated in red. Such changes are typically left to the editors to execute, but hey, they’re preparing to mediate the upcoming Global Financial Summit.
Another reason why this column’s publication delay is probably fortuitous is that it may appear to some that I was good-naturedly ribbing the major candidates. I feel less like doing that now. This is why. On election night, when the results were in and the victor known, something amazing happened. In the very instant Senators McCain and Obama were released from being candidates, both of them became statesmen again. They showed more class in both defeat and victory than I’ve ever seen in my (columnist clears his throat) several years of watching this process. My guy (you’ll see) didn’t win, but I’m eager to help the new President of the United States of America succeed. It really is pretty hot-doggin’ historic.]
And now, the column.
I know you’ve been waiting with ‘bated breath to learn whom I endorse [endorsed] in the U.S. Presidential Election. (Some people are put off by the expression ” ‘bated breath” because at one time or another they have been fishing. I have and have been ((fishing and put off, respectively)). Salmon eggs are the worst, and even stainless steel lures can smell pretty bad after being dragged through the lakeside moss a time or two ((that’s the stuff that makes you think for a few heart-pounding seconds that you’ve hooked a fish-it’s conceivable that my epitaph may read “Thrilled to death by lakeside moss)). But the phrase has nothing at all to do with oral attraction of fish. Shakespeare handed us this linguistic whoopee cushion by having one of his characters be so devoted to making the iambic pentameter in his speech come out correctly that he dropped the first syllable of “abated.” So the suspense-filled party of the second part was merely holding his breath. Ta da!) To prolong the mortal sojourn of those among you who are suffering from ‘bated breath, I will reveal my Presidential Pick.
In a minute.
Magazines often, in the eleventh hour, endorse one or the other of competing candidates. Meridian Magazine, however, will [did] not. There are [were] three reasons for this:
1. The church doesn’t endorse candidates, and Meridian wants to be as much like the church as something that’s not one bit like a church, such as a magazine, can be.
2. Even a Democrat (I have just learned that this should be capitalized, which I am more than willing to do) could tell which candidate Meridian would endorse, were Meridian ever to darken the door of the House of Endorsement. So hey, why bother? And
3. A good many of Meridian’s readers are French, and don’t give a tinker’s fig who wins [won].
(The editors will be quick to point out that a number ((thirty-eight trillion is a number)) of Meridian’s faithful readers are inter-galactic and don’t give a tinker’s fig about even which species wins [won].) I can understand that.
But I give [gave] a tinker’s fig, so here it is [was] :
Mack Wilberg for president! Un’bate y’alls’s breath! (Sarah Palin could be [have been] vice-president, I suppose, providing we all pray that Mack suffers nothing more life-threatening during his time in office than briefly ‘bated breath.)
This is why I endorse [endorsed] Mr. Wilberg for President of the United States. He achieves unity. Every time he tries. The unity he achieves is beautiful. This is because what he’s after is beauty-there’s no secret agenda here, he’s perfectly transparent about this (I love this word “transparent.” When they were making up that word, who on the committee would’ve thought everybody someday would use it to mean this? Also “push back.” I like that one. Even analysts on NPR use it. Unembarrassed.). Wilberg invites people to follow him who want to be beautiful, and who know they can only enjoy the brightest beauty by following his counsel. (Hey, what is this starting to sound like? Being an old hand at separating church and state, I won’t go there. Yet.)
Some journal entries:
5 April 2008
“Mack Wilberg has transformed the Tabernacle Choir. The choir’s glory is undiminished through a two-inch speaker connected to a crackly roof antenna.”
4 October 2008
“I can’t find superlatives sufficient to capture the radical improvement in the Tabernacle Choir as conducted by Mack Wilberg. By comparison, the choir, long celebrated throughout the world for its tradition of excellence, has heretofore been merely loud, or soft, generally in tune, usually sincere. And doesn’t smoke or drink. Mack brings out range and color a symphony would envy and, a far greater achievement, the sensitivity and unity that would move a fine string quartet. He has accomplished what I had always thought impossible. They even look better. A lot.”
5 October 2008
“The choir has just sung ‘I Know That My Redeemer Lives.’ I was suddenly hearing a song I’d never heard before. .Now we’re hearing ‘The Morning Breaks’ [Broke’] at seventy miles an hour. Everything this guy does makes the old seem new. He lets us feel like we’re discovering truth.
.The Tabernacle Choir rocks. Every phrase means something.”
Now do a little “find and change” exercise on the above entries. Change all the “Macks” to “McCains” or “Obamas,” “Palins” or “Bidens.” Change all the “Tabernacle Choirs” and all references thereto to “the country.” Have you done it? I’ll wait. Sounds appealing, huh!
So, what if the Tabernacle Choir was a country (including its narrative counterpart, the General Authorities of the Church)? Lots of problems instantly solved.
Housing? Easy. The Conference Center, with room enough for several other countries to come for a visit-all at once (translation technology already in place). And a little summer place across the street, with even better acoustics!
