My grandpa Hartley was a union organizer for the UMW, which as far as unionism goes is a lot like being a gauleiter for the SS, or Saul among the Hebrews. Then he got fired for union organizing and started his own home construction contracting business. After a few years of that he got to where he’d point to a careless hammer indent on some piece of lumber and growl, ‘the mark of union labor!’ And like Wodehouse would say, he meant it to sting.

Later I met a midwest convert bricklayer who volunteered as a union official, and from him I got a whole different perspective. He union was a craft union, dedicated to bricklaying as a skill and a vocation and worthy profession. The work they did was mostly training and setting out voluntary professional standards and maintenance of esprit de corps, which sounded wholly salutary. Perhaps, I reasoned, there were unions and then there were unions?

Mickey Kaus says that Wagner Act unionism is the reason for the bad odor in which unions were held. Wagner Act unionism is obsessed with work rules and seniority and grievance procedures and worker rights, he says. I don’t know if he’s right, though German unions seem to flourish, unlike ours, and seem to mainly avoid that work rules stuff. What I do know is that I’ve diagnosed in myself an occasional Wagner Act unionism of the soul.

Diagnosis is easy. Consider the following three scriptures:

Make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath

It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.

These are three worthy scriptures, but if they, or the principles they embody, have started to become your old standbys, then you are probably at least a journeyman in the Brotherhood. Same thing if your first article of faith is that the prophet isn’t infallible. Each of these scriptures or principles is an aid to perspective, but perspective alone won’t get you to the kingdom. You have the best perspective when you are far away.

President Packer sometimes reminds us that the Brethren prefer to preach the rule, not the exception. In the daily sermons we preach to ourselves, we have no need to pick up the Brethren’s slack.

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