Tuesday, June 18, 2013

President Hinkley on the Book of Mormon

"I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on this Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living, who led them into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras." - Gordon B. Hinkley, October 1979 general conference

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Our Priceless Heritage" Ezra Taft Benson

May I pay honor to the founders of our beloved republic.

The Declaration of Independence to which these great men affixed their signatures is much more than a political document. It constitutes a spiritual manifesto—revelation, if you will—declaring not for this nation only, but for all nations, the source of man’s rights. Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet, foresaw over 2,300 years ago that this event would transpire. The colonies he saw would break with Great Britain and that “the power of the Lord was with [the colonists],” that they “were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.” (1 Ne. 13:16, 19.)

The Declaration of Independence was to set forth the moral justification of a rebellion against a long-recognized political tradition—the divine right of kings. At issue was the fundamental question of whether men’s rights were God-given or whether these rights were to be dispensed by governments to their subjects. This document proclaimed that all men have certain inalienable rights. In other words, these rights came from God. Therefore, the colonists were not rebels against political authority, but a free people only exercising their rights before an offending, usurping power. They were thus morally justified to do what they did.

Finally, the document concludes with this pledge. “For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives,our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” (Italics added.)

How prophetic that pledge was to be!

Fifty-six men signed the document on August 2, 1776, or, in the case of some, shortly thereafter. They pledged their lives!—and at least nine of them died as a result of the war. If the Revolution had failed, if their fight had come to naught, they would have been hanged as traitors. They pledged their fortunes!—and at least fifteen fulfilled that pledge to support the war effort. They pledged their sacred honor!—best expressed by the noble statement of John Adams. He said: “All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence, now, and INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER.” (Works of Daniel Webster, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1877, 17th ed., 1:135.)

We know the signers of the sacred Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers, with George Washington at their head, have made appearance in holy places. Apostle Wilford Woodruff was president of the St. George Temple at the time of their appearance and testified that the founders of our republic declared this to him: “We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” (Journal of Discourses, 19:229.)

Later, after he became President of the Church, President Woodruff declared that “those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men who labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord.” (Conference Report, April 1898, p. 89.)

("Our Priceless Heritage." Ensign, Nov. 1976)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dallin H. Oaks on the U.S. Constitution

The following is an excert from Dallin H. Oaks speech on Utah's Constitution Day Celebration:

We have a great Constitution whose fundamental principles many believe to be divinely inspired. Therefore what? I will suggest five responsibilities that I believe are appropriate for all citizens—whatever their religious or philosophical persuasion.
1. Understand the Constitution
All citizens should be familiar with its great fundamentals: the sovereignty of the people, the structure of federalism that divides powers between the state and the federal government, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, and the principle of separation of powers among the various branches of government. We should take alarm at and consider how to oppose any action that would infringe these fundamentals.
2. Support the Law
All citizens should give law-abiding support to their national, state, and local governments. My religious faith expresses this principle in an official declaration of belief:
“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them. . . .
“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside” (D&C 134:1, 5).
3. Practice Civic Virtue
Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under our national and state constitutions should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” John Adams, the second president of the United States, declared, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
James Madison argued in the Federalist Papers that “republican government presupposes the exercise of these qualities [of virtue] in a higher degree than any other form.”
Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward our states and our nation. They should obey the laws. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter.
Then there is the matter of voting. I have been alarmed at the steady decline of voter turnout in many parts of the United States, including Utah. Voting is a fundamental right and responsibility that must not be taken for granted. Political participation can be inconvenient. It requires sacrifices of time and resources, but it is essential to our democratic society. Without substantial voter turnout, the people abrogate the great fundamental of popular sovereignty.
It is also part of civic virtue to be moral in our conduct toward all people. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.
4. Maintain Civility in Political Discourse
If representative government is to function effectively under our constitutions, we must have civility in political discourse. We currently have an excess of ugliness and contentiousness in our communications on many political issues. I don’t need to give examples; we have all been exposed to it, and some of us have occasionally been part of it. We all bear some responsibility for the current political polarization and the stalemates that have resulted from it. We ought to tone it down. Meaningful debate and discussion about policies, programs, and procedures is essential to a democratic society. But contentiousness for the sake of division is bad for democracy. It is bad for law observance. It is bad for neighborly relations. And it is particularly destructive as an example for the rising generation, who, if not taught better, will perpetuate and magnify its ugliness and divisiveness for generations to come.
A year ago our Church published a statement called “The Mormon Ethic of Civility.” I quote from that statement:
“The Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that renders civil discussion impossible. . . . Our democratic system [should] facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing.”
Our President, Thomas S. Monson, has said, “When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when unified effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying.”
5. Promote Patriotism
Finally, the single word that best describes a fulfillment of the responsibilities of citizenship is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. My favorite prescription for patriotism is that of Adlai Stevenson, the Illinois governor who was twice the Democratic candidate for President:
“What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? . . . A patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”


Be Prepared for Hard Times!!