Immigration? Piece of cake. You have to audition to get in.
National Security? Slam-dunk. If the longer pipes on that organ right behind them aren’t loud enough to intimidate any terrorist (particularly one with a talibanic fear of music), then Alexander Schreiner is your uncle (unless he is, of course, your uncle. He just happens to be a son-in-law of my maternal grandmother’s first cousin, but the expression is never “If the longer pipes on that organ right behind them aren’t loud enough to intimidate any terrorist ((particularly one with a talibanic fear of music)), then Alexander Schreiner is the son-in-law of your maternal grandmother’s first cousin!”).
Energy? Are you kidding? The guys that play the organ! They’re more animated than that man behind the curtain we’re not supposed to pay attention to.
Education? Apostles and Prophets. That’s all.
Cabinet? Come on. Such a country would be bursting with qualified possibilities. The current U.S. candidates in their best moments are not as inspiring and elevating as Henry B. Eyring at his worst. And which of the U.S. candidates would ever love us enough to demand, with tears, that we change or be damned?
How did you feel during Elder Hales’ admonition to respond to our detractors as Christ did? Have [Did] you ever felt [feel] similarly while listening to the U.S. candidates respond to their detractors? Can you imagine the transcendent loyalty-winning power that would flow [have flowed] from any candidate who dealt with his adversaries as the Savior would? (It would be [have been] spun as “condescension” and “patronization” by the commentators ((What do you call a spud that’s nothing special? A commentator. Ha, ha)) on TV after the debate.) I mean [meant], is [was] genuine meekness, the foundation of the Savior’s power, even a minor plank in any candidate’s personal platform?
I watched a debate or two this time around, and I couldn’t count all the missed opportunities, all the chances that candidates were given to be great and instead chose ordinary. Shall we imagine for a moment, at a rostrum opposite the stage from Joe Biden, Julie Beck? Heck, she lives on Main Street! Not the figurative one!
The other day, across two fences from us, our kind neighbor’s inactive husband suddenly dropped dead at age sixty-three. Who was there first, after the police (maybe before the police-I got there late)? Who was there last (long after the police)? Who beat everybody to the kitchen chores early the next morning? This is who. The widow’s visiting teacher, who is also the General President of the Relief Society. (Millie Garrett, her beautiful Native American companion, helped an awful lot.) Of course, maybe she had nothing better to do-well, there was that world-wide Relief Society Conference to put on in a couple of days in the, oh yeah, Conference Center. Do you suppose Candidate Beck might speak [have spoken] about American ideals and kitchen-table challenges with a little bit of authority? Do you think any of the candidates have spent more time abroad working on successful “foreign policy” than she?
Well, I’m mixing up ConferenceCenterLand with the United States of America, here. So, to clarify, in the USA there’s a whole different Great and Spacious Building, and it’s chock full, from floor to rafters, with voters. What they (sometimes “we,” because we all visit there) want [wanted] out of this election is the preservation of their (our) freedom to borrow more and spend it, thus making them (us) better than everybody else. This is called “The Economy.” Happily for the voters, all the candidates share [shared] the same strategy for preserving that freedom, which is to borrow more and spend it-and, for that reason or not, their most persistent assertion is [was] that they are [were] better than everybody else (who is [was] running). And it’s [it would have been] no good for the other side to see [have seen], as did the servant of Elisha, that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them” until horses (of fire or even unignited-nothing’s more pathetic than a marginalized horse) are given the vote.
Facing this season’s political realities head-on could give the country a serious identity crisis. We are certainly “States.” But we are not “United” (and, oddly, seem to celebrate that fact as the greatest new American virtue). And, given our attention to so many sirens of superiority and spleen and personal sabotage, maybe we’re not really very “of America.”
A while back, I drove out to what we locals call “the west desert.” It’s a bit of lonely terrain between nowhere and nowhere else that has been variously mistaken by film-watching members of the church and their friends for the Judean Wilderness, the Place of the Skull, and the Midian Hills. This time it was the Midian Hills, and I was Moses. (For an Internet Filter that really works ((!)) click on http://www.marvinpayne.com/netwelcome.html and select it for your home page!) The scene was one of my favorites in all scripture, where Moses meets the Lord, Who shows him all Creation, and then is visited by Satan, who poses as the Son of God demanding to be worshipped. But Elder Holland, whose conference message the film illustrates, says that Moses would have none of it, because Moses had just seen the real thing.
Regardless of what the negative campaign ads may say [have said] to the contrary, no current [immediate past] candidate running [having run] for president or vice-thereof is Satan. Following the counsel of President Packer, I will be subject to kings, presidents, etc. and I will [did] vote for one set of these candidates, painfully forbearing to follow my heart and write in “Mack Wilberg.” I consider voting to be a sacrament of citizenship, so I can’t say “I will have none of it.” But after conference weekend [when this was written] it’s [it was] a tough job choosing, because I have [had] just seen the real thing.
“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)