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

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

Quotes

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.
I.
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.
II.
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.
III.
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).
IV.
“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.
V.
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.
VI.
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.
Conclusion
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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Miraculous Constitution

Ezra Taft Benson, “The Miraculous Constitution,” Friend, Sep 1987, inside front cover
Adapted from The Constitution—a Heavenly Banner, pages 11–12, 15, 31.

George Washington referred to the Constitution of the United States as a miracle. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Savior declared, “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80). These were not ordinary men, but men chosen and held in reserve by the Lord for this very purpose.
Shortly after President Spencer W. Kimball became President of the Church, we met together in one of our weekly meetings. We spoke of the sacred records that are in the vaults of the various temples in the Church. As I was to fill a conference assignment in St. George, Utah, President Kimball asked me to go into the vault and check the early records. As I did so, I realized the fulfillment of a dream that I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to the St. George Temple. I saw with my own eyes the records of the work that was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington. Think of it—the Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men, appeared within those sacred walls and had their vicarious work done for them!
But we honor more than those who brought forth the Constitution. We honor the Lord who revealed it. God Himself has borne witness to the fact that He is pleased with the final product of the work of these great patriots.
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith on August 6, 1833, the Savior admonished: “I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land” (D&C 98:6).
I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has sent other choice spirits—even you who read my words—to preserve it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do What Is Right!!

Even our inspired hymns proclaim freedom. Not just the patriotic hymns, but others too. Consider the words to the hymn "Do What Is Right"

Do what is right; the day-dawn is breaking,
Hailing a future of freedom and light.
Angels above us are silent notes taking
Of ev’ry action; then do what is right!

Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Social & Government Chaos

"We are not given the step by step backsliding of this Jaredite civilization till it reached the social and governmental chaos the record sets out, but those steps seem wholly clear from the results. Put into modern terms, we can understand them. First there was a forsaking of the righteous life, and the working of wickedness; then must have come the extortion and oppression of the poor by the rich; then retaliation and reprisal by the poor against the rich; then would come a cry to share the wealth which should belong to all; then the easy belief that society owed every man a living whether he worked or not; then the keeping of a great body of idlers; then when community revenues failed to do this, as they always have failed and always will fail, a self-helping by one to the goods of his neighbor; and finally when the neighbor resisted, as resist he must, or starve with his family, then death to the neighbor and all that belonged to him. This was decreed "fullness of iniquity."
Then came the end; the Jaredites were wiped out in accordance with the everlasting decree of God. A nation had been born; it had grown to maturity; then to a powerful manhood; had then gone on to sin, decay, and destruction, and all because its people had refused to heed the promises and commandments of Him who is their Creator and Father, all because the people who possessed the land had failed to serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ." -J. Reuben Clark, 1940.

"...then he lists with great emphasis the rising costs of government because of armies, doles, public works, expanding bureaucracy, a parasitic court, depreciation of currency, absorption of investment capital by confiscatory taxation. Is there anything suggestive in this summary?" -Ezra Taft Benson, 4/52 Conference Report, on the fall of Rome.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More on the Constitution

“The Constitution should contain a provision that every officer of the Government who should neglect or refuse to extend the protection guaranteed in the Constitution should be subject to capital punishment; and then the president of the United States would not say, ‘Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.’” - Joseph Smith, 1844

“There are those who would destroy the Constitution of this land, and there are those who would rejoice if they could overthrow this nation. No loyal member of this great Church will raise his voice against the constitutional law of the land, but he will be found upholding it; he will be found praying for those who make the laws under the Constitution. He will petition his Father in heaven for all those who are chosen from time to time to administer the laws that are calculated to continue unto us our liberty, that they may be wise and just exemplars to the people. Upon you men of Israel—to whom the priesthood of the Holy One has been given—there rests an obligation. You must serve the Lord and keep his commandments. It matters not what others may do, but for you there is only one course, and that is to sustain the Constitution of this great land, and to sustain those influences and powers, whatever they may be, that are calculated to uplift the human family. There should go forth from this great Church an influence intended to leaven the whole lump. George Albert Smith, 1950.

