Sunday, October 23, 2016

Could It Get Any Worse?

I have really been working at putting myself out of range in this election season, as I mentioned in my last post. Instead, I have been filling my time with far more productive activities, like following the Cubs through the playoffs. How great is that story? After 71 years of futility they are going back to the World Series. I am so happy for them and all their long-suffering die-hard fans. I suspect there are overnight now more Cubs fans than at any time in their history.

And how about those Utes? Now 7-1 overall, and tied for the the lead in the PAC-12 South. Their 52-45 shootout with UCLA yesterday in the Rose Bowl where Joe Williams smashed the single game rushing record with 332 yards was poetry in motion on a football field. They got some love in the coaches poll today, moving up to number 16. Even the Cougars from the school down south have been fun to watch. Their record doesn't reflect how close they've come to being undefeated. Even Utah would be undefeated with a few more inches that fell short on the final drive in their single loss to California.

So, believe me when I say these have been pleasant diversions from the nightly news. Speaking of that, aside from the politics, I have wearied of the nightly crime blotter - murder, adultery, theft, burglary, armed assaults, and all that goes with it. As a product of the Sixties, I have always been a television addict, but those days are now gone as my television time has been self-restricted. I hate commercials. God blessed the man who developed the "Hopper," and I praise that man's name now.

I am continually reminded of the ancient record as found in Mormon 8. Mormon was the father of Moroni, and one of the last survivors of an ancient nation state that once thrived in the Americas. But his civilization was destroyed by wickedness. He writes here in about 400 A.D., with a prophetic vision of the times in which we live today:

 35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

 36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

 37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

 38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies — because of the praise of the world?

 39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?

 40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?

 41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.

I want to be clear - I have always thought of myself as an optimistic person. I really don't want to believe in secret combinations that are set up to get gain, murder the innocents for power, and grind the faces of the poor into the dust. I don't look for the anti-Christ under every bush. I want to believe that people are basically decent, hard-working and honest with one another. I really don't want to let myself go there with conspiracy theories about "rigged" systems of government or business that pollute our inheritance as free people in America.

But, that said, the conditions, the rhetoric, the back and forth of the political dialogue to which we have been exposed this election cycle have been so reprehensible that if I had small children at home I would have no choice but to unplug the television. Even with sports, I record the games, fast-forward through the endless commentary and commercials and reduce my watching to the actual plays. That Utah-UCLA game yesterday took four hours. Watching it the "Hopper" way I do takes a little longer than a half-hour.

Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Filtering out all the "noise" is exactly what Elder David A. Bednar was speaking about here. The search for truth isn't difficult if we ask ourselves these two important questions posed by Elder Bednar.

Some are simply too young to remember the Clinton era when Bill was the POTUS and his whole presidency seemed to be one sexual intrigue after another. Stains on a blue dress, parsing of tortured definitions of what constituted "sexual relations" in front of a panel of the House of Representatives convened to impeach him for lying to a grand jury, and the lies that were told, then refuted and corrected with hard evidence to the contrary; all were the "highlights" of those years. Impeached in the House, but a conviction lacking in the Senate, Bill Clinton skated, though he was impugned and lost his license to practice law. And now he's back running for "First Gentleman," whatever that may come to mean. He is anything but a "gentleman."

This year the Clinton legacy has all been brought to the forefront once again, accompanied by the allegations of the escapades of one Donald J. Trump, man of the world if ever there was one. It seems our national moral compass has been demagnetized. We are no longer shocked by anything that once would have immediately disqualified these two candidates in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Our true north is whatever a scheming politician says it is. I noticed the other day that the polling done last week puts Clinton and Trump in exactly the same place they were a year ago when this all started - in other words, nothing has been settled yet. I guess we should be grateful they are both the most loathed candidates ever put forward to run for the presidency.

I think the counsel of this priceless hymn is worth repeating - If the way be full of trials, weary not. . .



