Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fathers Day and Abrahamic Tests

With all the political chatter recently, Fathers Day 2010 slipped past without so much as a whisper from me, but there were some thoughts I captured four years ago that are worth preserving here.  The following is taken from my journal of that day:

On Sunday morning, Father's Day, 2006, I awoke with three distinct "bullet points" for my upcoming talk about service in the Woodland Ward that day. In the mercy of the Lord, and yet another demonstration of the marvelous economy of the Spirit, it seemed a personal message to me in addition to forming the foundation for what I was to say in my talk.

Here are the three points, lest they be forgotten:

1. Do not fear the hike up the mountain of preparation.
2. Embrace the Abrahamic tests in your life.
3. Accept the invitation to come in at the front gate of the church of the Firstborn.

Having just finished that fabulous book about Abraham, The Blessings of Abraham, by E. Douglas Clark, I suppose my reading must have laid the foundation for my talk -- all I got early in the morning was the outline.  It was left to me to fill in the detail around those three points.  (That's not a misprint on the price, but it's worth every penny, trust me).

I began by expressing the wish to elevate our thinking about service. I suggested that no one is opposed to the notion that service is a desirable trait for all disciples to have. I started discussing Abraham's preparations for answering the call to be prepared for the complete consecration of his life by answering the call to go to the land of Moriah to a mountain he was told he would be shown to sacrifice his only son.

It was a three day journey. He began immediately to make the preparations, and he did as he was told to do -- cut the wood for the pier upon which Isaac was to be offered.

Imagine the thoughts that went through his mind on that three day journey. Imagine what Isaac was thinking. What is unknown from the account in Genesis is what Sarah was thinking. Imagine that faith on the part of all three! Because he knew God was in it, he did not hesitate.

He was led by the Spirit to Mount Moriah (what is today known in Jerusalem as the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock now sits). His preparation and his willingness to carry out the required sacrifice is what tested him to the limit.

Joseph Smith once said if there had been a more severe test God could have devised to thoroughly try the heart of Abraham, God would have given Abraham that test instead. The whole idea of Abrahamic tests in our lives is to test the depth of our commitment to God -- to infuse us with the desire to consecrate our lives to God's work.

In order to serve our fellowmen, it would seem, each of us must bow to the demands of consecration -- the sacrifice of all earthly things and desire.  Simultaneously, we are offering the only thing to God that is truly ours to give -- our free will.

These are high and holy objectives, even "dangerous doctrines" in the eyes of some. But that was the example Abraham set before us as aspiring disciples.

Then I suggested each of us would have similar tests if we sought fellowship with the saints of former ages. How would you feel if invited to sit down to dinner one night with luminaries like Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Alma, Paul, Elijah, and others like them if in your own right you had not been willing to offer the same commitment they demonstrated? To think we would someday inherit an equal portion with them without a similar measure of sacrifice would be haughty indeed! I can't imagine meeting Paul someday in the realms ahead, but when I do I want to be able to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and feel adequate.  That's all.  And I realize only the atonement of Christ can level that playing field for me. 

I know I'm not even a freckle on Paul's nose, but through Christ and His sanctifying blood I want to at least be able to hug him without being embarrassed at my lack.

When those Abrahamic tests come to each of us (and surely they do), I suggested rather than blame God for our hardships and trials, we must embrace the chastening and accept the tutorial as a gift from God to help reveal ourselves to ourselves. Finding God in the fiery furnace is what it appears to be all about.

To conclude, I suggested that fellowship in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, begins at the gate of baptism. Fellowship in the church of the Firstborn, however, is outlined in D&C 76, and is found beyond the gates of the temple within in the covenants we make there.

Many come in at the gate to the outward Church (capital "C"), but few seem to find the fellowship of the inward church (lower case "c") outlined in the revelations.

Like these outward ordinances God offers to us with a promise of someday obtaining as joint heirs with Christ all that He possesses, too many members of the Church conclude that nominal membership in the Church is all there is, never looking beyond and deeper into what can only be termed as the "mysteries of godliness," which I feel I am just beginning to understand in part (I'm slow).

I suggested there is a church within a Church we must each discover by doing the works of Abraham, embracing his example and following the same path he laid out for us. Abraham and Sarah represent the path of true discipleship in modeling concern, service and lovingkindness for all our Father in Heaven's children. This awareness is anchored in humility, kindness and love for others.