“Next to worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States.” - David O. McKay, 1956

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More Church Leaders on the Constitution

I am saying to you that to me the Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments. When that is my feeling, I am not going to go very far away from the Constitution, and I am going to try to keep it where the Lord started it, and not let anti-Christs come into this country that began because people wanted to serve God.

-George Albert Smith, General Conference 4/48


To me, that statement of the Lord, "I have established the Constitution of this land," puts the Constitution of the United States in the position in which it would be if it were written in this book of Doctrine and Covenants itself. This makes the Constitution the word of the Lord to us. That it was given, not by oral utterance, but by the operation of his mind and spirit upon the minds of men, inspiring them to the working out of this great document of human government, does not alter its authority.

-J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report 4/35

Monday, August 3, 2009

LDS and Liberal: An Oxymoron

Are you a good LDS person? Are you also a liberal? Consider the following:

"Let us not ally ourselves with bodies of men who would tear down and break in pieces this government, that was founded under the inspiration of God the Eternal Father. We cannot belong to any political party that is opposed to this free government and be consistent Latter-day Saints."

George Albert Smith, Conference Report 4/1914


"We engage in the election the same as in any other principle; you are to vote for good men, and if you do not do this it is a sin; to vote for wicked men, it would be sin. Choose the good and refuse the evil. Men of false principles have preyed upon us like wolves upon helpless lambs. Damn the rod of tyranny; curse it. Let every man use his liberties according to the constitution. Don't fear man or devil; electioneer with all people, male and female, and exhort them to do the thing that is right. We want a President of the U.S., not a party President, but a President of the whole people; for a party President disfranchises the opposite party. Have a President who will maintain every man in his rights."

-Hyrum Smith, 1844

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Description of Communism...And a Warning

Think it's gone away? From President Benson's Ensign article, "A Witness And A Warning":

"Isaiah foresaw the time when a marvelous work and a wonder would come forth among men. Isaiah also predicted there would be those who would “seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us?” He saw the time when the work shall say of him that made it, “He made me not.”

"Who blasphemously proclaimed the atheistic doctrine that God made us not? Satan works through human agents. We need only look to some of the ignoble characters in human history who were contemporary to the restoration of the gospel to discover fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. I refer to the infamous founders of Communism and others who follow in their tradition.

"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."

Ask yourselves: Do you see any popular political philosophies today that teach "God made us not"? Do you see any that predict utopian society by overthrowing capitalism and free enterprise? Do you see any that disregard private property? Do you see any that seek to tear down the family as the primary social unit? Do you see any that promise to abolish all classes?

Do you see what is happening in your country?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Divine Assistance Now

What will be the fate of the United States?

President Brigham Young: "When the day comes in which the Kingdom of God will bear rule, the flag of the United States will proudly flutter unsullied on the flag staff of liberty and equal rights, without a spot to sully its fair surface; the glorious flag our fathers have bequeathed to us will then be unfurled to the breeze by those who have power to hoist it aloft and defend its sanctity. How long will it be before the words of the prophet Joseph will be fulfilled? He said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people. It will not be many years before these words come to pass."

Members of the church, then, have the special responsibility to defend the Constitution from the constant barrage now levied against it. President Young's prophecy of the final destiny of the United States will not come about without tremendous effort on our part. Just as God's hand in a "lunar anomaly" let Paul Revere cross a river undetected to make his historic ride, His hand will be with us in our fight to defend the Constitution if we have enough faith to take on that fight!

President John Taylor: "When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the elders of Israel will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men, and extending the hand of fellowship to the oppressed of all nations. This is part of the program, and as long as we do what is right and fear God, He will help us and stand by us under all circumstances."

It is up to each one of us to see to it that we are actively fighting for liberty rather than wasting our time on the sidelines.

President Benson: "This is still God's world...In due time, when each of us has had a chance to prove himself--including whether or not we are going to stand up for freedom--God will interject himself, and the final and eternal victory shall be for free agency...Time is on the side of truth, and the wave of the future is freedom. There is no question of the eventual, final, and lasting triumph of righteousness. The major question for each of us is what part will we play in helping to bring it to pass...Ours is the task to try to live and perpetuate the principles of Christ and the Constitution in the face of tremendous odds. May we, with God's help, have strength for the battle."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Divine Assistance During the Revolution

Many of us are aware of numerous instances of Divine Intervention during the Revolutionary War and through the writing of the Constitution. From the fog rolling in just long enough to cover the crossing of the Delaware to the colonists winning battles when so severely outnumbered and outgunned. I would like to share another incident with which many of you may not be familiar.