And so, in answer to my question, "Could it get any worse?" I answer yes - the Cubs could lose the World Series, and the Utes could lose to Washington next week and get little or no respect in the national rankings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Memo to Utah: We are NOT a "Swing State"

In this election cycle we've just about heard it all by now. The latest flavor of the month has been that Utah might figure prominently as a "swing state." Here are the reasons why Utah is NOT:

1. The predominance of the Republican party has not changed, and it won't for this election cycle.

2. Yes, people hate the thought of voting for Donald Trump, but enough Republicans will vote for him that he will win Utah without much effort. He's up comfortably in the polls today.

3. It's hard to imagine the hated Hillary Clinton winning enough cross-over votes to change that outcome.

4. Just because there are two minority parties who have chosen Utah as their headquarters does not signal a mass uprising among the citizenry.

5. Even if Evan McMullin or Gary Johnson were able to somehow win Utah's six electoral college votes, that won't be enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives to determine the election.

6. In the grand scheme of national politics Utah isn't even a drop in the ocean.

7. One person's vote in Utah is almost immaterial because the outcome is always so predictable.

8. Whenever a viable third-party candidate has emerged, I have always voted for that person, as I did twice for Ross Perot. Why? Because my vote really doesn't matter much and I have always known it.

9. "But the Supreme Court hangs in the balance," I hear routinely from others. See above.

10. This might be the most important election of our lifetimes. See above.

Image result for the lesser of two evils

I won't stay home and not vote for anyone. Instead, I will immediately fill in my mail-in ballot as soon as I receive it and be done with this election cycle.

I have unsubscribed from every single e-mail request from every single campaign that has solicited my donations.

I have rudely hung up on every pollster who has called my home.

I have turned off all the political coverage on the news channels.

I will tune out the debates whenever they pop up. Watching NFL football will be a welcomed relief by contrast. Shoot, watching ANYTHING else would be acceptable to me this year.

I have never seen a time in my life when the political process has produced such dismal choices. The two-party system has given us the worst outcomes I can imagine. I am boycotting and denouncing the two major candidates, and I will not vote for either one.

Others will tell me to adopt such a stance is un-American or irresponsible and my vote will not count or be meaningful. And they would all be right, because my vote in Utah is essentially meaningless. See above.

So who will I vote for? The one guy who's standing up for America. The most logical would be a vote for Evan McMullin. At least he most closely aligns with how I think and believe. I actually have several options. I could write in my wife's name, as Mitt Romney suggested he might do a few weeks back. Or I could vote for Thomas S. Monson or Joseph Smith or Mickey Mouse. I've even thought about writing in my home teacher. Any one of my sons and daughters would also be a good alternative.

Far from throwing away my vote in Utah, it will give me the satisfaction of taking a stand against the corrupt two-party system and the two corrupt candidates represented by the major parties. Both Trump and Clinton have headquarters here in Utah this year. It won't move the needle much either way, I predict.

I would love to hear anyone's comments about why I'm wrong. Go ahead, take a shot and convince me your one vote makes even a scintilla of difference in Utah.

I have often joked that this year I would write in the name of a righteous young man whom I love and trust as my number one choice, even though he isn't old enough to serve based upon the Constitutional requirements for office. In fact, I have several grandsons that fit that bill. And even more granddaughters!

If you live in Utah this year, you don't have to choose the lesser of two evils. Trust me, plenty of people in Utah will do just that and blindly drink the Trump Kool-Aid to prevent Hillary Rodham Clinton from winning. And Trump will win Utah. And he will garner enough voters to do it.

I just won't be one of them.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Inspiration of the Moment

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after we are baptized we are invited to "receive the Holy Ghost." It is not a bestowal of a gift from a hand-to-head conveyance that is automatic. Rather, it comes in the form of an admonition to accept the proffered gift from a loving Heavenly Father. It requires aligning our thoughts with His.

Almost from the moment the gospel was restored to the earth through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, many and varied have been the ideas associated with the Holy Ghost. Speculations about who, what, and how the Holy Ghost ministers to men and women continue into our day. I could make a very long post with a summary of all those opinions, but I will refrain.

Joseph Smith
When President Martin Van Buren asked Joseph Smith "wherein we differed in our religion from the other religions of the day, Brother Joseph said we differed in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost." (History of the Church, 4:42).