I remembered that years ago during the time of President Lee, President Kimball and President Benson, the prophets used to answer the reporters' questions about why the Church wasn't doing more to lift the burdens of the millions around the earth who were suffering with expressions that we simply didn't have the resources to do as much as we would like, although we would do more if we had the resources. Now we do.

I concluded with these inspired words from President Hinckley:

"In the last ten years we have supplied in cash and commodities hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to those not of our faith.
"We have traveled the earth bearing witness of this, the work of the Almighty. During these same years I personally have traveled nearly a million miles visiting some 70 countries. My beloved companion traveled with me until a year ago when she passed away on the 6th of April. It has been lonely since then.
"Our hope concerning the future is great and our faith is strong.
"We know that we have scarcely scratched the surface of that which will come to pass in the years that lie ahead." (Ensign, May 2005, 4).

When it comes to service, we have barely begun as a Church and individuals to do the works of Abraham. We must enlist all "our substance" (as King Benjamin described it -- not just money) but everything we have and are, or ever will have or be, to fulfill that ideal to truly consecrate our lives for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth and for the establishment of Zion.

I don't know if anyone else in the audience learned anything in that talk, but I know the Lord certainly enlarged and expanded my vision.

On another occasion, President Hinckley reminded us: "We must reach out to all mankind. They are all sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father, and He will hold us accountable for what we do concerning them. . . May we bless humanity with an outreach to all, lifting those who are downtrodden and oppressed, feeding and clothing the hungry and the needy, extending love and neighborliness to those about us who may not be part of this Church." (Ensign, November 2001, 6).

I concluded by testifying there is a living prophet among us. He is no small thinker, this man Gordon B. Hinckley. Indeed, he is a man like Abraham, and we can do no less if we would claim our own place with them in the church of the Firstborn. As "firstborns" in the church of THE Firstborn, only by doing the works of Abraham will we claim our rightful place as a joint heir with Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son, inheriting all that the Father hath.

Now that he's gone, I could easily say the same of his successor, President Thomas S. Monson, whose example of Christian service and love for his fellowmen knows no boundaries.  Said he recently:

"I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish — and in effect save their lives."  ("What Have I Done For Someone Today?", Ensign, November 2009, 84-87).

And yes, these are all thoughts beyond my feeble attempts to understand or adequately explain, underscoring the source of it all.

I have always loved the words of Nephi.  Some have called it "the psalm of Nephi:"

“My soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard," Nephi stated. (2 Nephi 4:16).

And yet, as all of us have sinned and "come short of the glory of God," (see Romans 3:23) Nephi, too, explored those feelings:

"Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily best me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted." (2 Nephi 4:17-19).

Through all of the trials and tribulations Nephi had been through, he had come to know the Lord. "And having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God..."

Nephi truly does know the Lord. He has seen him (2 Nephi 11:2,3). He has been taught by angels many times. He has been supported and strengthened by the Lord through the terrible ordeal of the wilderness crossing and the ocean voyage to the Promised Land.

I have always wondered how I could possibly be weighed in the balance with Paul and Nephi and not found wanting.  Then I have remembered, "Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."

Dodd-Frank -- an assessment of what it contains

This is the best summary I've seen about what's actually in this bill.

It comes from Congressman Tom Price (R-GA).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Illuminati and the New World Order

I'm not a big conspiracy theorist fan.  I have no doubt the world domination conspiracies have many adherents and true believers.  I was a young man when I first heard about the Illuminati, and it becomes the underlying theme in the Dan Brown book and movie, Angels and Demons, and other pop culture references.  Many assert its members have included Winston Churchill, the Bush family, Barack Obama, the Rothschild family, David Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski.  Almost every assassination plot can find an easy connection to the Illuminati, it seems, as they seek to usher in the New World Order.

When I was a younger man, I was mildly intrigued by all the Kennedy assassination theories.  I finally concluded I would have to wait for some future day to discern the truth, after visiting Dealey Plaza for the first time.  Then it occurred to me that all I needed to do was wait for the sequel to National Treasure 2, since the answer was revealed in the Book of Secrets ;-)

As I have stated on numerous occasions throughout this blog, I try to find my truth in the middle of the road, and in my more rational moments I normally eschew extreme points of view.