With the current unrest in the world, I believe hard times are coming. The rising price of oil, inflation, the economy, and global unrest are just a few indicators that we are in for a rough ride. While nothing is for certain, it would be wise to be prepared. The following lists are suggestions for emergency preparedness:

WATER - ITEMS LIST(Urgent - Survival List Items)
■Emergency Water: (Urgent - keep stored)
■Water Containers: (food grade if for drinking)
■Hand Pumps & Siphons (for water storage containers and for fuels)
■Emergency Water Filters and Purifiers

1. Grocery Store & Bulk Foods
3. LONG TERM Vegetarian MRE Foods (vegetarian protein foods)

Grocery Store & Bulk Foods List
■Rice - Wheat
■Legumes: Pinto Beans, Black Beans, etc.
■Oatmeal, Cornmeal
■Canned Fruits - Canned Vegetables - Soups - Stews, etc.
■Milk - Canned/Evaporated, Powdered, Sweetened/Condensed
■Eggs - Powdered (dried)
■Peanut Butter - Nuts - Popcorn
■Dehydrated Fruits & Vegetables - learn how to dehydrate your own
■Jerky - Trail Mix
■Graham Crackers - Saltines - Pretzels
■Chocolate - Cocoa - Tang - Punch
■Honey - Syrups - White Sugar - Brown Sugar
■Garlic - Spices - Baking Supplies
■Soy Sauce - Vinegar - Bouillon Soup-base
■Tuna Fish (packed in oil has more protein)
■Canned Meats
■Cooking Oil
■Flour - Yeast - Salt
■Bulk Herbs (used for seasoning),(Herbs can also be used for first aid, or treating minor medical issues)
■Vitamins - Minerals - Supplements

COOKING & HEATING(Important to Urgent - Survival List Items)
•Emergency Cook Stove
•Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur)
•Emergency Heater
•Gasoline Containers with Extra Fuel (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur)
•Seasoned Firewood (those that heat with wood)
•Heating Oil or Propane Users (Urgent/Shortages: keep tanks full as possible)SAFETY ITEMS(Important to Urgent - Survival List Items)
•Emergency Weather Alert Radios (NOAA weather radio)
•72-hour Kit (portable- in you have to evacuate your home)
•Emergency Car Kits (first aid & road-side kits)
•Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
•Smoke Alarms (battery powered)
•Fire Extinguishers (or Baking Soda in every room)
•Self Defense Items: Guns, Ammo, Pepper Spray, Non-Lethal Tools
•Survival Guide Book
•Take a basic course in CPR and First-Aid

KITCHEN & HOUSEHOLD(General to Important - Survival List Items)
•Cookware (pots, pans, etc)
•Paper Plates, Cups, Utensils, Paper Towels (stock up plenty of these)
•Hand Can Openers
•Insulated Ice Chests (to keep foods from extreme temperature ranges; such as not thawing or to keep from freezing)
•Garbage Cans Plastic (great for storage, water transporting/cans with wheels)
•Plastic Storage Containers (keep items dry and pest-free)
•Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many)
•Plastic Zip-Lock Bags (stock up on these)
•Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Cooking and Barter Item)
•Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypo chlorite)
•Laundry Detergent
•Dish Soap
•Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
•Clothes Pins, Line, Hangers
•Paraffin Wax
•Books (Bible and Favorite Reading)
•Writing Paper, Pads, Pencils
•Solar Calculators•Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks
•Board Games, Cards, Dice
•Scissors, Fabrics & Sewing Supplies
•Duct Tape (must have item)

PERSONAL CARE/HYGIENE(Important to Urgent - Survival List Items)
•First Aid Kits
•Reading Glasses
•Medicine: Prescriptions, Aspirin, Cold & Flu, etc.
•Hygiene: Feminine Products, Hair Care, Deodorant, Floss, Nail Clippers, Tweezers, Toothbrush & Paste
•Bath: Lotions, Shampoo, Soap, Waterless & Antibacterial Soaps - (save water)
•Shaving Supplies: Razors, Creams, Talc, Aftershave
•Baby Supplies: Diapers, Wipes, Formula, Ointments, Aspirin, etc.
•Portable Toilets & Sanitation
•Toilet Paper, Kleenex

LIGHTING(Important Needed - Survival List Items)
•Flashlights, Light-sticks, Torches
•Batteries (all sizes...buy latest Expiration Dates)
•Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps
•Charcoal, Lighter Fluid

TOOLS(General Needed - Survival List Items)
•Basic Tool Kit: Hammer, Screw Drivers, etc.
•Shovels: Regular and Snow
•Knives & Sharpening Tools: Files, Stones, Steel
•Bow Saws, Axes and Hatchets. Wedges (also, honing oil)
•Tire Repair Kits

CLOTHING(General Needed - Survival List Items)
•Hats & Beanies
•Gloves: Work/Warming/Gardening, etc.
•Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
•Woolen Clothing, Scarves, Ear-muffs, Mittens
•Work Boots, Belts, Levis & Durable Shirts
•Thermal Underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
•Rain Gear, Rubber Boots, etc.

MISCELLANEOUS(General Needed - Survival List Items)
•Tarps, Stakes, Twine, Rope, Spikes
•Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Pillows, Mats
•Cots & Inflatable Mattresses
•Backpacks, Duffel Bags
•Fishing Supplies/Tools•Mosquito Repellent, Sprays, Creams
•Mousetraps, Ant & Cockroach Traps•Rat & Mouse Poison, Roach Killer
•Glue, Nails, Nuts, Bolts, Screws, etc.
•Plastic Window Insulation Kits (or sheeting with extra duct tape)
•Lumber (all types)
•Wagons & Carts (good for transporting many items)
•Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Constitution

