Marriage and the Economic Well-Being of Children

Sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox testified before a committee put together by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on child poverty in the United States. The following comes from his testimony:

Research by Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, among others, suggests the growth of child poverty from the 1970s to the 1990s was driven, in part, by the rise of single-parent families and family instability over this time period. For instance, in 1970, 12% of children lived with a single parent; by 1990, 25% of children lived with a single parent. Their work indicates that more than half of the increase in child poverty over this period can be attributed to the decline of stable marriage as an anchor to family life in America. Since then, the retreat from marriage has slowed, which means that family structure has been less salient in the ebb and flow of child poverty. Nevertheless, this research suggests that child poverty would be markedly lower in the United States if more American parents were stably married.

In fact, the continuing relevance of marriage to economic well-being can be seen in two recent studies, both of which suggest that marriage per se is strongly related to poverty. My own recent research with the Institute for Family Study’s Wendy Wang indicates that Millennials who have formed a family by marrying first are significantly less likely to be poor than Millennials who have formed a family by having a child before or outside of marriage. After controlling for education, race, ethnicity, family-of-origin income, and a measure of intelligence/knowledge (AFQT scores), we find that Millennials who married before having any children are about 60% less likely to be poor than their peers who had a child out of wedlock. In fact, as shown in the figure below, 95% of Millennials who married first are not poor by the time they are in their late twenties or early thirties. So, even for the latest generation of young adults, it looks like marriage continues to matter.

…[C]hildren in single-mother-headed families (who make up the clear majority of single-parent families) are over four times more likely to be poor, compared to children in married-parent families. And because more than one-quarter of American children are in single-parent families, this elevates the child poverty rate above what it would otherwise be if more children were living in married-parent families. Sawhill’s research suggests that if the share of children in female-headed families had remained steady at the 1970 level of 12.0%, then the 2013 child poverty rate would be at 16.4%, rather than a rate of 21.3%. In other words, the current child poverty rate would be cut by almost one-quarter if the nation enjoyed 1970-levels of married parenthood.

What about cohabiting parents?

One recent study finds, for instance, that children born to cohabiting parents are almost twice as likely to see their parents break up, compared to children born to married parents, even after controlling for a number of socioeconomic factors. This means that children in cohabiting families are more likely to end up in single-parent families or complex families without both their biological parents, which increases their risk of being in poverty. All this suggests that cohabitation does not protect children from poverty as much as marriage does.

What are the economic benefits of marriage for children?

  • “children raised by their married parents are much more likely to enjoy access to the economic support of their father over the course of their childhood, compared to children raised by single or cohabiting parents.”
  • “married parents are more likely to enjoy economies of scale, compared to single parents, and to pool their income, compared to other types of families.”
  • “stably married parents who do not have children with other partners do not incur child support obligations or legal expenses related to family dissolution that reduce their household income.”
  • “having stably married parents is worth about an extra $40,000 in annual family income to children while growing up, compared to children being raised by a single parent.”

What are his policy recommendations?

  1. “On the educational front, strengthen vocational education and apprenticeship programs, so as to increase the vocational opportunities of the majority of young adults who will not get a four-year college degree.
  2. “On the policy front, work to minimize marriage penalties facing lower-income families, perhaps by offering newly married Americans a “honeymoon” period of three years where their eligibility for means-tested programs would not end if they marry—so long as their household income is below a threshold of $55,000.”
  3. “On the cultural front, launch local, state, and federal campaigns on behalf of what Haskins and Sawhill have called the “success sequence,” where young adults are encouraged to get at least a high school degree, work full-time, and marry before having any children—in that order.”
  4. “On the civic front, encourage secular and religious organizations to be more deliberate about targeting Americans without college degrees.”

This shouldn’t surprise anyone that has kept up with my posts. But it’s always nice to have some of the most updated research on the matter.

Zoning Out

“Arguably,” writes economist Edward Glaeser,

Image result for zoning lawsland use controls have a more widespread impact on the lives of ordinary Americans than any other regulation. These controls, typically imposed by localities, make housing more expensive and restrict the growth of America’s most successful metropolitan areas. These regulations have accreted over time with virtually no cost-benefit analysis. Restricting growth is often locally popular.  Promoting affordability is hardly a financially attractive aim for someone who owns a home.  Yet the maze of local land use controls imposes costs on outsiders, and on the American economy as a whole.