The following is written and documented in Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer. Paul Revere needed to cross a river undetected to begin his famous ride.

The moon was coming up behind Boston, a huge orb of light in the clear night sky. To Paul Revere it must have seemed impossible to pass the ship without detection. Then, miraculously, it was the moon that saved him. The moon was nearly full, a large pale yellow globe that was just beginning to rise in the southern sky.
Normally, Paul Revere's boat would have been caught in the bright reflection of the moonbeam on the water as he passed close by HMS Somerset. But there was something odd about the moon that night. Often it rose farther to the east, but that night it had a southern declination. A lunar anomaly caused it to remain well to the south on the evening of April 18, 1775, and to hang low on the horizon, partly hidden behind the buildings of Boston. The sky was very bright, and Paul Revere's boat was miraculously shrouded in a dark moonshadow that was all the more obscure because of the light that surrounded it. He passed safely "a little to the eastward" of the great ship's massive bowsprit that pointed downstream toward the incoming tide.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A random thought on welcoming dictators

All the discussion that was going on last week about meeting with people like Hugo Chavez reminded me of something. Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union while President Benson was serving as our Secretary of Agriculture, came to visit the United States. President Benson said this about his visit during a 1966 talk at BYU:

"It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Khrushchev for a half day when he visited the United States, not that I'm proud of it. I opposed his coming then and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor."

It's amazing how many topics the Apostles have talked about, if you are looking for it...while I would consider it a statement of President Benson's opinion rather than a statement of church policy, it does give some insight into how he felt about befriending some of the evil leaders of the world.

I highly recommend watching the warning that President Benson gave in that talk:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An attack on the Constitution

The US Department of Homeland Security recently released a report about "rightwing extremist" domestic terrorist groups in our country. I was rather surprised to read one definition in it:

"Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are...rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority."

I found that particularly interesting, given the tenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Why do I care to post this? I hope you recognize just how dangerous the idea expressed in this report is. Effectively, the most powerful law enforcement department in our government is telling law enforcement officers that people who believe in the Constitution are probable terrorists. Why would the DHS find the Constitutional principle of State sovereignty extremist? It is the Constitution that gives the federal government its authority, and it is also the Constitutionthat sets limits on the federal government. Government "by the people" can only work when the power of government is kept close to the people. Unfortunately, some very influential people do NOT like the idea of you keeping the power close to yourselves...They seem to believe it rightfully belongs concentrated in their hands. When the government itself considers people who believe in the principles of the Constitution to be a dangerous threat, can we doubt that the Constitution is "hanging by a thread"?

If my belief in State's rights makes me a potential terrorist, then call me a potential terrorist. I reject the notion that the federal government is superior to the states, and I am proud of the company I stand with in that belief:

Thomas Jefferson: "The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants."

James Madison: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce...The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."

Ezra Taft Benson: "It is well to remember that the people of the states of this republic created the federal government. The federal government did not create the states." "I believe that each state is sovereign in performing those functions reserved to it by the Constitution, and it is destructive to our federal system and the right of self-government guaranteed under the Constitution for the federal government to regulate or control the states in performing their functions or to engage in performing such functions itself."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts on Conference

Naturally, since this blog is focused on how our religion and our country's liberty are related, I'll be writing about what I thought was related to our efforts to preserve our liberty...

President Uchtdorf's talk in the Priesthood session jumped out at me the most. He told about an airline flight that was headed for Florida. As the pilots prepared for their final approach to their destination airport, they noticed the light that should indicate the nose landing gear was down was not on. They started circling their plane over the Everglades while they tried to figure out what was wrong with the nose gear. While their attention was focused on that problem, the plane was gradually losing altitude. It eventually crashed, and all on board were killed. The investigation into the crash later found that absolutely nothing was wrong with the landing gear, but the indicator light in the cockpit was burned out. President Uchtdorf then spoke on focusing on what was most important (like an airplane's altitude, if you're a pilot), versus what is less important (like a burned-out light bulb).