This is an article by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, September 4, 2003, given to the graduates of BYU's law school. This is what came out in the Church News of September 13, 2003.
The United States Constitution remains "a most remarkable document" that was shaped by God's hand. "If pondered--both as to its substance and the miraculous process of its coming forth--the Constitution is deserving of our prolonged, spiritual applause."
Elder Maxwell said that while he could not speak to the assembly from shared professional experience, he could speak from a shared theology.
"The scriptures contain so many jewels, brothers and sisters, over which we pass too lightly, especially what I call some stunning 'one liners.'
One such cluster has to do with the unique founding of the American nation.
"The Lord revealed that He established our Constitution 'by the hands of wise men whom (He) raised up unto this very purpose, quoting Doctrine and Covenants 101:80. I know of no parallel declaration with regard to the Constitution of any other nation, ours being the first written constitution.
"The revealed words, given in 1833 in Ohio, clearly remind Church members "that God's hand is in the details of such things -- sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly."
"Think of all the Lord had to oversee, including all the shaping events which occurred long before the Constitution was written, ratified and implemented. First, it was necessary for God to cause a handful of highly talented and wise individuals to be "raised up."
Second, they needed to live in one geographic area on this planet.
Third, these events had to occur in a short time frame.
Forth, a citizenry had to be prepared who wanted and would then implement and sustain self-governance.
"This latter incubation was as important as the later ratification. Thus the words, 'raised up,' involve multiple and concurrent conditions. Without similar incubation, no wonder we find in human history that establishing modern republics and democracies is not easy. Founders require foundational building blocks."
The Constitution, of course, not only needed to be written, but also ratified--gaining approval after dramatic moments and by narrow margins."
The process was no picnic. Thus not only was a special parchment produced, but so were a sufficient number of approving and sustaining people.
"Human history makes "abundantly and sadly clear" that not all mortals use power wisely.
"Unsurprisingly, therefore, certain of the constitutions' central features---such as the vital separation of powers and the precious First Amendment, as conceived and intended--were needed to foster moral agency."
"This later condition is so central to God''s plan of salvation for all mortals. Back in the founding days, however, these and other key concepts needed cleats which would take hold early in the history of the American nation. Otherwise, things could have come apart soon after the birth of a nation."
The bestowal of such divine attention on a few mere colonies located on one planet is especially reassuring , said Elder Maxwell, "given God's governance among 'worlds without number." ( Moses 1:33, 35)."
Elder Maxwell then spoke to the law school graduates about the law. "As alumni, what you are is more important that what you know about the law." "The influence of your character, long term, is more significant than legal expertise, though how commendable when both are combined."
Therefore, he told the graduates, as they manage conflict, to practice advocacy without acrimony and without animosity. "Be eloquent, not only before the bench, but also eloquent in your life' example. And you need your own checks and balances, including at times the constraining influence of the Spirit.
Slack citizenry and cunning devices can over time corrupt even a constitutional system.
"Lawyers can first shape and then exploit the voice of the people, which, if done amiss, can bring the judgments of God."
The Constitution, he said, "remains a most remarkable document. Nevertheless, the various interpretations of the Constitution are more reflective of the moral status of America's citizenry, its lawyers, and its judges than we may care to acknowledge."
Quoting Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Maxwell said the citizens who founded this nation understood the relationship between self-government and citizen responsibilities.
"Therefore, while we cannot fully fathom all that was done in order to raise up wise individuals, I nevertheless praise God for the miracle which came forth."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Joseph Smith on the Constitution

Had a recent comment asking for the source of the quote by Joseph Smith that's on the sidebar. It comes from the Joseph Smith Papers (LDS Church Historical Archives, Box 1, March 10, 1844, according to a BYU-I article.

I highly recommend reading that link, it contains several other quotes and good advice. As I re-read it today, a quote on it by Eliza R. Snow jumped out at me. The idea of Joseph Smith prophesying that the Constitution would "hang by a thread" is pretty common, but rarely discussed is who or what is the source of the attack. According to Sister Snow: "I heard the prophet say, 'The time will come when the government of these United States will be so nearly overthrown through its corruption, that the Constitution will hang as it were by a single hair, and the Latter-day Saints—the Elders of Israel—will step forward to its rescue and save it.'"

Monday, July 5, 2010

What was the true price of liberty?

I hope everybody had a great day yesterday celebrating the independence of the United States and the beginning of the struggle for liberty in our nation.

I was thinking yesterday that it's important to remember that liberty did not begin on July 4, 1776. The revolution in America was just one battle in an eternal war for liberty. In the premortal world, two opposing plans were debated. The plan championed by God's firstborn, Christ, promised liberty. The plan championed by Lucifer, himself a "son of the morning", promised absolute eternal security at the expense of liberty.

With the words, "I will send the first", God chose liberty for His children...at what price? With those words, one-third of His children turned against him and chose damnation over liberty. He knew the other two-thirds would all, to some degree, use the liberty He was giving them to rebel against Him. He knew that liberty would bring sin to the world for which His Only Begotten would have to suffer beyond measure. And still he chose to give us that liberty.

That is the price He paid for our liberty. Are we doing our part to preserve it?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


There are those in the Church who speak of themselves as liberals who, as one of our former presidents has said: “… read by the lamp of their own conceit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1939], p. 373.) One time I asked one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He answered in one sentence: “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.”
Dr. John A. Widtsoe, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve and an eminent educator, made a statement relative to this word liberal as it applied to those in the Church. This is what he said:
“The self-called liberal [in the Church] is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. … He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. …
It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth.”
And then Dr. Widtsoe concludes his statement with this: “It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth.” (“Evidences and Reconciliations,” Improvement Era, vol. 44, p. 609.)

courtesy of lds.org

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Conference Vs. Progressivism, Part I

Love And Law, Dallin H Oaks, Saturday Afternoon Session:

"Those who understand God's plan for His children know that God's laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice, and those who obtain mercy are 'they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment.'" - DHO

The "Rule of Law" is an eternal principle, and an attribute of God's plan. Enforcement of God's law is not subject to the whims of progressive experimentation. God's laws are uniformly applied, no leniency is granted to those who have donated enough tithing or befriended the right church administrators. In a just, God-like government, the penalty for cheating on taxes would be the same for senators and treasury secretaries as it is for the common folk. When our nation's founders set up a government where all would be subject to Constitutional law rather than to the whims of monarchial despots or the whims of pure democratic mobocracy, they set up a system that closely mirrored God's use of law. We are unwise to abandon it.