…[The] most productive parts of America are unaffordable. The National Association of Realtors data shows median sales prices over $1,000,000 in the San Jose metropolitan area and over $500,000 in Los Angeles…America’s affordability problem is local, not national, but that doesn’t mean that land use regulations don’t have national implications. Historically, when parts of America experienced outsized economic success, they built enormous amounts of housing. New housing allowed thousands of Americans to participate in the productivity of that locality. Between 1880 and 1910, bustling Chicago’s population grew by an average of 56,000 each year. Today, San Francisco is one of the great capitals of the information age, yet from 1980 to 2010, that city’s population grew by only 4200 people per year.

…Land use controls that limit the growth of such successful cities mean that Americans increasingly live in places that make it easy to build, not in places with higher levels of productivity. Hsieh and Moretti (2015) have estimated that “lowering regulatory constraints” in areas like New York and Silicon Valley would “increase U.S. GDP by 9.5%.” Whether these exact figures are correct, they provide a basis for the claim that America’s most important, and potentially costly, regulations are land use controls.

…Land use controls may be benign even if they restrict growth and increase prices. Their proponents argue that they prevent environmental damage and reduce the downsides of local growth to the community. Theoretically, it is at least conceivable that America’s web of locally-constructed zoning codes have worked out to be a finely tuned system that functions like a perfect Pigouvian tax internalizing all the offsetting externalities of all new construction.

Yet such a view seems untenable. Getting the right national policy requires comparing the social costs of building in one location versus the costs of building elsewhere. Few localities seriously consider the negative impact that restricting buying will have on non-residents of their town. No locality considers the impact that their local rules may induce more building elsewhere.

We’ve written on zoning laws before. As Glaeser concludes, “Reforming local land use controls is one of those rare areas in which the libertarian and the progressive agree. The current system restricts the freedom of the property owner, and also makes life harder for poorer Americans. The politics of zoning reform may be hard, but our land use regulations are badly in need of rethinking.”

Diversity and Creativity

What is the science of diversity and creativity? According to an article in Harvard Business Review, it may be slightly surprising given how much of a buzzword “diversity” has become:

  • Generating vs. implementing ideas: Studies suggest that diversity is useful in generating ideas, but actually a hindrance when it comes to selecting and implementing them. “It would therefore make sense for organizations to increase diversity in teams that are focused on exploration or idea generation, and use more-homogeneous teams to curate and implement those ideas. This distinction mirrors the psychological competencies associated with the creative process: divergent thinking, openness to experience, and mind wandering are needed to produce a large number of original ideas, but unless they are followed by convergent thinking, expertise, and effective project management, those ideas will never become actual innovations. For all the talk about the importance of creativity, the critical piece is really innovation.”
  • Good leadership: Effective leadership can mitigate diversity-induced conflict. “It is the psychological process that enables individuals to set aside their selfish agendas to cooperate with others for the common benefit of the team, articulating the natural tension between our desire to get ahead of others and our need to get along with others.”
  • Moderate diversity is better: “recent evidence suggests that a moderate degree of diversity is more beneficial than a higher dose. This finding is consistent with the too-much-of-a-good-thing paradigm in management science, which provides compelling evidence for the idea that even the most desirable qualities have a dark side if taken to the extreme.”
  • Personality vs. demographic differences: “Most discussions about diversity focus on demographic variables (e.g., gender, age, and race). However, the most interesting and influential aspects of diversity are psychological (e.g., personality, values, and abilities), also known as deep-level diversity. Indeed, there are several advantages to focusing on deep-level variables as opposed to demographic factors. First, whereas demographic variables perpetuate stereotypical and prejudiced characterizations, deep-level diversity focuses on the individual, allowing a much more granular understanding of human diversity.”
  • Knowledge flows: Diversity doesn’t matter unless there is “a culture of sharing knowledge. Studies mapping the social networks of organizations have found higher levels of creativity in groups that are more interconnected, particularly when creative and intrapreneurial individuals are a central node in those networks.”
  • Skeptics: “diversity training is most effective with individuals who are skeptical of it. This is encouraging, though the challenge, of course, is to ensure that people who are cynical about diversity actually enroll in these training programs.”
  • Non-diversity factors matter (and matter more): “As a seminal meta-analysis of 30 years of research showed, support for innovation, vision, task orientation, and external communication is the strongest determinant of creativity and innovation; most input variables, including team composition and structure, have much weaker effects. Likewise, developing expertise, assigning people to tasks that are meaningful and interesting, and improving creative thinking skills will produce higher gains in both individual and team creativity than focusing on diversity will.” Selecting employees based on their creativity also enhances overall creativity.