I think we can easily lose track of what's most important in our fight to preserve our liberty as well. We often focus on winning an election, or passing some legislation. Some of these things end up feeling like playing a game of whack-a-mole (we knock down homosexual "marriage" in California, so it pops right back up in Iowa...) Those efforts are certainly important. But, the Lord's promises about this nation's liberty are clear:

"And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever." 1 Ne 2:7

In the fight for liberty, righteousness is what is most important. Even if we win every battle we fight on elections and policies, without preserving the righteousness of the people the war for liberty will be lost. This puts the responsibility squarely on myself: My first priority must be to set my own spiritual house in order. Without that, my other efforts will be of little consequence. My second priority should be to teach and encourage my friends and neighbors to make righteous choices. Of course, that will include encouraging them to make liberty-supporting (and therefore righteous) political decisions, but it also needs to include trying to lead them to make righteous decisions in other areas. If we don't stop the constant decline in individual morality in this country, our fight for freedom will be a losing battle.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Show Support For Religious Liberty

What do you do when your religious beliefs conflict with what your government demands of you? Most of us living in the United States have never had to worry about that. Unfortunately, some have...and it's going to get worse. Two examples:

California has a law requiring any employer who offers a prescription drug coverage to include coverage of prescription contraceptives in that coverage. Catholic Charities of Sacramento challenged the law on the grounds that their religious beliefs prohibited them from supporting contraceptives. They lost.

Two fertility doctors in California, Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton, both refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian woman due to religious objections. They did refer the woman to another doctor who performed the procedure for her. She sued them anyway, and the doctors lost.

Most of us do not provide insurance coverage or fertility treatments, so some might be inclined to think these events don't affect us. If you do think that, you are wrong. Why? The once-ironclad guarantee we had that the government could not "prohibit the free exercise" of religion is no more. In other words, one person's "right" to not be offended is now considered a higher legal priority than another person's desire to refrain from practices that are against his religious beliefs. Our ability to live our religion legally has become subject to world's popular judgment of whether those religious beliefs are acceptable or not. Considering that most of the "popular" opinion out there is that the LDS Church is a cult, I'm not optimistic about how many of my beliefs will meet the world's standards.

There is hope, and there is specific action that can and should be taken today. A new law went into effect in January intended to protect health care workers who act on their conscience. Unfortunately, there is already an effort to overturn this law. The Department of Health and Human Services is taking public comments on the issue through April 9th. Comments in support of the law can be submitted at http://www.adoctorsright.com.

Remember:

"Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition." - Barack Obama, June 28, 2006

Friday, March 27, 2009

Liberty vs. Debt

How often have we heard the General Authorities (especially President Hinckley) warn us that indebtedness is another form of slavery? They understand a simple truth: if we don't have economic liberty, then we don't have any real liberty. Hopefully you and your families have heeded their warnings and have gotten your own financial house in order as best you can. If you have, you certainly understand just how liberating it is.

Now, I must ask - is it enough for us to stop with our own families? I've done my best to stay debt-free, but am I really? I found this chart today, put together by the Heritage Foundation, that shows what will happen if our government's current budget plans are followed (tax increases and all):

So, in spite of my best efforts, am I really free? That debt in 2019 is equivalent to over $40,000 for every single man, woman, and child in America, including me. There will be absolutely nothing I can do to escape it. Have a family of five? Your share will be like having a full mortgage to pay without having a house to show for it.

I cannot expect to remain free if I don't live within my means. Can we expect our nation to remain free if it won't live within its means? There is precious little time to put a stop to this. We must demand responsibility from our representatives, no matter what party we or they belong to. We must DEMAND that our nation remain free, and that includes economically!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Better Option

It has been my observation that any time any problem gains the attention of the people of this country, the first and only reaction is: "What is the government going to do to fix this?" If our problems will ever be solved, we must start looking to a different source.