When the state of Israel was created in 1947-48, it was miraculous in its inception.  Only one vote separated the opposition to its creation from successful passage of its charter.  The final vote granting statehood to Israel came from the United States of America in the United Nations Security Council.  Of its few allies in the world, the United States has always been the most reliable and steadfast until now. 

This morning I was looking for something else, and quite unexpectedly stumbled over this interview on YouTube. 

I did some checking.  It appears to be authentic, and the subject of the interview is Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, Yale fellow, "Distinguished Professor of the Year", and Harvard Phd.  He states President Obama's intention is to "correct the historical mistake of the creation of the state of Israel." Dr. Rubenstein has been fighting against the Holocaust denials his whole career.  He believes President Obama due to his family heritage is extremely pro-Muslim -- to the point of "wanting to see the destruction of Israel."

I don't know how Dr. Rubenstein has arrived at his conclusions, but his assertions -- if true and credible -- (I hasten to add the qualifier) could pose a serious threat to the ongoing existence of the state of Israel.

Further, there are voices out there (are they really so far out these days?) asserting Obama's agenda (which any casual observer can only conclude is radial and extreme) was promoted openly in the sixties by two liberal professors, Cloward & Piven, when he was a student at Columbia University.  Their strategy was designed to end poverty in the United States by creating a socialist state guaranteeing a government income for all.  Incidentally, such an idea is absurd on its face because everywhere it's been tried it has failed miserably. 

I thought we were way beyond the grasp of such idiocy.  Apparently, not!  

The only reason any of this has even the slightest hint of credibility is that every single step this president and this Congress have taken since Obama's inauguration is trending rapidly in this direction.  I've simply never seen anything like this in my lifetime.  The lightning speed with which it is occurring is troubling.  I never thought in my wildest dreams it was even possible, and especially that it would happen inside America right under our noses.

Then it began to hit me recently.  What if universal health care wasn't about health care at all?  What if it was an intentional act to bankrupt America?  I have been mystified by it all along.  There is no rational fiscal policy on which it can rest and find any semblance of justification.  Who but a radical Marxist would come up with such a plan in the middle of a crippling recession? 

Republicans and Democrats had to link arms to make all this happen.  Blame the participants from both sides, not just Democrats.  Don't forget that TARP was hatched by Republicans.

What if "cap and trade" had nothing to do with global warming after all?  What if it has everything to do with redistribution of income, government control of the economy and a criminal payoff to Obama's biggest contributors?

Why all the bailouts and stimulus bills?  Where did all that money go? It went to Democrat contributors, organizations (ACORN), and unions -- including billions of dollars to save or create jobs of government employees across the country. It went to save GM and Chrysler so that their employees could keep paying union dues. It went to AIG so that Goldman Sachs could be bailed out (after giving Obama almost $1 million in contributions). A staggering $125 billion went to teachers (thereby protecting their union dues). All those public employees will vote loyally as Democrats to protect their bloated salaries and pensions that are bankrupting America . The country goes broke, future generations face a bleak future, but Obama, the Democrat Party, government, and the unions grow more powerful. The ends justify the means.  It makes absolutely no sense to me!!!  But what if that's what they are attempting?

Why all the talk about legalizing illegal immigrants and resisting attempts by the state of Arizona to keep them out?  Have you actually read the Arizona law?  Click the link.  It's only ten pages long, and mirrors exactly the federal statutes already on the books.  Obama's lack of response to closing the borders has been stunning!  What if it's an intentional act to just give these 12 million potential new citizens free health care?  If we're entertaining socialism, why not go all the way?  It adds 12 million reliable new Democrat voters who can be counted on to support big government. Add another few trillion dollars in welfare, aid to dependent children, food stamps, free medical, education, tax credits for the poor, and eventually Social Security.  Bankrupt capitalism so socialism can finally be fully implemented.  Why not? 

I can't believe I'm even entertaining these thoughts, but what other explanation is there?  I await your scathing rebukes.  Comment below and set me straight again.  Put me out of my twisted pain.

Here's the most bitter pill of all.  This government has systematically set about to raise taxes on small business owners, high-income earners, and job creators. They have put the entire tax burden on only the top 20 percent of taxpayers, they aim to redistribute the income, punish success, and reward those who did nothing to deserve it (except vote for Obama).