"God's choicest blessings are clearly contingent upon obedience to God's laws and commandments." - DHO

God does not "redistribute" those blessings from those who have kept His commandments to those who have not, no matter how unfair those who have not kept them might think their lack of blessings is.

"...God will not forestall the exercise of agency by His children. Agency - our power to choose - is fundamental to the gospel plan that brings us to earth. God does not intervene to forestall the consequences of some persons' choices in order to protect the well-being of other persons - even when they kill, injure, or oppress one another - for his would destroy His plan for our eternal progress." - DHO

This provides some interesting insight on how God reacts when His children do wrong, compared to how progressives react when something goes wrong. Enron is a good example. The fraud perpetrated by a few people had very bad consequences for innocent investors and employees. Progressivism was not satisfied with punishing the wrongdoers and seeking restitution for the wronged, as God would have done. Progressivism demanded more regulation to save the innocent from any chance of future criminals ever harming them - regulations applied not just to criminals, but to anyone attempting to do business. In other words, progressivism robbed all of us of some of our agency to do business, with the (false) promise that we won't ever be harmed by someone else wrongly exercising their agency.

This continues today, with progressives promising to save us from evil health insurance executives, bank executives, doctors running too many tests, gun owners - the list is endless. The promise of progressivism is that we will never suffer at the hands of any of these villains...the only cost is some of our agency. In exchange for just some of our liberty, we'll be protected. This is not God's way.

Finally, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I quote Elder Oaks quoting Elder Russel M. Nelson: "Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation - not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior."

Let's all have the courage to confront our self-destructing progressive friends!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Letter from Pres. David O. McKay to Rep. Ralph R. Harding of Idaho, on subject of Federal Aid to Education.
Regarding your inquiry as to whether the Church has taken an official stand against a general program of federal aid to education as embodied in the bill already passed by the Senate, please be advised that this matter was discussed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve sitting as members of the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University and the Board of Education of the Church. We were unanimously of the opinion that the proposed legislation before the Congress is unnecessary and unwise. In accordance therewith President Wilkinson was requested to prepare and forward to Washington the statement, which I understand was placed in the Congressional Record by Senator Bennett....
...we agree completely that this matter is non-partisan, which is the reason we believe it proper for us to take a position on the matter. We are frankly gravely concerned over the increasing tendency of the Federal Government to assume more responsibilities with an everlasting indebtedness. In this respect we note your statement that the Federal Government controls most of the revenue in this nation through the federal income tax, and that you, therefore, think that the Federal Government should take on this new burden. In our judgment, the tendency of the Federal Government to more and more control the revenue of the country should be reversed, not increased. It goes without saying that we are not attempting to control your vote in this matter, which should be determined by you in the clear exercise of your own conscience. But we have given to you our best advice based on no little study on our part. -David O. McKay, Church News, 11/10/62

Friday, November 13, 2009

If we keep the commandments, we'll be good citizens. We'll exercise our right to vote. We'll follow the counsel which the Lord has given in the revelations regarding our obligation to seek out "honest men and wise men" who will stand for principle, men who will put principle ahead of political expediency. We will seek men of faith who believe the Constitution was inspired and that this nation has a spiritual foundation. -Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report 10/50

We find ourselves now immersed in a great political campaign in America for the purpose of selecting candidates for office in local, state, and national positions. We urge you as citizens to participate in this great democratic process, in accordance with your honest political convictions. However, above all else, strive to support good and conscientious candidates, of either party, who are aware of the great dangers inherent in Communism, and who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers. They should also pledge their sincere fealty to our way of liberty-a liberty which aims at the preservation of both personal and property rights. Study the issues, analyze the candidates on these grounds, and then exercise your franchise as free men and women. Never be found guilty of exchanging your birthright for a mess of pottage! -David O. McKay, Conference Report 10/62

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Patriotism is more than flag-waving and fireworks. It is how we respond to public issues. If we ask only, "What's in this proposal for me?-What do I get out of it?"- we are not patriotic and we are not good citizens. But if we ask, "Is this right?-Is it good for the American people?-Would it preserve and strengthen our freedom?"-then we deserve to stand in the company of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Patriotism is trying always to give more to the Nation than we receive. It is selfless service. -Ezra Taft Benson, 1962, "The Red Carpet", p. 96.

The Lord Almighty requires this people to observe the laws of the land, to be subject to the powers that be, so far as they abide by the fundamental principles of good government, but He will hold them responsible if they will pass unconstitutional measures and frame unjust and proscriptive laws. If lawmakers have a mind to violate their oath, break their covenants and their faith with the people, and depart from the provisions of the Constitution, where is the law, human or divine, which binds me, as an individual, to outwardly and openly proclaim my acceptance of their acts? -Joseph F. Smith, 1882

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What are we waiting for?

I posted recently a few of the many verses of the Book of Mormon that teach that liberty is God's way, and that overthrowing liberty is Satan's plan. Have you considered what it means that, over a thousand years ago, the Lord saw to it that a significant portion of the Book of Mormon would be devoted to Nephite politics? Have you considered why the Lord would include so many warnings of conspiracies to destroy their liberty, and include the direct and forcefully worded warning to us that "the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation"?

I posted a few verses from the Doctrine and Covenants. In the earliest years of the restored Church, the Lord saw fit to reveal to His followers that the Constitution was His doing, and that He expected His followers to uphold it.

We've been taught the doctrine. Modern prophets have repeated that teaching many times. We've quoted a small percentage of what's been said on the matter on this blog. So why are so many church members still on the sidelines when it comes to liberty? I don't know about your experience, but too many of my active-member peers can rattle off every top-10 member of every season of American Idol, but don't even know what socialism and communism are, let alone what the Church's position on them is.