"Believe it or not, at one time the very notion of government had less to do with politics than with virtue. According to James Madison, often referred to as the father of the Constitution: 'We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of the government—far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.' ”

Where do we stand now? We stand at a point in time where the Ten Commandments of God are banned from the halls of our governments. We may firmly believe in our religion and in our rights to exercise our religion, but too many people, including too many LDS people, share the belief that religion has no place in government. The Constitutional text that was written to protect religion from government has been twisted to protect government from religion.

"In fact, the framers of the Constitution probably assumed that religious freedom would establish religion as a watchdog over government, and believed that free churches would inevitably stand and speak against immoral and corrupt legislation. All churches not only have the right to speak out on public moral issues, but they have the solemn obligation to do so. Religion represents society’s conscience, and churches must speak out when government chooses a course that is contrary to the laws of God."

If there is any hope for the future of America, it must be based on the morality of her people.

"If we would maintain the independence and freedom the Founding Fathers intended, we must work to preserve and protect the moral foundation upon which they built the U. S. government. We must stand boldly for righteousness and truth, and must defend the cause of honor, decency, and personal freedom espoused by Washington, Madison, Adams, Lincoln, and other leaders who acknowledged and loved God. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in the same predicament President Lincoln observed in 1863."

"Said Lincoln: 'We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of their own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!'"

"Let us resolve to make our own families truly free by teaching them that God holds us all accountable. His laws are absolutes; breaking them brings misery and unhappiness; keeping them brings joy, happiness, and the blessings of heaven. Let us teach our families and others the importance of moral responsibility based on the laws of God."

[Note: All paragraphs in this post that are in quotations are quoting M. Russell Ballard's talk, Religion in a Free Society, from the October 1992 Ensign. Like everything else I quote, I recommend you read it in its entirety.]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just how important is the Constitution?

"Next to being one in worshiping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States." - David O. McKay, October 1939 General Conference

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Freedom

2 Nephi 10:23

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves - to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

God's plan is freedom and liberty. We must be free to choose and act for ourselves!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Being Prepared

As members of the church we are advised to be prepared for hard times. As we try to do our best in obtaining food storage, let us not forget other things that may be necessary in trying times. I would hope that everyone would have the means of defending his family, and the food storage that may be vital to the family's survival. Our Founding Fathers had the means to defend themselves and their families; certainly the Lord expects no less of us. The time may come when the physical safety of our families will depend on us alone.

Alma 43:47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.

Alma 59:13 And it came to pass that Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country.

Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of self-defense. That is why they included the second amendment in the Bill of Rights. In more modern times, President Benson stated in "God, Family, and Country" that he would do everything in his power to uphold the bill of rights, particularly the 1st & 2nd amendments.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Second Dose of Optimism

Let us not forget in these trying times, as we watch the left shred the Constitution, the prophecy of Joseph Smith. “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.”

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A dose of optimism

For those of you who, like me, have been a little pessimistic about our nation's current course. This is also from God, Family, Country:

"Time is on the side of truth, and truth is eternal. Those who are fighting against freedom and other eternal principles of right may feel confident now, but they are shortsighted.

"This is still God's world...In due time, when each of us has had a chance to prove himself--including whether or not we are going to stand up for freedom--God will interject himself, and the final and eternal victory shall be for free agency. An then shall those weak-willed souls on the sidelines and those who took the wrong but temporarily popular course lament their decisions.

"Seldom has so much responsibility hung on so few, so heavily; but our numbers are increasing, and we who have been warned have a responsibility to warn our neighbor...Time is on the side of truth, and the wave of the future is freedom. There is no question of the eventual, final, and lasting triumph of righteousness. The major question for each of us is what part will we play in helping to bring it to pass.

"This is a glorious hour in which to live. Generations past and future will mark well our response to our awesome duty. There is a reason why we have been born in this day. Ours is the task to try to live and perpetuate the principles of Christ and the Constitution in the face of tremendous odds. May we, with God's help, have strength for the battle and fill our mission in honor for God, family, and country."

