Sunday, May 15, 2022

Good Options, Good Life

Is having an abortion wrong or right? Good or bad? Is it a sin, or a right? Is it murder or a choice?

So, it’s really difficult to tackle a question like that. Most of the people who are arguing this issue want to paint the picture in stark contrasts of black and white. It’s a lot easier to fire up your supporters that way. It’s a lot easier to inspire voters and to push agendas that way. The reality, however, is a lot more nuanced. Not only are there shades of gray, there are a lot of other colors involved. 

First of all, an abortion is a difficult response to a difficult situation. It’s not something anyone I’ve ever seen, heard, or read aspires to or looks forward to. I would be hard-pressed for even most supporters of abortion rights to find a situation where it would be a definite “good thing”, rather it might be considered to be a “less bad” or even the “least bad” option available. 

In our current political climate, I see a lot of people, however, wanting to label other people as “good” or “bad” based entirely on their stand on this issue. Rather than to take a look at each other’s positions, thoughts, and even feelings in the matter, it’s easier just to call the other team evil. 

For example, the left says that it’s all about the right to choose. That a woman has a right to make decisions about their bodies that will impact their lives for many years to come. They point out how little autonomy most western women have had, historically, and how difficult it has been for them to have any decision making power in their lives. They point out just how critical the element of freedom and choice is in the fabric of American life, and how long it has taken for women to have access to the same freedom and choice as others. 

Adding to the confusion is the multitude of women who are in this difficult situation through chance, or through the choices of others. Should we remove choices from those that had few choices to begin with? Troublesome and physically dangerous pregnancies, the heartbreak of rape, coersion, abandonment, or many other circumstances can severely muddy the paint on the picture.

Those on the political right want to protect the life of the unborn child. Life is precious and ending a life, even a potential one, is equal to murder. Our nation’s founding documents specifically mention the importance of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Clearly that’s a good thing as well, right?

So, we’re at an interesting point, here. There are two “good” values (choice and life) vying for supremacy over the battlefield of something that’s ultimately “not good”.

It’s very easy for us all to call the other side evil. It’s easy for the left to call the right “oppressors” and “tyrants”. It’s easy for the right to call the left “murderers”. Our current political climate facilitates making lots of noise and rage without actually fixing the problems.

To me, the bottom line is that until our society comes to grips with the “difficult situations” that make this “difficult response” even considered as a solution, nothing will change. Until we make a society where everyone’s choices are respected, everyone’s opportunities are maximized, and unwanted pregnancies are rare, abortions will happen. Until it’s the worst option, instead of the “least bad” option, it will still be an option, regardless of its legality or constitutionality.

Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Monday, May 09, 2022

Game Design, Laws, and Abortion

I make games. It’s one of my hobbies, and one of my personal joys. As I’ve been learning the process of creating games, I’ve been studying and learning a lot, and much of what I have learned applies to life. 

I was pleased to discover, for example, just how similar the world of game design is to the world of politics, and legislation in particular. To be sure, there are many differences, here is how they are very alike: They’re both about making rules.

Now, let’s look at a situation in game design. Let’s say that there’s a problem in the game. Let’s say that there’s a quirk of the board or a strategic option that gives a player a huge advantage, to the point that they win the game every time. Or maybe there’s another situation that makes the game bog down and nobody progresses. Either way, the game is broken. 

A beginner game designer looks at that and says that it’s no problem, we’ll just make a rule that says you can’t do that strategy. Easy fix. 

The problem is that many times that one new rule you made reveals another problem, so you now have to make another rule to fix the one just created. Maybe this one is an exception to that initial rule. But then this new rule triggers new problems. And now, to fix the next problems, you have to make yet more rules and I bet you can guess where this leads.

A more experienced, more professional game designer would look at the initial problem and think about it. They would analyze the situations that would motivate the player to choose the problematic strategy in the first place. They would ask why it’s so appealing. Why would anyone want to choose it in the first place?

Then, you adjust the board, or you adjust the existing rules to make that a less effective in-game strategy. If that choice no longer helps the player, or if other choices are more effective in the long run of the game, then the problem strategy is minimized, or simply goes away.

I would hope that it’s very clear how this applies to the legislature. All too often, our response to the idea of a problem in our society is simply to make that problem illegal. I’m discovering that a better approach would be to ask ourselves, “Why is this a problem? And why are people choosing to do it?” and then to write legislation that would fix THOSE problems.

Let’s look at the problem of Abortion as a big example of this. 

For the record, I am personally and morally opposed to the concept of abortion of a pregnancy. I think that, ideally, a child should be wanted, loved, and anticipated with excitement in a loving and nurturing family. I also know that this doesn’t always happen.

Politically, it’s very easy for those who are opposed to abortion to just say, “Well, let’s just make it illegal!” 

But let’s apply what I’ve learned in game design. Let’s ask some of the tough questions. What makes someone want to have an abortion? Why does a woman want to end a pregnancy? 

The hard part of this question is that there are thousands of different answers from thousands of different circumstances. From what I hear in the debate, it’s not an easy choice for a woman to make. It can be personally traumatizing, socially stigmatizing, and financially overwhelming, among many other things. And yet, in spite of all of those horrors, it is still seen as being LESS traumatic, LESS stigmatizing, and LESS financially devastating than the prospect of bearing a child for 9 months and then raising them for 18+ years.