Will it take an organized program in the Church to get everyone involved? I hope not...President Benson declared in the April 1964 General Conference:
"Maybe the Lord will never set up a specific Church program for the purpose of saving the Constitution. Perhaps if he set up one at this time it might split the Church asunder, and perhaps he does not want that to happen yet, for not all the wheat and tares are fully ripe. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared it will be the elders of Israel who will step forward to help save the Constitution, NOT THE CHURCH!"
(Thanks to True Politics USA for the quote)

We cannot wait for the Church to tell us to act. We have been taught correct principles, it is now our duty to "govern ourselves" and ACT on those principles. It is not enough to vote every four years...we have been commanded to "seek diligently to uphold" officials who support the Constitution. That is a full-time job, not a periodic one.

I realize most of the people who are reading this have already gotten themselves involved, and I'm grateful to know that there's that many people who have. But, it seems it's still a small percentage of the active church membership. We cannot wait for the Church to tell our fellow brothers and sisters to act; that responsibility falls on us. After all, "it becometh every man who has been warned to warn his neighbor."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The warnings of modern prophets

First, the words of an Apostle, spoken in General Conference, which we are taught means this is the word of the Lord:
"Communism introduced into the world a substitute for true religion. It is a counterfeit of the gospel plan. The false prophets of Communism predict a utopian society. This, they proclaim, will only be brought about as capitalism and free enterprise are overthrown, private property abolished, the family as a social unit eliminated, all classes abolished, all governments overthrown, and a communal ownership of property in a classless, stateless society established.

Since 1917 this godless counterfeit to the gospel has made tremendous progress toward its objective of world domination.

Today, we are in a battle for the bodies and souls of man. It is a battle between two opposing systems: freedom and slavery, Christ and anti-Christ. The struggle is more momentous than a decade ago, yet today the conventional wisdom says, “You must learn to live with Communism and to give up your ideas about national sovereignty.” Tell that to the millions—yes, the scores of millions—who have met death or imprisonment under the tyranny of Communism! Such would be the death knell of freedom and all we hold dear. God must ever have a free people to prosper His work and bring about Zion." - President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1979 General Conference

Second, an official statement by the First Presidency:
"We call upon all Church members completely to eschew Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America."

Third, the words of President David O McKay in the April 1966 General Conference:
"The position of this Church on the subject of Communism has never changed. We consider it the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work among men that exists on the face of the earth."

Last (for now), a statement from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, just last month:
"Unpopular minority religions are especially dependent upon a constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. We are fortunate to have such a guarantee in the United States, but many nations do not. The importance of that guarantee in the United States should make us ever diligent to defend it. And it is in need of being defended."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


One great principle which has existed among men from the beginning of creation until now, is a desire, planted within them by the Almighty, to possess property-lands, houses, farms, etc. As I said before, this principle is correct, only it wants controlling according to the revelations of God. -John Taylor, 1873

Our people must remain free. Our economy must remain free. Free of excessive government paternalism, regimentation, and control. We must not encourage "agricultural dictatorship administered by socialists in Washington." -Ezra Taft Benson, 10/10/62

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Modern Scripture: The D&C On Liberty

The Book of Mormon taught the principle that righteous people seek to uphold liberty, and wicked people seek to tear it down. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us how the Lord established liberty for us, and gives us specific instructions on how the Lord would have us seek to uphold liberty in our day:

D&C 101:79-80
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

D&C 109:54
54 Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.

D&C 98:4-10
4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

I personally don't see the conversation going well for me when the Lord asks me if I sought diligently for honest, good, and wise men, if my response is "I voted for the lesser of two evils every four years." To me, "seeking diligently" to uphold good men in our government is a full-time proposition, not just an election-time proposition. In my experience, rarely do either of the two candidates offered for an office by the two major political parties fit the description of who the Lord would have us uphold. This is partially due to our own failure to heed the Lord's direction here. It is our responsibility to seek out better men for our government, and to devote our time, money, and other resources to helping those good men make it into office.

In this regard, it's already crunch time for the 2010 congressional elections. There's a broad range of candidates for most offices right now. We can't sit idly by now while special interests actively support candidates who are not on the side of liberty, then complain about our choices come next November. It is our responsibility to seek diligently for the best, honest, wise, and liberty-loving candidates now, and do whatever we can to uphold them throughout the upcoming election year. Maybe they'll win, maybe they won't...but we'll be able to look the Lord in the eye and tell Him that we did our part.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ancient Scripture: Book of Mormon thoughts on liberty

The more I read it, the more amazed I become at just how much of it discusses Nephite politics.

The Book of Mormon teaches us with good examples:

Captain Moroni - "And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land." {Alma 46:13)

The righteous Nephites - "And now the design of the Nephites was to support their lands, and their houses, and their wives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies; and also that they might preserve their brights and their privileges, yea, and also their liberty." (Alma 43:9)

King Mosiah - "And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike." (Mosiah 29:32)

And the Book of Mormon teaches us with bad examples:

Amalickiah - "Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them." (Alma 46:10)

The people of Ammonihah - "For behold, they do study at this time that they may destroy the liberty of thy people, (for thus saith the Lord) which is contrary to the statutes, and judgments, and commandments which he has given unto his people." (Alma 8:17)

The closing chapters of the Book of Mormon give a chilling warning spoken directly to us, today:

"Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
"Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
"For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil."

Where are we now?