The article concludes, “In short, there are probably much better reasons for creating a diverse team and organization than boosting creativity. And if your actual goal is to enhance creativity, there are simpler, more effective solutions than boosting diversity.”

You Are Not Enough; You Are Enough

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

Depiction of God the Father (detail), Pieter de Grebber, 1654. (Public domain)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s talk about weaknesses was one of the best General Conference talks I’ve ever read. Not only was it an intrinsically fantastic post, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how relevant it is to some of the confusion and heartache swirling around us today. Elder Maxwell’s directed his talk:

not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short.

These are sometimes the people who, as Elder Maxwell eloquently described, are hardest on themselves:

Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves, a judge who stubbornly refuses to admit much happy evidence and who cares nothing for due process.

Before offering words of comfort and counsel, however, Elder Maxwell did something really important. Here’s what he said:

The first thing to be said of this feeling of inadequacy is that it is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. Following celestial road signs while in telestial traffic jams is not easy, especially when we are not just moving next door—or even across town.

This idea of a gap between who we think we’re supposed to be and who we feel we are is something that has always pained people, and that has become a particular focus in recent years. One poignant example–and one I’ve cited a lot in the past–is Ira Glass talking about the aesthetic equivalent of this gap.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

One of the most important things about this quote is something I haven’t heard many people point out before. Just like Elder Maxwell, Glass takes for granted that the standard must not change. Nothing that Glass said makes sense unless we take as our foundational starting point this assumption that our good taste (in his example) is accurate. Glass never questions this. And because of that, the idea of closing the gap by simply pretending that our first novel is good (when really we know it’s terrible) is never even on the table.

Glass’s quote is beautiful and uplifting because it is hard. He is giving advice for people on how to continue a difficult struggle. The idea of letting them out of the struggle never even enters the discussion.

What is true for Glass about art is true for Elder Maxwell about morality. When the Church teaches what is true, it’s going to create a moral gap a lot like Glass’s aesthetic gap. Glass comforts and encourages people to soldier on through this painful gap, but he never suggests anyone should give up. And so Elder Maxwell–and all true prophets–can offer comfort and encouragement only within the context of affirming the bedrock moral principles. There is no other way forward.

The title of this post is a riff on something Brené Brown likes to say. Brown is a shame researcher who studies how shame–as opposed to guilt, which is healthy–is a debilitating form of self-loathing that leads to needless suffering and, perversely, worse behavior. And I like almost all of what Brown has to say. But I confess that her crowning mantra rubs me the wrong way. “Your are enough,” she says.

Except that we’re not.

I don’t want to hammer this too hard, because there are different ways we can take that expression. But one way–and I think it’s an insidious and increasingly popular attitude–is to simply lower standards. It would be as if Glass’s attitude was, “Well, if your first novel is terrible, just lower your standards until it seems good.” Or if Elder Maxwell said, “Well, if the Church’s standards seem unrealistically high, just lower them until they fit your current behavior.” If you feel inadequate, if you feel imperfect, if you feel broken and flawed just tap your heels and whisper “I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.”

That worked for Dorothy, but it won’t work for us.

Let me show you what I recommend instead:

This is probably my favorite video of all time. It’s supposed to be about chastity–and it is, powerfully–but it’s more than that. In the example, the rose is broken. It does no good to try and pretend it’s not. It does not good to deny. It does no good to pretend we are blind. The. Rose. Is. Broken.