Ronald Reagan was the radical back in his day -- he wanted to dramatically cut taxes in order to starve the government. Obama wants to dramatically raise taxes to starve his political opposition.

I know, stop me before I get crazy.  What I could never figure out was why this all seemed so irrational to me.  What if I'm actually sane and rational?  That's even more frightening, because then I have to conclude that this agenda is a purposeful and intentional act of treason.  That really stretches my finite little brain. 

But suddenly it's beginning to make more sense than ever before.  I made the mistake of thinking President Obama was acting in what he perceived to be our best interests as a nation.  That's what people want in their president.  The thought never really resonated with me that he might be doing something quite different. 

I usually reject conspiracy theories out of hand.  I don't like discussing secret combinations.  Such thoughts are radical.  Now I'm beginning to wonder if the radicals really are the radicals and the conspiracy theorists are the only rational thinkers left standing.  That's really a weird thought for me.

What is white is black and what is black is white.  What is good is evil and what is evil is good.  What is up is down and what is down is up.  "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"  (Isaiah 5:20).

What if the grand scheme is being implemented in ways we could never have imagined two years ago (and still resist) because we can't imagine it could be true?  What if Obama and his "regime" have created a vast and rapidly expanding constituency of voters dependent on big government; a vast privileged class of public employees who work for big government; and a government dedicated to destroying capitalism and installing themselves as socialist rulers by overwhelming and bankrupting the system?  Is that even possible? 

If no one is left standing and all the worker bees are now on the dole, then who's left for the over-taxed rich to exploit to earn enough to pay the taxes to support the welfare recipients?  This makes absolutely NO SENSE to me, yet it appears that's what the agenda adds up to.  The circular logic defies reason.  Reagan had it right -- you have to starve government to help the poor so they can be employed by the rich.

The other foreign policy reality is more sobering to me.  I never believed it would be possible in this way for America to distance herself from the state of Israel.  Our longstanding support and advocacy for the existence of the state of Israel has never been in dispute until now. 

And it's redefining my whole thought process on the question of Middle East diplomacy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Elena Kagan confirmation hearing

We all know this process post-Bork has become little more than political theater.  Would that it were otherwise and there were some meaningful questions asked, begging thoughtful and honest answers.

Why couldn't George Will be a senator and a member of the Judiciary Committee?

I like these questions. . . a lot. . . but will anyone on the panel actually ask them?

Don't hold your breath.

SCOTUS rules no gun control in ALL 50 states

I'm not a big guns advocate, let's make that clear right up front.  I own a .22 caliber rifle to kill those pesky pot guts that get into Grandma Patsy's garden.

I was an expert marksman with my M-16 back in my Army Reserve days, but am I a rabid proponent of owning lots of guns and carrying concealed weapons?  No.  But I like to think I could if I were so inclined.  I like the notion of freedom.

That said, this is an encouraging ruling for the right and the freedom to bear arms. 

Today, in its second major ruling on gun rights in three years, the Supreme Court extended the federally protected right to keep and bear arms to all 50 states. The decision will be hailed by gun rights advocates and comes over the opposition of gun control groups, the city of Chicago and four justices.

The ruling passed by the slim margin of 5-4.  So far so good.  Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the five justice majority saying "the right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an evenhanded manner."

Elections matter.  The POTUS nominates justices to the SCOTUS.  The Senate confirms or denies those nominations.  There's another pivotal hearing that just commenced today.  If confirmed, Obama's nominee will tip the scales for a half century to come.  Her liberal creds are well-documented, but she has never served as a judge.

Elections control the balance of power.  That's why they matter.

A 5-4 margin is razor thin.

Don't fall asleep at the switch this November.  Wake up, and stay awake!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

And the Bank Investors are "Relieved?" WOW!!

Dodd-Frank Bill Emerges from Conference

You may have missed it, but the bank stocks surged higher yesterday on the news of agreement in Congress on a new regulatory bill.  That may seem counter-intuitive -- a regulatory bill passes and the bank stocks go up, and not just "up" -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. rose 3.5 percent, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. gained 3.7 percent. Bank of America rose 2.7 percent and Citigroup Inc. rose 4.2 percent.

Regional banks also scored big gains. Suntrust Banks Inc. rose 4.6 percent and Synovus Financial Corp. gained 5.3 percent.