D&C 101:77-80
77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

How do our political leaders feel about this? Listen to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (she is the next person in line to become President after the Vice-President, by the way...)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Religious Freedom

13 October 2009 Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks speech given at BYU-Idaho on 13 October 2009.
My dear young friends, I am pleased to speak to this BYU-Idaho audience. I am conscious that I am also speaking to many in other places. In this time of the Internet, what we say in one place is instantly put before a wider audience, including many to whom we do not intend to speak. That complicates my task, so I ask your understanding as I speak to a very diverse audience.
In choosing my subject I have relied on an old military maxim that when there is a battle underway, persons who desire to join the fray should “march to the sound of the guns.” So it is that I invite you to march with me as I speak about religious freedom under the United States Constitution. There is a battle over the meaning of that freedom. The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail.
An 1833 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the Lord established the United States Constitution by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80). The Lord also declared that this constitution “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77; emphasis added).
In 1833, when almost all people in the world were still ruled by kings or tyrants, few could see how the infant United States Constitution could be divinely designed “for the rights and protection of all flesh.” Today, 176 years after that revelation, almost every nation in the world has adopted a written constitution, and the United States Constitution profoundly influenced all of them. Truly, this nation’s most important export is its constitution, whose great principles stand as a model “for the rights and protection of all flesh.” On the vital human right of religious freedom, however, many constitutions fall short of the protections that are needed, so we are grateful that the United States government seeks to encourage religious freedom all over the world.
To illustrate the importance of basic human rights in other countries, I refer to some recent history in Mongolia, which shows that the religious freedom we have taken for granted in the United States must be won by dangerous sacrifice in some other nations.
Following the perestroika movement in the Soviet Union, popular demonstrations in Mongolia forced the Communist government to resign in March 1990. Other political parties were legalized, but the first Mongolian elections gave the Communists a majority in the new parliament, and the old repressive attitudes persisted in all government departments. The full functioning of a democratic process and the full enjoyment of the people’s needed freedoms do not occur without a struggle. In Mongolia, the freedoms of speech, press and religion — a principal feature of the inspired United States Constitution — remained unfulfilled.
In that precarious environment, a 42-year-old married woman, Oyun Altangerel, a department head in the state library, courageously took some actions that would prove historic. Acting against official pressure, she organized a “Democratic Association Branch Council.” This 12-member group, the first of its kind, spoke out for democracy and proposed that state employees have the freedoms of worship, belief and expression, including the right to belong to a political party of their choice.
When Oyun and others were fired from their state employment, Oyun began a hunger strike in the state library. Within three hours she was joined by 20 others, mostly women, and their hunger strike, which continued for five days, became a public demonstration that took their grievances to the people of Mongolia. This demonstration, backed by major democratic movement leaders, encouraged other government employees to organize similar democratic councils. These dangerous actions expanded into a national anti-government movement that voiced powerful support for the basic human freedoms of speech, press and religion. Eventually the government accepted the demands, and in the adoption of a democratic constitution two years later Mongolia took a major step toward a free society.
For Latter-day Saints, this birth of constitutional freedom in Mongolia has special interest. Less than two years after the historic hunger strike, we sent our first missionaries to Mongolia. In 1992 these couples began their meetings in the state library, where Oyun was working. The following year, she showed her courage again by being baptized into this newly arrived Christian church. Her only child, a 22-year-old son, was baptized two years later. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country. A few months ago we organized our first stake in Mongolia. Called as the stake president was Sister Oyun’s son, Odgerel. He had studied for a year at BYU-Hawaii, and his wife, Ariuna, a former missionary in Utah, graduated there.
One of the great fundamentals of our inspired constitution, relied on by Oyun of Mongolia and countless others struggling for freedom in many countries in the world, is the principle that the people are the source of government power. This principle of popular sovereignty was first written and applied on the American continent over 200 years ago. A group of colonies won independence from a king, and their representatives had the unique opportunity of establishing a new government. They did this by creating the first written constitution that has survived to govern a modern nation. The United States Constitution declared the source of government power, delegated that power to a government, and regulated its exercise.
Along with many other religious people, we affirm that God is the ultimate source of power and that, under Him, it is the people’s inherent right to decide their form of government. Sovereign power is not inherent in a state or nation just because its leaders have the power that comes from force of arms. And sovereign power does not come from the divine right of a king, who grants his subjects such power as he pleases or is forced to concede, as in Magna Carta. As the preamble to our constitution states: “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
This principle of sovereignty in the people explains the meaning of God’s revelation that He established the Constitution of the United States “that every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78). In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility — the opposite of slavery or political oppression. With freedom we can be accountable for our own actions and cannot blame our conditions on our bondage to another. This is the condition the Lord praised in the Book of Mormon, where the people — not a king — established the laws and were governed by them (see Mosiah 29:23–26). This popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or tyrant, all citizens are responsible to share the burdens of governing, “that every man might bear his part” (Mosiah 29:34).
“For the rights and protection of all flesh” the United State Constitution includes in its First Amendment the guarantees of free exercise of religion and free speech and press. Without these great fundamentals of the Constitution, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified.
The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The prohibition against “an establishment of religion” was intended to separate churches and government, to prevent a national church of the kind still found in Europe. In the interest of time I will say no more about the establishment of religion, but only concentrate on the direction that the United States shall have no law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
The guarantee of the free exercise of religion, which I will call religious freedom, is the first expression in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. As noted by many, this “pre-eminent place” identifies freedom of religion as “a cornerstone of American democracy.” The American colonies were originally settled by people who, for the most part, had come to this continent to be able to practice their religious faith without persecution, and their successors deliberately placed religious freedom first in the nation’s Bill of Rights. So it is that our national law formally declares: “The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.”
The free “exercise” of religion obviously involves both the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and the right to “exercise” or practice those beliefs. But in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs, the right of some to act upon their religious principles must be qualified by the government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens’ person or property from neighbors whose intentions include taking human life or stealing in circumstances rationalized on the basis of their religious beliefs.
The inherent conflict between the precious religious freedom of the people and the legitimate regulatory responsibilities of the government is the central issue of religious freedom. Here are just a few examples of current controversial public issues that involve this conflict: laws governing marriage and adoption; laws regulating the activities of church-related organizations like BYU-Idaho in furtherance of their religious missions — activities such as who they will serve or employ; and laws prohibiting discrimination in employment or work conditions against persons with unpopular religious beliefs or practices.
The problems are not simple, and over the years the United States Supreme Court, which has the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the meaning of the lofty and general provisions of the Constitution, has struggled to identify principles that can guide its decisions when government action is claimed to violate someone’s free exercise of religion. As would be expected, most of the battles over the extent of religious freedom have involved government efforts to impose upon the practices of small groups like Mormons. Not surprisingly, government officials sometimes seem more tolerant toward the religious practices of large groups of voters.
Unpopular minority religions are especially dependent upon a constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. We are fortunate to have such a guarantee in the United States, but many nations do not. The importance of that guarantee in the United States should make us ever diligent to defend it. And it is in need of being defended. During my lifetime I have seen a significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion in our public life, and I believe that the vitality of religious freedom is in danger of being weakened accordingly.
Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits, as I suggested earlier. But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.
Religious freedom has always been at risk. It was repression of religious belief and practice that drove the Pilgrim fathers and other dissenters to the shores of this continent. Even today, leaders in all too many nations use state power to repress religious believers.
The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are (1) the rising strength of those who seek to silence religious voices in public debates, and (2) perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.
As I address this audience of young adults, I invite your careful attention to what I say on these subjects, because I am describing conditions you will face and challenges you must confront.