Saving the Constitution and Ourselves

The Book of Mormon and our nation's founders were in complete agreement about what it would take for our nation to remain free:

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. " - John Adams

"Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written." - Ether 2:12

In God, Family, Country, President Benson asked, "What, then, in this time and season may best equip us to save our Christian constitutional legacy, while at the same time rescuing our own souls?" Not surprisingly, his answer did not focus on elections or political agendas. He gave six suggestions (I've paraphrased his descriptions of his suggestions, but, as always, I highly recommend reading this on your own):
  • Spirituality. Spirituality is the foundation upon which any battle against tyranny must be waged. This is basically the struggle of the forces of Christ versus the antichrist, so it is imperative that our people be in tune with the supreme leader of freedom, the Lord.
  • Balance. A man has duties to his church, his home, his country, and his profession.
  • Courageous Action. Today you cannot effectively fight for freedom and not be attacked. While we don't need to go out of our path of duty to find a cross to pick up, a man is a coward who refuses to pick up a cross that clearly lies within his path. A man must not only stand for right principles, he must also fight for them. Those who do can be proud of the friends they've gained and the enemies they've earned.
  • Education. We are going against the greatest, most insidious propaganda campaign of all time. We cannot believe all we read. We must sift. We must learn by study and prayer. Study the scriptures, and study the mortals who have been most consistently accurate about the most important things.
  • Health. To meet and beat the enemy will require clear heads and strong bodies. Let us take into our bodies and souls only those things that will make us more effective instruments.
  • Be Prepared. We have a duty to survive, not only spiritually but also physically. Not survival at the cost of principles, for that is the surest way to defeat, but survival that comes from intelligent preparation.
Finally, President Benson wrote: "Those who hesitate to get into this fight because it is controversial fail to realize that life's decisions should be based on principles, not public opinion polls. There were men at Valley Forge who weren't sure how the revolution would end, but they were in a much better position to save their own souls and their country than those timid men whose major concern was deciding which side was going to win, or how to avoid controversy."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Strengthening Families

In these times of uncertainty and turmoil, we can find peace in our families. Never before has the home been such a place shelter from the outside forces. Within the confines of our home we have the ability to happy regardless of outside circumstances.

Five "little" things that can fortify and strengthen marriages and families were listed by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve during his CES fireside address Sunday, March 1.

1. Couples who build strong marriages and families know who they are. They know that they are a son or daughter of God and they set eternal goals to once again live with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. They strive to leave the ways of the natural man behind.

2. They know the doctrines of the gospel and the importance of temple ordinances and covenants. They know that keeping their covenants is necessary to achieve eternal goals.

3. They choose to obtain the eternal blessings of the kingdom of God rather that the temporal or temporary possessions of the world. They seek high ground and stay there.

4. Such couples realize that when they are sealed for time and all eternity, they have chosen an eternal companion. There is no need to look any further. Their courting days are over.

5. These couples think of one another before self. They grow together, and not apart, as they serve one another . . . and communicate with the Lord in prayer. They converse often with one another, thereby never letting little things become big things. . . . These couples seek one another's good and avoid selfishness, which suffocates spiritual sensitivity. . . . They work now to improve their relationship, knowing that they are not suddenly going to become nicer when they die. They cultivate a thoughtful, considerate spirit and love one another always.

"No other success can compensate for failure in the home." ---David O. McKay

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elder Maxwell on the Constitution

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. Fourth, 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's 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."

(Church News, Sept. 13, 2003)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Educational Self-Reliance

D&C 93:53 - "And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should...obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of the laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion."

If we fail to obtain knowledge in these areas, we are in trouble spiritually, because we aren't obeying a commandment of God, and temporally, because the decisions we make in ignorance (what policies to support, who to vote for, etc...) will almost never be the correct decisions.

Many of us may assume that we got everything we need from the history and civics classes we had in high school or college. If you fall into that category, consider this: if we relied solely on that same education, we would think that we descended from apes, and that sexual promiscuity is normal and healthy. Not everything that comes out of public education is correct, and we should have no reason to assume that the civics education we received was entirely correct. According to Ether 8:25, the evil one "seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands". One easy way for him to do that is to have people who are ignorant of history and laws.

I'm not saying the civics education we got in high school or college came from Satan. I am saying that we have the responsibility to make our own effort to ensure that it was both correct and complete, and to make up the difference if it wasn't. If you aren't sure, any of the books listed at the bottom of this page would be a great place to start looking.