And Jesus wants it anyway.

We are broken. And Jesus wants us anyway.

Some people will try to convince you that you’re not broken. You’ll recognize this rhetoric especially from exclamations that “God made me this way, and God doesn’t make mistakes.” I may be cynical, but all I can say is: tell that to someone born with a congenital heart defect. Or any of a myriad of biological conditions–some minor, some deadly–that we come into this life with. As it is physically, so it is spiritually (in this case). We are all broken. Instead of trying to pretend otherwise, I opt for a different approach. I won’t say that “being broken is OK,” because it’s not. But I will say this: being broken is only the beginning. The story doesn’t end there. But the story can only get better–we can only get better–if we’re willing to accept where we are at the start.

Maybe, when Brown or others say, “you are enough,” this is what they mean. But to me, it sounds wrong. We live in a time where the individual is worshipped and judgment is decried as intrinsically hostile. The pain of the gap is real, but leaving someone on the wrong side of that gap is never the truly kind thing to do. Lowering standards is never the kind thing to do. Denying universal and particular brokenness is never the kind thing to do.

Elder Maxwell gave a great list of ways that we can respond to the pain of feeling inadequate. Here is just one of them:

We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon.

This is the image that I like. Glass doesn’t mince words. Your first artistic endeavors feel terrible because they are terrible. Elder Maxwell doesn’t back down either: what is true is true. But both of them encourage. They beckon onwards.

Our Heavenly Father does, as well.

Check out the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey this week and join our Facebook group to follow along!

Minimum Wage: The Danish Experience

Ready for the second minimum wage paper in a row today? A new working paper looks at the Danish experience, where the minimum wage increases drastically when individuals turn 18 years old. So what happens when individuals become adults? “Danish minimum wages cause an increase in average wages of 40 percent when workers reach age 18. This increase in wages causes a 33 percent decrease in employment when workers turn 18, almost all of which comes from job loss” (pgs. 30-31).

As economist Alex Tabbarok observes,

In a section of the paper that adds important new evidence to the debate, the authors look at the consequence of losing a job at age 18. One year after separation only 40% of the separated workers are employed but 75% of the non-separated workers are employed. Different interpretations of this are possible. The separated workers will tend to be of lower quality than the non-separated and maybe this is correlated with less desire to have a job. Without discounting that story entirely, however, the straightforward explanation seems to me to be the most likely. Namely, the minimum wage knocks low-skill workers off the job ladder and it’s difficult to get back on until their skills improve.

Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance: Lost Jobs, Hours, and Income

Image result for minimum wage gif

A brand new NBER paper finds (quite unsurprisingly, despite what The Washington Post says) that

the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance caused hours worked by low-skilled workers (i.e., those earning under $19 per hour) to fall by 9.4% during the three quarters when the minimum wage was $13 per hour, resulting in a loss of 3.5 million hours worked per calendar quarter. Alternative estimates show the number of low-wage jobs declined by 6.8%, which represents a loss of more than 5,000 jobs. These estimates are robust to cutoffs other than $19. A 3.1% increase in wages in jobs that paid less than $19 coupled with a 9.4% loss in hours yields a labor demand elasticity of roughly -3.0, and this large elasticity estimate is robust to other cutoffs.

…Importantly, the lost income associated with the hours reductions exceeds the gain associated with the net wage increase of 3.1%…[W]e compute that the average low-wage employee was paid $1,897 per month. The reduction in hours would cost the average employee $179 per month, while the wage increase would recoup only $54 of this loss, leaving a net loss of $125 per month (6.6%), which is sizable for a low-wage worker (pgs. 35-36).

According to The Washington Post, economist David Autor described the study as one “that is likely to influence people,” calling it “very credible” and “sufficiently compelling in its design and statistical power that it can change minds.”

Given how past evidence has been ignored, I doubt it.