Silencing Religious Voices in the Public Square
A writer for The Christian Science Monitor predicts that the coming century will be “very secular and religiously antagonistic,” with intolerance of Christianity “ris[ing] to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes.” Other wise observers have noted the ever-growing, relentless attack on the Christian religion by forces who reject the existence or authority of God. The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing. The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.
Atheism has always been hostile to religion, such as in its arguments that freedom of or for religion should include freedom from religion. Atheism’s threat rises as its proponents grow in numbers and aggressiveness. “By some counts,” a recent article in The Economist declares, “there are at least 500 [million] declared non-believers in the world — enough to make atheism the fourth-biggest religion.” And atheism’s spokesmen are aggressive, as recent publications show. As noted by John A. Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, these voices “have developed great skills in demonizing those who disagree with them, turning their opponents into objects of fear, hatred and scorn.”
Such forces — atheists and others — would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation. Noted author and legal commentator Hugh Hewitt described the current circumstance this way:
“There is a growing anti-religious bigotry in the United States. . . .
“For three decades people of faith have watched a systematic and very effective effort waged in the courts and the media to drive them from the public square and to delegitimize their participation in politics as somehow threatening.”
For example, a prominent gay-rights spokesman gave this explanation for his objection to our Church’s position on California’s Proposition 8:
“I’m not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people. . . . My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims.”
Aside from the obvious fact that this objection would deny free speech as well as religious freedom to members of our Church and its coalition partners, there are other reasons why the public square must be open to religious ideas and religious persons. As Richard John Neuhaus said many years ago, “In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb.”
Religious Freedom Diluted by Other “Civil Rights”
A second threat to religious freedom is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged “civil right” of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.
We have endured a wave of media-reported charges that the Mormons are trying to “deny” people or “strip” people of their “rights.” After a significant majority of California voters (seven million — over 52 percent) approved Proposition 8’s limiting marriage to a man and a woman, some opponents characterized the vote as denying people their civil rights. In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.
The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate — an issue that will not go away in years to come and for whose resolution it is critical that we protect everyone’s freedom of speech and the equally important freedom to stand for religious beliefs — is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.
The marriage union of a man and a woman has been the teaching of the Judeo-Christian scriptures and the core legal definition and practice of marriage in Western culture for thousands of years. Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights. The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage — an institution of transcendent importance that they, along with countless others of many persuasions, feel conscientiously obliged to protect.
Religious freedom needs defending against the claims of newly asserted human rights. The so-called “Yogyakarta Principles,” published by an international human rights group, call for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity. This apparently proposes that governments require church practices and their doctrines to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers. At the same time, all who conduct such resistance should frame their advocacy and their personal relations so that they are never seen as being doctrinaire opponents of the very real civil rights (such as free speech) of their adversaries or any other disadvantaged group.
And now, in conclusion, I offer five points of counsel on how Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves to enhance religious freedom in this period of turmoil and challenge.
First, we must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries. We are under command to love our neighbor (Luke 10:27), to forgive all men (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10), to do good to them who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44) and to conduct our teaching in mildness and meekness (Doctrine and Covenants 38:41).
Even as we seek to speak with love, we must not be surprised when our positions are ridiculed and we are persecuted and reviled. As the Savior said, “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). And modern revelation commands us not to revile against revilers (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30).
Second, we must not be deterred or coerced into silence by the kinds of intimidation I have described. We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice. These are the rights of all citizens and they are also the rights of religious leaders. While our church rarely speaks on public issues, it does so by exception on what the First Presidency defines as significant moral issues, which could surely include laws affecting the fundamental legal/cultural/moral environment of our communities and nations.
We must also insist on this companion condition of democratic government: when churches and their members or any other group act or speak out on public issues, win or lose, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation.
Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors. Mormons were the targets of most of this, but it also hit other churches in the pro-8 coalition and other persons who could be identified as supporters. Fortunately, some recognized such retaliation for what it was. A full-page ad in the New York Times branded this “violence and intimidation” against religious organizations and individual believers “simply because they supported Proposition 8 [as] an outrage that must stop.” The fact that this ad was signed by some leaders who had no history of friendship for our faith only added to its force.
It is important to note that while this aggressive intimidation in connection with the Proposition 8 election was primarily directed at religious persons and symbols, it was not anti-religious as such. These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of “violence and intimidation” are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.
Third, we must insist on our freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith. Why do I make this obvious point? Religious people who share our moral convictions feel some intimidation. Fortunately, our leaders do not refrain from stating and explaining our position that homosexual behavior is sinful. Last summer Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke these words to a BYU audience:
“We follow Jesus Christ by living the law of chastity. God gave this commandment, and He has never revoked or changed it. This law is clear and simple. No one is to engage in sexual relationships outside the bounds the Lord has set. This applies to homosexual behavior of any kind and to heterosexual relationships outside marriage. It is a sin to violate the law of chastity.
“We follow Jesus Christ by adhering to God’s law of marriage, which is marriage between one man and one woman. This commandment has been in place from the very beginning.”
We will continue to teach what our Heavenly Father has commanded us to teach, and trust that the precious free exercise of religion remains strong enough to guarantee our right to exercise this most basic freedom.
Fourth, as advocates of the obvious truth that persons with religious positions or motivations have the right to express their religious views in public, we must nevertheless be wise in our political participation. Preachers have been prime movers in the civil rights movement from the earliest advocates of abolition, but even the civil rights of religionists must be exercised legally and wisely.
As Latter-day Saints, we should never be reticent to declare and act upon the sure foundations of our faith. The call of conscience — whether religious or otherwise — requires no secular justification. At the same time, religious persons will often be most persuasive in political discourse by framing arguments and positions in ways that are respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and that contribute to the reasoned discussion and compromise that is essential in a pluralistic society.
Fifth and finally, Latter-day Saints must be careful never to support or act upon the idea that a person must subscribe to some particular set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for a public office. The framers of our constitution included a provision that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article VI). That constitutional principle forbids a religious test as a legal requirement, but it of course leaves citizens free to cast their votes on the basis of any preference they choose. But wise religious leaders and members will never advocate religious tests for public office.
Fragile freedoms are best preserved when not employed beyond their intended purpose. If a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation, especially when this reason for rejection has been advocated by other religionists. Such advocacy suggests that if religionists prevail in electing their preferred candidate this will lead to the use of government power in support of their religious beliefs and practices. The religion of a candidate should not be an issue in a political campaign.
It was the Christian principles of human worth and dignity that made possible the formation of the United States Constitution over 200 years ago, and only those principles in the hearts of a majority of our diverse population can sustain that constitution today. Our constitution’s revolutionary concepts of sovereignty in the people and significant guarantees of personal rights were, as John A. Howard has written,
“generated by a people for whom Christianity had been for a century and a half the compelling feature of their lives. It was Jesus who first stated that all men are created equal [and] that every person . . . is valued and loved by God."
Professor Dinesh D’Souza reminds us:
“The attempt to ground respect for equality on a purely secular basis ignores the vital contribution by Christianity to its spread. It is folly to believe that it could survive without the continuing aid of religious belief.”
Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms. I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our “First Freedom,” the free exercise of religion.
My dear brothers and sisters, I testify to the truth of these principles I have expressed today. I testify of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who is the author and finisher of our faith and whose revelations to a prophet of God in these modern times have affirmed the foundation of the United States constitution, which as we have said, was given by God to His children for the rights and protection of all flesh. May God bless us to understand it, to sustain it, and to spread its influence throughout the world, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More Great Quotes