So, if I, as an advocate of the life of the child (not necessarily in the “pro-life” political camp, though) want to see fewer abortions, it seems to me that the legislation to push for, to vote for, would be the ideas that make having the baby LESS stigmatizing, LESS devastating, and LESS traumatic. If we make laws and circumstances that support a mother in crisis, then we would have fewer abortions. If ending the life of a child becomes the least effective option, it will be chosen far less.

How do we do that? Well, that’s not easy, but here are a few ideas:

  1. Make adoption easier. There are many childless couples and households that would dearly love to have a child. My wife and I were in this situation for many years. We looked into the option of adoption and the costs and challenges were almost insurmountable. If you make it easier and more fair, there will be a lessened need for abortions.

  2. Provide more support for struggling moms. If a woman sees bearing and raising a child as an overwhelming road that she has to tread alone for years to come, then abortion is a more appealing option. 

  3. Better education. If our teens learn more about what is involved in parenting and raising a child, they will approach that phase in their life with greater respect and confidence. This is more than just sex education and contraception. This is all about understanding family and interpersonal commitments. 

  4. Holding men accountable for the babies they help conceive is important and right and just. It’s also a double-edged sword in some ways. If a man is facing a lifetime of personal and financial commitment that he’s not ready for, he might well push for an abortion. This is a part of the complication of the issue that I don’t have a great answer for. Still, if the fathers have options, like adoption, and education, this situation will also be lessened.

I, personally, think that many of these options are good for society as a whole, not just people who find themselves caught in the situation of being expectant and uncertain parents-to-be.

This is a very complicated issue. There are no easy answers. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I want to share some of my other musings here in my blog sometime soon. I’d love to hear your (respectful) comments below!

Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Eggs

Yesterday, I read this blog post by a blogger (@Ta_RynRyn) in, I believe, South Africa (though that’s really immaterial to the topic), and she commented on Easter Eggs.

When you’re on an easter egg hunt, you walk along the lawn, and you glance at the bushes and you see a splash of color. You lean down and pick it up. Maybe it’s a colored egg, a real one, that’s been hard-boiled. Yum! A little salt and pepper and you’ve got breakfast. Maybe it’s a plastic one. You crack it open, and there you see a piece of candy or a dollar. Woo Hoo!

In life, there are easter eggs, too. You’re going along your “normal” life, working, caring for kids, or whatever you do, and something a little bit different happens. Maybe you planned it, maybe you didn’t. But it’s nice, and when you open it up, there’s something sweet.

I’m not talking about the landmark events that change the course of your life. These are wonderful, and powerful. For me, these are things like my wedding day, the birth of each of my children, serving a mission for my church, buying a new house, etc...

These are smaller things that enrich your life, that remind me that I have a life, and it’s a wonderful life.

I made a list, and this is not in any order, and if I were to make the list on a different day, it would probably have other items, and maybe more of them.

Jodi and I traveling to Yellowstone

Early in our marriage, Jodi and I planned a trip, by ourselves, to Yellowstone. It was one of the first of many that we’ve taken together, and one of the few without family or friends along. It was also one of those “I’ve grown up, now” moments for me.

Travelling to Mazatlan

We would often travel with her family to various locations, and one that we did several times was to go to Mazatlan, Mexico. These were always great times, and I got to use my mission spanish. These times really helped Jodi and I bond with wonderful memories, like when I got up early, ran to the beach to buy really fresh shrimp, and cooked it for her for breakfast.

Going to the Smithsonian

When I was a kid, growing up in Indiana, my dad had these 2-week consulting jobs with the Navy in Washington, DC. The whole family would go, and while he was doing physics stuff, mom, Ruth, and I would wander the halls of the Smithsonian. On our way there, and on our way back, we would also visit Civil War and other historical sites. It fueled my lifelong love of learning.

Performing with ROC

After high school, and after my mission, but before I moved out on my own, I spent a bit of time singing for a band named “ROC”. They were an actual working cover band, and I learned a lot from them.

Meeting Chance Thomas

Also early in my marriage and my adult life, I met another musician by the name of Chance Thomas. He introduced me to many people and opportunities in the Salt Lake are music scene. He went on to establish a great name for himself in the world of video game scoring. We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, these days, but I count him as one of my best friends.

Meeting John Newman

Another best friend that I don’t get to see too often is John Newman. We share so many connections, music writing, gaming, game design, thoughts and philosophies, etc... He inspired me to write my food blog,

Getting the publishing contract & holding my first book

Writing that food blog gave me the opportunity to become a published author! After writing about my journey learning to cook in my Dutch ovens, I was approached by a publisher, and we did seven cookbooks together! What a great time that was.

Gaming with my sons

As my sons have grown up, I’ve shared with them my love of gaming. This has led to the creation of our tabletop role-playing game, I’ve literally watched them grow from anxious and confused teenagers to capable adults, along with many of their friends, from across a table scattered with papers, miniatures, and dice!

Attending the temple with Jodi

This one isn’t so much a single event as just a process that we do. It’s always wonderful to set next to her in the celestial room and pray.

Something that will happen next year

Yeah, so, who knows what’s next, right?  Along the way, I’ll keep looking for those bright bits of color underneath the bushes.

Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,


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