After his martyrdom, the Prophet Joseph appeared to President Brigham Young and said of the Spirit:

"Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world." (Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young).

I have always treasured these words that describe the workings of the Holy Spirit:

"I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy." (D&C 11:13).

President Boyd K. Packer has said:
President Boyd K. Packer

The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a "still small voice." (D&C 85:6). And while we speak of "listening" to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, "I had a feeling . . ." . . . Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, "Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words." (1 Nephi 17:45).

The scriptures are full of such expressions as "The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened" (D&C 110:1) or "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart" (D&C 8:2) or "I did enlighten thy mind" (D&C 6:15) or "Speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts." (D&C 100:5). There are hundreds of verses which teach of revelation. (BKP, Mine Errand From the Lord, 94–05, p. 60).

Revelation comes to us through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost, synonymous with the Holy Spirit. There are some wonderful members of the Church who, in pursuit of the "greater things," or the "mysteries of God," often go beyond the mark of the simple gospel truths. I caution those who are so disposed to stay within the mainstream of the Church. Danger lies on either side of the straight and narrow path - "more than" is just as dangerous as "less than."

What do I mean by "more than" the simple doctrines of salvation? It is specious, speculative and uninspired interpretation of scriptures and old sermons written or transcribed. Some who are not anchored in the Word we have received go beyond the mark. One example: The age of the earth, how it was created and the possibility of the existence of pre-Adamites. Another: The endless debates in high priest groups about trivial minutiae never founded upon scripture, going over the top in stretching for meanings never before revealed. Another: Some talks in the Church that should be prefaced with "I will now proceed to present a discourse upon a subject about which the Lord has revealed little or nothing, and His servants have never spoken about." These are examples of "more than" the plain and simple doctrines of salvation. There seems to be a presumption among us that we must go beyond what the Lord has revealed to display our gospel scholarship. Such ideas add to the "more than" doctrine category.

"They despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall." (Jacob 4:14).


Elder Dean L. Larsen
In his October 1987 general conference address, Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the Seventy said: "I have wondered what was actually in Jacob's mind as he wrote of 'looking beyond the mark' in describing a failing that was common to ancient Israel. . . .

"Jacob speaks of people who placed themselves in serious jeopardy in spiritual things because they were unwilling to accept simple, basic principles of truth. They entertained and intrigued themselves with 'things that they could not understand.'

"They were apparently afflicted with a pseudosophistication and a snobbishness that gave them a false sense of superiority over those who came among them with the Lord's words of plainness. They went beyond the mark of wisdom and prudence and obviously failed to stay within the circle of fundamental gospel truths which provide a basis for faith. They must have reveled in speculative and theoretical matters that obscured for them the fundamental spiritual truths. As they became infatuated by these 'things that they could not understand,' their comprehension of and faith in the redeeming role of a true Messiah were lost, and the purpose of life became confused."

In pursuit of the "greater things" those who chase the shiny objects have often gone far afield from where they started and lost the very things that were most precious to them - their families. At one time in my life I was one of those who sought for things I could not always understand. I know whereof I speak. And now in my old age I am content with simplicity. All the ex-Mormons for Jesus and others I once read and chased are now silenced by the passage of time as the caravan moves on toward the city of Zion. Please, do not be deceived, especially if you are among the elect in these last days. (See D&C 45:56-59). Take the Holy Spirit for your guide, and no one else.

I am grateful for the small and simple things that happen every day in the ministrations of the Holy Ghost when I am seeking guidance in my daily walk. I am not perfect by any stretch. But I am grateful for the inspiration of the moment, and cannot imagine life without it.

The workings of the Spirit within us are so fragile, so transient, and so subtle we must never take them for granted nor discount them when they come to us. If we are attuned to the Infinite we may rely upon that inspiration and grow in light and truth day by day, year by year, seeking to stay in the straight and narrow path that leads toward eternal life.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie

"You don't have to do what Jacob said, 'Go beyond the mark.' You don't have to live a life that's truer than true. You don't have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing. What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church - keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you're on that path when death comes - because this is the time and the day appointed, this the probationary estate - you'll never fall from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure. Now, that isn't the definition of that term, but the end result will be the same." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The Probationary Test of Mortality," address delivered at U of U Institute of Religion, Salt Lake City, Utah, January 10, 1982).