BoA just hired 2,000 new employees to handle all the inbound calls about their escalating pile of bad foreclosure paper.  BoA's been writing red ink for many consecutive quarters lately with no end in sight, yet their stock price soared yesterday. 

The answer lies in a simple fact.  The Wall Street Journal reports the bankers are sighing a huge sigh of relief that the final bill wasn't more onerous than it was.  One said, "It could have been much worse."

Here's the biggest irony of all for me.  Who is the bill named for?  Barney Frank (D-MA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT).  It's called the Dodd-Frank Bill.  There they were yesterday posing outside the White House in triumph at having delivered a 2,000 page bill from conference for their President.  Now Obama is calling for swift passage of the compromise bill.  Why's he always in such a big hurry?  He's on borrowed time, borrowed light, and borrowed money, that's why.

These are the same two jackals who assured there was "very little danger" of a sub-prime mortgage bubble being created, then within months of those declarations the bubble burst with debilitating impact all around the world.  Financial markets seized, credit disappeared, and who was to blame? 

There are no easy answers, to be sure, but don't discount the role of these two culprits -- Frank as Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services and Dodd as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

We used to refer to Ronald Reagan as the "teflon president," because he was so popular with the people no criticism ever stuck to him for very long.  These two have seemingly redefined that moniker.

In a memorable cable news interview in the fall of 2008, Barney Frank was taken apart by Bill O'Reilly on his popular O'Reilly Factor.  He publicly vilified Frank for his lack of oversight and for not protecting "the folks" from the egregious excesses of the investment bankers.  Frank's empty protests under the withering attack from O'Reilly will go down in the annals of television history.  And now Frank wants us to thank him for his new regulatory bill to protect us?  Can he be serious?

Chris Dodd was linked to "sweetheart" loan deals from Countrywide Mortgage, now defunct, all the assets now owned by BoA.  Click on the link for a detailed report dating back to 2008.  How soon we all forget.  These guys are nothing more than liars, cheats and thieves.  And they come out unscathed as heroes for reining in banking and Wall Street?  Don't make me puke all over your shoes.  Dodd is not seeking re-election this year.  And now we are being asked to believe they are the champions of regulatory oversight?

Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) was Dodd's "wingman" as the number two ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee and the Republican "front man" for TARP.  He paid the ultimate price.

Obama Announces New Bank Tax

News just in this morning -- President Obama announced at the G20 Summit in Toronto that he has a plan to pay for all this regulatory oversight.  Can you imagine what it is?  Well, of course you can -- it's another new tax to be imposed upon banks.  President Barack Obama, fresh from a win on a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulations, on Saturday urged Congress to take up his proposal for a $90 billion, 10-year tax on banks as the next step in reform.  Consider the irony.  Maybe it's more than irony.  The government mandates compliance of the banks to do its bidding in extending risky credit, then punishes the banks for following the law.  Reuters reports in this linked story:  "With congressional elections looming in November, Obama hopes the financial reform and the bank tax idea will resonate with U.S. voters furious over Wall Street risk-taking that led to the financial meltdown and the worst recession in decades."  He cannot be serious if that's what he thinks.  Talk about detached and aloof!!!  Or maybe it's nothing more than part of a grand design to deceive.

Memo to President Obama:  Your popularity is dropping like a rock in freefall.  The PEOPLE are about to dismantle your control in Congress come November, then toss you in 2012.  Take a page from Lady Maggie Thatcher, who once famously said, "The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

And the bankers and investors are relieved that it "could have been worse?"  WOW!!  Stunning!!!  Trust me on this -- the banks do not, will not and never will pay taxes -- taxes get levied against people because the costs are simply passed along to the consumers.  To say they are "relieved" is an admission against their own preservation.  To boot lick this president is self-destructive.  When will they kick back?  When will they stand up to it?

The Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll just revealed yesterday the nation that entertained such high hopes for Barack Obama has now lost confidence in his capacity to lead.

Sixty-two percent of all Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction. For the first time, more Americans disapprove of Obama than approve. Fifty-seven percent would prefer someone else, rather than the member of Congress they now have.

Though there are signs the economy is gradually improving, Americans no longer believe it. Only one-third thinks things will get better before they get worse again. Independents are deserting Obama. One in six Democrats now disapproves of the job he is doing.  Now maybe we can begin to make a new beginning.