"By giving man liberty and conscience God abdicated a part of his omnipotence in favor of his creature, and this represents the spark of God in man. God is within you. Liberty is real, for God himself refused to trammel it. Freedom of speech, freedom of action within bounds that do not infringe upon the liberty of others, are man's inherent right, divine gifts essential to human dignity and human happiness." -David O. McKay, 9/25/54

"Let us instill into the hearts of our children the love of freedom. Teach them that to be free is as precious as life itself. Fight every influence-Russian, Communist, whatever it may be-that would deprive an American citizen of the liberty vouchsafed by the Constitution. Liberty is truth-in truth we find liberty. You teachers, feel it in your hearts; instill it into the hearts of these precious children. May the Church of Jesus Christ ever stand true to the ideals of freedom" -David O. McKay, 7/11/53

"Liberty and freedom are always purchased, many times by great effort, often with great loss of life. It is freedom of choice, a divine gift, an essential virtue in a peaceful society. But true liberty, I repeat, is always purchased with a great sum.. Throughout the centuries men have had to struggle to be free. They have had to contend with usurpers. They have had to fight dictators. This is what lovers of freedom are doing today." -David O. McKay, 3/3/45

"The battle against tyranny may have to begin at home...The vast majority of politicians are more concerned with political plums than with government principles. Unfortunately, love of man for man seldom directs men in public office. To our shame many men in public office, high and low, in the midst of personal dishonesty and corruption, pretend to serve their fellow men. They are all would-be dictators of different degrees. There is but one way to correct such evil-to clean house, to turn the rogues out of public office, and for you and other men of honest, righteous outlook to take their places. The fight against covetousness and for human liberty will be part of your campaign for man's economic sufficiency. It will not be a pleasant job, perhaps, but there must be no hesitancy on the part of educated men in accepting the duty. In bringing about a better economic world you will indeed be of service to your own generation." -John A. Widtsoe, 1939

"Free agency is a divine gift more precious than peace, more to be desired even than life. Any nation, any organized group of individuals that would deprive man of this heritage should be denounced by all liberty-loving persons. Associated with this fundamental principle is the right of individual initiative, the right to worship how, where, or what one pleases, and the simple privilege to leave a country, if one choose, without having to skulk out as a culprit at the risk of being shot and killed. At heart Communism is atheistic, and Fascism is equally antagonistic to freedom and to other Christian principles-even denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the existence of God." -David O. McKay, 10/51