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Italian Gardener

Thanks to James Ritchie for sharing - it's an oldie, but still a goodie:

An old Italian gentleman lived alone in New Jersey . He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: 

Dear Vincent, 
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days. 
Love, 
Papa 

A few days later he received a letter from his son. 

Dear Papa, 
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried. 
Love, 
Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son. 

Dear Papa, 
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances. 
Love you, 
Vinnie

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Speechless. . . and Clueless

I don't know how many people have noticed, but I'm getting this question a lot recently: "Why haven't you been writing about this election?" A close second in popularity is: "Who are you voting for?" Forgive my rant, but I will lay it all out.

In answer to the first, my response has been, "This election leaves me speechless." And it's true. What do you say that hasn't already been said? The two major political parties have been through a bruising primary season, eventually settling for their respective nominees on the two candidates with the highest negatives in terms of popularity in modern history. Right now, I am conflicted.

Which leads me to the answer to the second question. Ask me in November who I'm voting for, because right now I haven't got a clue. The electorate is woefully fragmented. The hashtags #nevertrump, #neverhillary are everywhere. As never before, this election looms as a vote AGAINST someone, rather than FOR someone. I talk to people every day who say they will NEVER vote for Trump and NEVER vote for Hillary. One thing is clear - they are both loathed in record numbers, and apparently loved by enough to grab their respective parties' nominations. Mind-numbing, right?

You Be The Judge, Make Your Choice - November Looms

On the one hand, we have a serial adulterer, working on wife number three, the owner of hotels, golf courses, casinos, escort services, a multi-billionaire with really bad hair who has built an empire on the foundation of his father's fortune, and a newcomer to the political scene who changes policy positions like you and I change our socks in the morning.

His demise has been predicted repeatedly for over a year because he has violated every pundit's political playbook of rules multiple times.

He's managed to offend nearly every ethnic group in America on a "platform" of building a wall on the Southern border, excluding Muslims from immigrating to America, and then touting a long list of populist conservative agenda items sufficient to win over Sean Hannity, among others. And by the way, Fox News is nearly unwatchable now. He played "bimbo" Megyn Kelly like a fiddle.

He personally attacked each Republican candidate along the way. His rhetoric against them was over the top. And everyone ate up his politics of personal destruction. Apparently, while we denounce bullies publicly, we embrace a "tough guy" with our votes. In the Utah primary, I voted for loser John Kasich, the obvious "protest" vote I could find against Trump and Cruz.

Despite the deep divisions within the party, Trump went on to secure the requisite number of delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot at the upcoming Republican convention.

Give him this - he has succeeded in a tough New York real estate business where few do. Were there ethics violations involved? Probably. Were bankruptcies the result in some cases? Who cares?

Despite Mitt Romney's protestations to attempt to wreck his chances, he has survived even the most blistering attacks from inside his own party. Romney called him "a fraud," "a con man," and worse. It  didn't matter in the least. Take a principled stand against Trump and he gains strength.

His reckless abandon in making his spontaneous and seemingly irresponsible comments is somehow appealing to the voters who have stoutly supported him and rejected every one of his opponents from among what appeared at the outset to be the strongest field ever assembled on the Republican side. Now as they coalesce around him, it seems beating Hillary is enough to unite the majority at any cost.

On the other side, we have a serial politician, dishonest lawyer, driven by power, greed and amassing a fortune based upon trading influence for contributions to a specious "foundation." The list of donors and their contributions to the Clinton Foundation and the favors obtained in exchange will be fully documented before November. Who cares?

She's the wife of an inveterate and skilled politician who enabled her husband's sexual exploits, then mercilessly berated and publicly humiliated all his accusers. Some voters in this election cycle are simply too young to remember. They will get a list of particulars from her opponent, no doubt. But will anyone really care?

The list of her political scandals is as long as a career criminal's rap sheet, spanning a period of well over forty years. She makes Ronald Reagan's "Teflon" moniker laughable. Reagan was around when character mattered, and his character was so well-documented nothing seemed to stick that was critical. These days nothing critical seems to stick to the Clintons, even suspected criminal activity. In that sense she and Trump have a lot in common.

