Friday Potpourri

By: Jeff Spector
November 8, 2013

Here are two stories that I thought were interesting discussion topics.

MacNeil Murder UpdateBREAKING NEWS: MacNeil found guilty early Saturday morning on all counts first degree murder and obstruction of Justice. Pretty much guaranteed to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Yesterday (Nov 7), the prosecution and defense rested their case. The last witnesses called by the prosecution were 4 prisoners testifying about things Martin MacNeil told them about killing his wife while he was in prison. Of course, the focus was on the fact they are convicted or accused criminals and so, who can really believe them. But the same can be said for MacNeil, a proven liar and convicted criminal himself.  In one case, he told the prisoner exactly how he did it, which lines up with the evidence and chain of events. The main problem with the case is the bulk of the evidence is circumstantial, not direct and the medical examiners have not ruled the case a homicide, but suspicious.  Any lawyer will tell you that circumstantial evidence is the same as direct evidence in consideration of the charges and guilt, but it is a bit different in the minds of the jury, who have to put the puzzles pieces together in the end.

The very last witness for the state was the return of the mistress, Gypsy Willis.  Her claim has been that she and MacNeil actually broke up after a couple of years (while both were in prison), but the prosecutor showed her letters from each one that proved otherwise.  She has since moved on from MacNeil and is in another relationship.

However, the real kicker for me was that HLN reported that Gypsy wrote a request for sealing cancellation (I guess that means she is LDS and previously married in the Temple) so that she could marry Martin MacNeil in the Temple.  In the brief excerpt, they read she stated that Martin was the eternal companion she has been waiting for…. But, I guess, a Temple marriage might not be possible as he is an adulterer, convicted felon and possible murderer and may no longer be a member of the Church.

The defense put on a brief case calling four witnesses. Two were co-workers that testified on his whereabouts and alibi, and one was a probation officer of one of the prisoners who testified. Her testimony actually was stopped because she had limited contact with the prisoner she was testifying about.  The final witness was an ergonomics expert called to testify why MacNeil might not have been able to get his wife out of the bathtub.

Closing arguments begin today. (Nov 8)


Pope Francis calls for mercy, not rules -  The world is enthralled with the new Pope, Francis and he continues to make headlines almost each day with his seemingly new approach to his Church.  One thing that really caught my attention was this quote:

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” he lamented. “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

Now, I do not think the Catholic Church is likely to change it position on key issues like abortion, contraception, gay marriage in the near future but he is speaking to the focus on those issues and not on the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think this can apply to the LDS Church as well.  My own impression is that General Leaders focus less on rules and more on our relationship with Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  However, the rules, which are enforced at the local level, are emphasized more at this level.  I suspect this is either an attempt by local leaders to conform to Church policies or because, in private meetings with General and Area Leadership (which happens quite often), they are instructed to do so. Or, they think they are instructed that way.

On the other hand, with as much as two thirds of the Church not active, there is no organized effort to seek out those who are “not following the rules” and take any ecclesiastical action against them.  We focus on those that are active and, hopefully lovingly minister to those who may wish to come back.

It is always my hope, along with the message of the Pope, that “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ….” (2 Nephi25:26) in hopes of becoming a more loving people, more charitable and merciful toward others.

What do you think?

6 Responses to Friday Potpourri

  1. Howard on November 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    My own impression is that General Leaders focus less on rules and more on our relationship with Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

    Well in the past we heard a lot more hell fire and damnation from top and they talked in such absolute terms that in retrospect after things change it is hard to take them seriously as actually speaking for God about something eternal.

    Here are parts of Spencer W. Kimball’s April 1975 GC get tough on sinners talk: I should like to address a few words to our executive officers, particularly the bishops and stake presidents, who are the “common judges” in Israel….We are concerned that too many times the interviewing leader in his personal sympathies for the transgressor, and in his love perhaps for the family of the transgressor, is inclined to waive the discipline which that transgressor demands….Too often a transgressor is forgiven and all penalties waived when that person should have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated. Too often a sinner is disfellowshipped when he or she should have been excommunicated. Remember that President Taylor said you will have to carry that sin yourself Are you willing to do it, brethren? Do you remember what was said by the prophet Alma? “Now,” he said, “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment.” (Alma 42:16.) Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul. One more thought: The president or the bishop makes the determination, and the counselors or the high council accept his determination or reject it. But they do not vote it in, as you would many ordinary things. Please remember these things when somebody comes before you who has broken the laws of God. It is so easy to let our sympathies carry us out of proportion; and when a man has committed sin, he must suffer. It is an absolute requirement—not by the bishop—but it is a requirement by nature and by the very part of a man. This discipline is especially applicable to adults and married people and more especially to those who have been to the temple. They must understand that they cannot tamper with the holy laws of God. Never mind that Alma 42:25 just 9 verses later says: “What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.”