And If You Starve To Death…

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

The welfare session of the April 1976 General Conference was easy to love because it was full of my favorite themes: work and love as the alchemy that transform the routine into the holy. Here is one particular paragraph out of all the talks that stood out to me in particular, however. It was from Elder Featherstone’s talk, Food Storage:

I should like to address a few remarks to those who ask, “Do I share with my neighbors who have not followed the counsel? And what about the nonmembers who do not have a year’s supply? Do we have to share with them?” No, we don’t have to share—we get to share! Let us not be concerned about silly thoughts of whether we would share or not. Of course we would share! What would Jesus do? I could not possibly eat food and see my neighbors starving. And if you starve to death after sharing, “greater love hath no man than this …” (John 15:13.)

There is an entire sermon of meaning in the portion that I emphasized: “And if you starve to death after sharing…”

You might do the right thing and then die because of it. You would not be the first. We know this might be the outcome because it has been the outcome—for many people at many times and in many places—throughout history. There are no guarantees for you in this lifetime. Heaven’s promises are not confined to Earth’s horizons; they are greater and more distant.

Reward of Saint Sebastian by Eliseu Visconti, circa 1898. (Public Domain)

I have always admired aspects of existentialism because the image of a solitary man wringing meaning out of an uncaring, meaningless void by sheer force of will is tragically heroic. I love my faith because it weds that tragic heroism with the promise of a redemptive ending.

It truly is an exquisite setup that we’ve got here. Because we don’t really know—and, by and large, we simply have to admit that we don’t—about a life after this we are in a position where there is nothing fake, nothing artificial, nothing safe about sacrifice.

Yes, we hope and believe that no tears will fall unmarked, that all wrongs will be righted, and that a great reconciliation will one day heal every wound. That is our dream, but as long as we live in a world where God chooses to remain hidden this remains a dream and not a fact. And it is this absence of God, this lack of assurance that makes sacrifice possible. And sacrifice is the keystone of all virtues.

A saint is a person who embodies the existential ideal of doing good for its own sake and not for the hope of any possible reward. But existentialism is an unresolved chord. A saint hopes to hear the final note, the one that brings resolution to what the discord he has already experienced. Sometimes, in moments of greatest stillness, a saint may feel the fabric of the world vibrating I feel that final note they cannot yet hear, resonating just beyond the threshold of perception. A saint is an existentialist who hopes.

The nature of our mortal existence is such that—even when we understand intellectually why suffering and injustice are necessary—the knowledge can bring us no peace. If injustice, tragedy, or senseless suffering had answers that brought peace, they would be pointless. It is the lack of peace that holds the promise of purpose.

You could accuse me of intellectualizing suffering, of romanticizing tragedy, of trifling with what I cannot comprehend, and if you do I will have no ready response. We all swim in an ocean whose currents are deep and cold and perilous. If I were caught in one I would be powerless against it. I would be pulled into the cold darkness or I would be rescued, but I would not survive on my own. It is luck, so far, that has kept me from the riptide. I know this.

And yet I know one thing more.

Being overcome and being wrong are two different things.

Check out the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey this week and join our Facebook group to follow along!

The Second Amendment is for All Americans


Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators process the scene of where a St. Anthony Police officer shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile (Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota; CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last week, Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter after shooting Philando Castile to death. Yanez was a police officer. Castile was a law-abiding citizens with a concealed carry permit who followed Yanez’s instructions and was killed anyway.

I didn’t comment right away, because I wanted to study the issue more before commenting. Everything I’ve read since then has confirmed my initial impressions.

First of all, the verdict is a travesty of justice. If police officers can kill law-abiding, compliant citizens just because the officer is afraid, then we live or die basically at the discretion of police officers. “Sorry for killing somebody again, your honor, but I felt scared.”

Secondly, either constitutional rights apply to all citizens or they are not “rights”. Several outlets–like the Washington Post and the New York Times–have pointed out that if Philando Castile had been a white man instead of a black man, then the NRA would have gone into overdrive defending him and fundraising off of this story. The fact that they apparently can’t do the latter explains why they are not doing the former. It certainly appears that the NRA’s leadership, it’s base, or both simply don’t care about black concealed carry permit holders the way they do about white concealed carry permit holders. This is inexcusable. The time has come to decide if you’re defending the Second Amendment, or just perks for white folk.