Who's To Blame in the Sub-Prime Debacle?

So were the bankers to blame for the sub-prime mortgage meltdown?  Certainly.  Their predatory and aggressive lending tactics, ignoring sound credit decisions in the name of ramping up increasing amounts of mortgage origination fees to satiate a seemingly bottomless pit of appetite for the sub-prime securitization pools definitely played a role.  The bankers feasted on the unsuspecting and their "creative finance" techniques with adjustable rate mortgages are now well-documented.

But at the base of it all was the federal government mandating home ownership for everyone in America.  The Community Reinvestment Act was passed as a result of national pressure to address the deteriorating conditions of American cities — particularly lower-income and minority neighborhoods.  The abuse of the original intent of that act is now legendary and will be cited as the principal reason the mortgage bubble was created, all championed and urged on by a willing Congress in league with aggressive White House administrations dating back to 1977, determined to make the American dream of home ownership a reality. 

This is NOT a Democrat versus Republican issue -- this is a politics as usual issue.  A federal government asserting it has the answers to everything under the sun, will increasingly prove it has the answer to NOTHING!!!  Washington IS the problem. Our government’s massive overspending, over-taxing, and over-regulating has caused corporations and banks to hoard $2.5 trillion in cash and credit. If all that money were unleashed within the private sector, it would ignite the economy overnight.

But the problem is everyone is absolutely scared to death of Washington’s anti-business, anti-profit, anti-investment policies.  And no wonder we hear today they're "relieved" it wasn't worse.  Get out of our lives, get out of our checkbooks, and stop taxing us to maintain the status quo.   

When the Republicans were in control they blew it and spent the public's money like drunken sailors on shore leave.  When the Democrats were in charge -- well, we haven't even seen the end of what that will produce, but when the Obama administration manages to incur more debt in four months of this year than FDR did in four terms of the New Deal, you know we're on a slippery slope with no end in sight. 

The sad reality is that America has managed to do all this to ourselves -- this is not the work of some foreign enemy hell-bent on our destruction.

Remember the warning signs in December of 2007?  Click the link and read a New York Times story about the danger signals as they were emerging.  They were everywhere, but were widely ignored.  Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve wasn't interested.  Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were nowhere to be seen.  "All is well," they boldly proclaimed as they provided political cover for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  Record profits were being recorded.  Bonuses were flowing, Wall Street was rocking and rolling.  The politicians were in cruise control.  They saw no evil, they spoke no evil, and they heard no evil, while they were swimming in a cess pool of evil all around.

So now we come to the dubious passage of yet another regulatory bill creating yet another government agency.  Democrats are proclaiming this is the most sweeping regulatory oversight bill since the Great Depression.  Republicans, at least one, aren't so sure.  Republican lawmakers who serve on congressional financial panels blasted the compromise bill.  "This legislation is a failure on both counts," Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) said in a statement.  "It will not encourage much-needed stability and confidence in our financial markets.  It will not significantly reduce systemic risk in our financial sector."

The Political Divide

This is the political landscape on which America rests today.  There are two opposing views, and they couldn't possibly be more polarized than they are right now.  There is opposition everywhere to everything.  There is agreement on nothing.  Majority rules.  Shall we have a limited federal government as envisioned by the founders and the framers of the Constitution, or shall we create a progressive and intrusive government that permeates and controls every moving part of the economy and our lives as a free people?

The choice is yours, America.  You ARE the people, and whichever government you choose (either consciously or by default) it will be yours to own.  There's no one to blame but ourselves.  It's either FOR you and OF you and BY you, or its the one you inherit by default for your lack of participation.  Don't cede away your rights as voters to a pervasive influence that is spreading like a cancer.

The speed with which it is growing is breathtaking.

Only 12% of registered voters showed up to vote in Utah in last week's primary election.  Prepare yourselves to re-engage in November.  It's not too early.

Just don't let it be too late.