Her record is clear, and her self-inflicted e-mail server debacle of handling sensitive classified documents while she was serving as Secretary of State under the Obama administration is only the latest in that long line of scandals. Is she guilty of felonies? Who knows? What she is guilty of is poor judgment on a host of issues. And setting all that aside, this qualifies her to serve? Go figure.

Somehow, her supporters have looked the other way in their enthusiasm for her candidacy. When pressed to name even one substantive accomplishment of this woman, those who are interviewed are routinely stumped by the question.

She has been opposed by only one seemingly weak candidate - an over-the-hill and underwhelming self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist whose honesty creds are at least legit, who prolonged the primary contests to the very last voter, even longer than it took Trump to vanquish the large Republican field. And what has been his platform? That Hillary Clinton wasn't liberal enough, not socialist enough, not progressive enough.

And finally, after setting aside his bruising and prolonged opposition, Clinton has enough votes for delegates, "super" or otherwise, to become the first woman from a major party to win her party's nomination. Being the first woman in politics may be her only achievement, but it is sufficient, it seems, in the minds of many.

And, Trump-like, that accomplishment in a tough game of politics may in fact be an achievement. If an upstart Senator from Illinois can win two terms in the White House, why not her? Why not Trump? There are many who love the narrative of the first black POTUS followed by the first woman POTUS, qualifications for the job notwithstanding. Elections have turned on less. Whose resume was thinner than Obama's?

Morality, it would seem, has taken a permanent holiday in American politics. If making America great again were to include a return to morality, I would be on board with it. However, the American psyche, it would seem, now favors looking for a departure from the politics of the past at almost any price. Bernie Sanders has made outrageous proposals for socialism on steroids. Give him points for sincerity and honesty. You can judge for yourself if he's credible. However, the fuzzy math associated with how to pay for it all is mind-boggling, and yet his appeal even here in redder-than-red Utah is stunning. He turned out BY FAR the largest crowds for his rallies of any and all competitors in Utah.

One has to suspend all reason and all rational thought to suppose that his foolishness in American politics is sustainable to any degree. We are living on borrowed money, and yet there is no serious debate any more about a balanced budget. Both political parties are spending us into oblivion. Does anyone believe either Trump or Clinton will curb the spending? They aren't even talking about it. The military leaders are warning that our national debt is our biggest security threat. Oh really? You don't hear politicians echoing that warning at all. They can't even agree on whether the attack last week in Orlando on defenseless gays and lesbians that killed 49 innocents in a bar was carried out by a "radical Islam" adherent or a "deranged madman." Are we at war with the Islamic State that has sworn to destroy America, or is what happened in Orlando merely a police matter?

The sad reality for me is that we have brought our current state upon ourselves, and we have no one else to blame.

Both Sanders and Trump have struck a raw nerve of discontent that has overthrown all the conventional wisdom traditionally ascribed to politics. All the enthusiasm in this cycle has been for Trump and Sanders. Trump logged more votes in the Republican primary season than anyone in history! No small feat. He claims that's because he's added Independents and Reagan Democrats to the mix. How or if that will translate into a win in November remains to be seen.

If I take my cues from the prophetic Book of Mormon, I would not be remiss in sizing up this election as unfathomable. Likening the years preceding the coming of our resurrected Lord among the Nephites on this continent to our day, there are ample precedents to suggest things are going to get a lot worse than better. Begin your reading in Helaman 1 through 3 Nephi 9. Consider these chilling insights:

. . . they did destroy the government of the land. . .  and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan. And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combinations of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets. (3 Nephi 7:2; 5-6).

There are many ways to murder the prophets without killing them outright. One of the most effective is to simply ignore their warnings. Few people I know outside the Church care much about the contents of the Book of Mormon, nor the prophets, ancient and modern, who have given specific counsel about the days in which we live.

I've abandoned all hope of coming up with a palatable scenario to my liking at this point, and remain simply speechless and clueless about how all this turns out in November.