This story is yet another example of the widening divide on the American right. The reaction to the verdict shows that Trump’s base is populist, nativist, but totally devoid of any consistent principles. Meanwhile, the derided “establishment Republicans” are turning out to be the ones with the real principles after all. That’s why it’s folks like David French writing for the National Review who are willing to say what needs to be said: “The jury’s verdict was a miscarriage of justice.”

We live in strange times. Antipathy between the red and blue tribes within the United States are at an all-time-high, with each suspecting–and sometimes relishing–the worst in each other. But in this atmosphere of partisanship and tribalism, there are also opportunities to bridge that divide over matters of shared principle.

If you care about social justice and equality, then clearly you will be passionately opposed to this injustice. But if you care about gun rights and the Second Amendment, then reason calls you to be just as passionately opposed. In this tragedy, conservative and liberal philosophies align, and all Americans of principle can say: this is not right.


All the Books

Here’s something depressing:

There are millions of books in the world (and almost definitely hundreds of millions—last they checked, Google had the count at 129,864,880, and that was seven years ago). The rabid and/or competitive readers among you will now be asking yourselves: yes, yes, now how will I read them all?

Well, you won’t.

Image result for all the booksWell, this should be obvious, but it still stings. I’ve experienced an existential crisis or two based on this very realization. Furthermore, as the author continues, “My to-read list is tantalizingly endless, and I often find myself thinking about the fact that my reading time/life is finite when I’m trying to get through a book that I know I should like but is boring (or annoying) me. As Hari Kunzru put it recently in the New York Times Book Review: “I used to force myself to finish everything I started, which I think is quite good discipline when you’re young, but once you’ve established your taste, and the penny drops that there are only a certain number of books you’ll get to read before you die, reading bad ones becomes almost nauseating.””

So how many books have you got left in you? Using the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator combined with three reader categories, you can get a good idea of how many books you’ll get through before you kick the bucket:

25 and female: 86 (61 years left)
Average reader: 732
Voracious reader: 3,050
Super reader: 4,880

25 and male: 82 (57 years left)
Average reader: 684
Voracious reader: 2,850
Super reader: 4,560

30 and female: 86 (56 years left)
Average reader: 672
Voracious reader: 2,800
Super reader: 4,480

30 and male: 82 (52 years left)
Average reader: 624
Voracious reader: 2,600
Super reader: 4,160

35 and female: 86 (51 years left)
Average reader: 612
Voracious reader: 2,550
Super reader: 4,080

35 and male: 82 (47 years left)
Average reader: 564
Voracious reader: 2,350
Super reader: 3,670

40 and female: 85.5 (45.5 years left)
Average reader: 546
Voracious reader: 2,275
Super reader: 3,640

40 and male: 82 (42 years left)
Average reader: 504
Voracious reader: 2,100
Super reader: 3,260

45 and female: 85.5 (40.5 years left)
Average reader: 486
Voracious reader: 2,025
Super reader: 3,240

45 and male: 82 (37 years left)
Average reader: 444
Voracious reader: 1,850
Super reader: 2,960

50 and female: 85.5 (35.5 years left)
Average reader: 426
Voracious reader: 1,775
Super reader: 2,840

50 and male: 82 (32 years left)
Average reader: 384
Voracious reader: 1,600
Super reader: 2,560

55 and female: 86 (31 years left)
Average reader: 372
Voracious reader: 1,550
Super reader: 2,480

55 and male: 83 (28 years left)
Average reader: 336
Voracious reader: 1,400
Super reader: 2,240

60 and female: 86 (26 years left)
Average reader: 312
Voracious reader: 1,300
Super reader: 2,080

60 and male: 83 (23 years left)
Average reader: 276
Voracious reader: 1,150
Super reader: 1,840

65 and female: 87 (22 years left)
Average reader: 264
Voracious reader: 1,100
Super reader: 1,760

65 and male: 84 (19 years left)
Average reader: 228
Voracious reader: 950
Super reader: 1,520

70 and female: 87.5 (17.5 years left)
Average reader: 210
Voracious reader: 875
Super reader: 1,400

70 and male: 85 (15 years left)
Average reader: 180
Voracious reader: 750
Super reader: 1,200

75 and female: 89 (14 years left)
Average reader: 168
Voracious reader: 700
Super reader: 1,120

75 and male: 87 (12 years left)
Average reader: 144
Voracious reader: 600
Super reader: 960

80 and female: 90 (10 years left)
Average reader: 120
Voracious reader: 500
Super reader: 800

80 and male: 89 (9 years left)
Average reader: 108
Voracious reader: 450
Super reader: 720

So chop chop. Up that number. Who needs sleep?