The Book of Mormon is Prophetic

As I read The Book of Mormon when I was younger, I was amazed that events seemed to turn so quickly, especially in Third Nephi

President Ezra Taft Benson offered this observation:

The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming. The Nephite civilization had reached great heights. They were prosperous and industrious. They had built many cities with great highways connecting them. They engaged in shipping and trade. They built temples and palaces.
But, as so often happens, the people rejected the Lord. Pride became commonplace. Dishonesty and immorality were widespread. Secret combinations flourished because, as Helaman tells us, the Gadianton robbers “had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils” (Helaman 6:38). “The people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning” (3 Nephi 6:12). And “Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world,” even as today (3 Nephi 6:15).
Mormon noted that the Nephites “did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them” (3 Nephi 6:18).
There were but few righteous among them (see 3 Nephi 6:14). Nephi led the Church with great power and performed many miracles, yet “there were but few who were converted unto the Lord” (3 Nephi 7:21). The people as a whole rejected the Lord. They stoned the prophets and persecuted those who sought to follow Christ.  ("The Savior’s Visit to America,” Ensign, May 1987, 4, italics mine).

If you never believed Ezra Taft Benson was a prophet then, can you doubt it now?

The rest of that story is the Savior "intervened," an interesting word choice by President Benson.  The resurrected Savior appeared among them and taught them, following widespread physical upheaval and destruction throughout the land.

Secret Combinations Abound; Can Anyone Discern Them?

Within the space of a few short years, three "breakups" had happened preceding the Lord's coming:  1) The church was broken up (3 Nephi 6:14); 2) the government was broken up (3 Nephi 7:2); then finally, 3) the earth was broken up (3 Nephi 8:4-20).

Here's a sobering account:  "Now all this was done, and there were no wars as yet among them; 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.  And they did cause a great contention in the land, insomuch that the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them.  And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire."  (3 Nephi 7:5-8, italics mine).

Call me an optimist.  I'm not a doomsdayer.  It's still possible to change course and self-correct.  We got ourselves into this mess as a country and we can get out of it if we're up to it.  Nobody did this to us.  We did it to ourselves.

We have received ample warning and if we heed the signs it will not be too late:

And they [the secret combinations in the ancient promised land that is now America] were kept up by the power of the devil to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness, to help such as sought power to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.
And it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired.
And it came to pass that they formed a secret acombination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;
For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.
And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites.
And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.
And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.
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, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.
Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.  (Ether 8:16-26, italics mine).

Good Men Give Me Cause for Hope

The prophetic Book of Mormon, and the living prophets among us: Will we embrace them, or will we ignore the truth when it shouts to us from the headlines in today's news?

I believe Mike Lee is up to the challenge, and I have this persistent belief that by November he will be joined by a new wave of Congressional leaders who can begin to right the ship of state before it springs new leaks and sinks. 

Events seem to move quickly these days, but are harder to accurately discern.  Like watching the growth of fingernails, we don't always see it in real time but the results are obvious.

I also note that Mike's brother Tom Lee was confirmed this week to the Utah Supreme Court as its newest justice.

Maybe they and we, just maybe, with the help of everyone working together can begin to de-LEE-ver America from evil.

Call me optimistic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mike Lee, Republican Nominee for U.S. Senate

There is nothing sweeter than coming from nowhere to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Utah.  The accompanying picture tells the whole story.  Historic!!

Together, Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee capitalized on the pent-up angst against Senator Bennett and six weeks ago at the state nominating convention they sent shock waves back to Washington D.C.  They unseated three-term Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) and faced off in yesterday's primary election.  It was the first time in a long time a sitting senator seeking re-election from Utah had been denied the nomination.

Many are the articles and posts about the reasons, but it all boils down to this in my opinion: We are in perilous times and those who are aligned with the same old ways of Washington politics are a dying breed.  "Change" swept Barack Obama into the White House, and now America has re-awakened to its founding principles and is re-trenching.  $13 Trillion in long-term debt for entitlement programs the country cannot afford is at the top of my list of concerns. 

A substantive change in direction is in order, and this November must reverse the miscalculations of the electorate in 2008.  The current course is unsustainable.

The reason the Constitution is so pivotal in this election cycle and Mike Lee is perfectly positioned to champion that discussion in the halls of Congress (along with what I believe will be a wave of like-minded freshmen legislators) is that it has vouched safe the possibility and hope for a mid-term correction.  Historically, mid-term elections never tend to favor sitting Presidents, and this one in particular faces an aroused electorate who will likely strip him of his filibuster-proof majority. 

In all his social re-engineering the one thing Barack Obama has not done is to govern from the middle.  He has lost middle America, and that is never a good thing for a POTUS.