    This is still an OT rules oriented church although less so than in 1975. As you can see Bishops and SPs were given direct marching orders back then and it’s hard to weed this out of the culture even decades later which is probably why you still notice it at the local level. My Bishop is still handing out a copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness to confessed sinners with SWK’s one sided scriptural spin and hyperbole! And today attorney Elder Oaks seems quite intent on keeping at least some of the rules in front of our face.

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  2. NewlyHousewife on November 8, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    Nothing like a good murder story to gossip about. Me thinks it’s a bit ironic to have the Pope’s message of mercy underneath it though.

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  3. Douglas on November 8, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    #1 (Howard) – look outside your window for airborne swine, b/c with regard to SWK’s famous tome (which I at times derisively nickname “It’s A Miracle IF You’re Forgiven”), I fairly much agree. I certainly feel that bishops that just hand out a copy (or tell you to read it) are often being a bit “lazy” or at least unoriginal. However…methinks that you’re being too hard on the book, SWK, and the O/T.

    I don’t know how old you are so I don’t know if you have cultural perspective of the times that prompted the publication of MoF (1969). I’m in my mid-fifties, so I was but a lad at the time (and not LDS), but I remember the older siblings of my friends being involved in student protests, or being “hippies”, or what was then the counter-culture. Also please keep in mind that with the recent advent and legalisation (1965) nationwide of birth control (my Dad regaled me that when I was born and we lived in Louisiana, the military health care followed the applicable state medical laws, so contraceptives couldn’t be dispensed save for medical necessity…the Air Force doctors would come up with reasons that a specialist at Lackland (Texas) had to be seen, wherein an IUD could be fitted. Yep, a married couple had to jump through those hoops in the day) there was this thing called the “sexual revolution” (and indeed it was revoltin’). Don’t kid yourself that many of these attitudes hadn’t crept in the Church. Since it was some ten years prior to my baptism, I can’t say what the general mode of Church disciplinary action was, but perhaps things had gotten overly lenient. They certainly weren’t once I joined. I recall shortly after I got back from my mission in the early 80′s hearing of an acquaintance (also a convert and a recent RM) that ‘slipped’ ONCE, confessed it promptly, and, bam! Exed within a fortnight (he was rebaptised a year later and is very active today). Methinks that it’d have been more appropriate to simply yank the recommend, release him from Priesthood callings, and work with him to either marry the girl promptly if advisable or break it off before taking any disciplinary action (and he ought not to fare worse than a year’s worth of disfellowshipment if he’d straighten up). Perhaps President Kimball was pointing out that it wasn’t, in light of Heavenly Father’s literal “mission statement” in Moses 1:39 to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man, doing malefactors any favor to not discipline them. Of course, I doubt that SWK meant to convene a High Council court every time a brother broke wind at an inopportune moment either (in which case I’m royally hosed).

    I’ve written in other threads that IMO, based on my observation of SWK as a prophet (from my baptism in 1979 until his death six years hence) that he was as gentle and loving a leader as we could ever have, in great contrast to the tone of the so-called MoF. That’s why in the preface he, as “merely” an Apostle (which is no small thing, obviously!) was speaking his own opinions and not expounding doctrine on behalf of the Church. We ask to be allowed to be, as the fictional Sarek of Vulcan often said, “So Human”, and we ought to be, but we should extend our leaders the same courtesy. From what I understand, his sons aided him (and SWK did suffer from significant health troubles including heart disease at the time) in editing the book. Methinks that nowadays any Apostle’s work would have far more professional editing. The benefit of having more resources.

    As for the O/T, it seems that Jehovah is being a real hard-ass, doesn’t it? Again, we forget the context of the times. Israel had started (with his Grandpa, actually), in Mesopotamia, under very tenuous circumstances, and even once led to the Promised Land, it was touch-and-go almost in perpetuity, with enemies without and infighting within…not unlike the Nephites, or the early Restored Church. Add to that that it was easier to get Israel out of Egypt than it was to get Egypt out of Israel. Yet there are ample instances of where justice is tempered with mercy. And Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to DESTROY the LAW, but to FULFILL it.

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  4. Rick on November 10, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    Interesting timeline of MacNeil:

    When was he a bishop? It isn’t detailed on the timeline.

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  5. Jeff Spector on November 11, 2013 at 3:06 AM

    Not sure when or if he was. He mentioned it in one of his rants the day Michelle died and it was mentioned by the Prosecution in closing arguments. Makes you wonder with that track record how he even stayed a member.

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