That We May Be One

Some important monuments used to pass down traditions of our fathers: the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and US Capitol. (By NASA/Bill Ingalls – Public Domain)

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

Unity was a major theme during the Tuesday afternoon session of the April 1976 General Conference session, including Elder Lee’s “But They Were in One” along with (then) President Hunter’s That We May Be One.

The 1978 Revelation has been looming increasingly large in my  mind as we make our way through the General Conference sessions towards it. I really don’t know that much about it—not compared to the folks I know online who are academics and historians—and I haven’t really done a lot of research on it. But I think about it often, especially when I read passages in the General Conference talks that seem to allude to the issue. For me, this is all ancient history, although it is also family history: my dad was serving as a missionary in Brazil in 1978, and he has shared his own spiritual missionary stories around the Revelation with me.

But for the folks who listened to this General Conference talk, the Revelation was only a couple of years away. And so it’s hard for me not to see Elder Lee’s comments, like the one I’ll quote in a second, other than as presaging what was to come:

I see brown faces and white faces together, sitting shoulder to shoulder. I see big nations side by side with small nations. I see American faces with Lamanite faces. I see German faces next to French faces. I see Mexicans next to Chinese. I see Japanese faces next to Polynesians. My brothers and sisters, what I am seeing today demonstrates to me the true gospel in action. As I look over the audience today, I do not see Mexicans, or whites, or Japanese, or Chinese. What I see are children of God. To me you are all children of God. In fact, today I see a glimpse of heaven.

Later on in the talk, he issued a challenge:

I challenge you that between now and when you come back next fall to general conference that you love each other as children of God and not as different races and cultures.

It’s been nearly four decades. How are we doing?

President Hunter also talked about unity, but from a different perspective. Instead of unity across cultures, he emphasized unity across time:

Fathers have been leaving memorials for their children, and children have been raising them to their fathers, since time began… The passage of time and the growth of our institutions often tend to separate us not only from each other but also from our common purposes. Down through history we have been commanded to construct memorials, or hold Passover feasts, or convene general conferences to preserve the power of our united faith and to remember the commandments of God in achieving our eternal, unchanging goals.

The need to pass down traditions from generation to generation is a crucial element of the Book of Mormon narrative. More often than not, we think of the phrase “traditions of their fathers” in conjunction with the Lamanites, who inherited corrupted traditions from their fathers. But one of the greatest crises the Nephites ever faced was when the generations led by Alma the Elder—many of whom had undergone the transformative crucible of oppression—failed to pass on their righteous traditions to their children, leading to Alma the Younger and the dissenters of his generation.

There’s a writer I love—despite his faults, which make it impossible for me to recommend him to a general audience—who once described the relationship of parents to their children this way:

I always thought the only truly alien intellect we’d discover would be an artificial one, made by accident.  Here’s what’s real: we’re creating alien consciousness all the time, on this planet, which we nurture until they terraform our planet and culture.  Again and again.

He goes on to point out that, for now, he enjoys the innovation of his children’s generation but wonders where it will end, and “what unassailable tower I’ll retreat to once they’ve dismantled every blessed signpost and all the language I use to live.”

It’s interesting to ponder what it means, to get Elder Lee’s and President Hunter’s calls for unity in the same session. For starters, I believe it means that—no matter how the politics of any particular day may fall in relationship to the Gospel—any concordance or discord between human ideology and eternal truth is fleeting. What is right in our politics—whenever something is right—is correct only to the extent and for as long as it borrows guidance from greater truths.

Political and ideological discussions need to be kept prescribed within that perimeter. For many reasons. Among them:

Within this Church there is a constant need for unity, for if we are not one, we are not his.

Check out the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey this week and join our Facebook group to follow along!