Mike Lee cannot do it all by himself, but this is not the year to be an incumbent of any stripe.  Mike Lee is a rock-solid, limited-government conservative who will make a strong start and engage his colleagues in attempting to fix Washington politics as usual.  I fully expect him to join with his colleagues this fall to rein in out-of-control spending, reduce our $13 Trillion national debt and reverse destructive and repressive tax policy.  Pay attention:  That's $13,000,000,000,000 -- count 'em, twelve zeros!!!

We are a representative republic, and we need informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.  In our times, American freedom is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.

The president's poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people are uncomfortable with the results (or lack thereof) he is posting.  The stunning and swift damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies.

I can find nowhere in the Constitution of the United States (and I am NOT Mike Lee) where it says the POTUS has the authority to extract (dare we use the term "shakedown?") $20 BILLION from a private enterprise (even if it is foreign-owned British Petroleum) and then re-distribute that wealth as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation.  Show me where the Constitution says he can do that without due process.  Nowhere.

So why does the Constitution matter this year?  Because it was divinely inspired and by abiding in its core principles we can find our way out of the profligate spending swamp we are drowning in.  Call me optimistic.
The pundits claimed Bob Bennett wasn't "conservative enough."  As I have pointed out before, I never have had a problem with Bob Bennett's conservative credentials overall.  However, he seemed to have lost his way in Washington when he asserted the financial institutions who funded his political career were just "too big to fail." 

If Mike Lee disappoints and begins drinking from the Potomac fever water trough he won't last very long.  But courageous senators who stand on principle are never out of favor with a principled electorate, even when that means we may lose the entitlement programs we can't sustain as a nation.

I think he's the man in this election cycle who can withstand it in the same way Rob Bishop has. 

So now the work for Lee begins.  First, he must win the general election against a savvy and successful businessman and moderate Democrat, Sam Granato.  Some would have you believe it will be a "walk-over" campaign, but do not be misled. 

There are substantial reasons a return to the basic guiding principles of the Constitution is not only inevitable but essential.  My hope is that Mike will help restore the conversation in the halls of Congress that has been lacking for many years.  I expect him to hold the toes of Congress to the fires that burn within him. 

If he doesn't, you may rest assured his toes will be on the fire in the next election he faces.  I believe he welcomes that degree of scrutiny and accountability. 

You can label him an "ideologue" if you like, but for me and my house I like those ideals.  I have consistently embraced his candidacy since the moment I was first introduced to his candidacy last January by my good friend Doug Holmes.  As I predicted, that little flame became the wildfire producing this nomination. 

He instills hope in me that America might still be able to reverse the violent and destructive financial lurch to the left imposed on us since Obama's election.

I invite all Utahns to unite behind him for the victory in November.  I'll have more to say about it between now and then.

Congratulations, Mike and Sharon.  We're all behind you!  Well, at least I am (and 93,135 additional close friends who voted for you).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Voted

Early this morning we went to the polls.  Our precinct votes at the Wasatch County Library.  We were the first two registered Republican voters to report this morning. 

I voted for Mike Lee in the U.S. Senate race and Jon Hellander in the Utah House District 53 race.  You don't have to vote for the same people I did. 

But PLEASE go vote for your candidates. 

When we were finished logging our electronic ballots, the poll worker handed us a circular sticker with the words "I VOTED."

I wasn't prepared for the wave of emotion that swept over me.  I thought of newly-enfranchised voters in third-world countries who routinely are showing up in massive numbers now to exercise a basic right long denied to them. 

I am proud of my American heritage that gives me the right to vote without threat of reprisal.  I didn't realize it was so deeply etched into my soul.

I pray we never lose that precious gift of freedom.

The polls are open until 8:00 p.m. tonight.  Don't miss the opportunity to feel that rush of American joy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is "The Atonement" Different Than "Blood Atonement?"

On June 17, 2010, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released this statement:

"In the mid-19th century, when rhetorical, emotional oratory was common, some church members and leaders used strong language that included notions of people making restitution for their sins by giving up their own lives.
"However, so-called 'blood atonement,' by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people."  (Italics mine).

Why the need for the Church to make such a simple statement?  Because whenever the subject of capital punishment by firing squad arises in Utah, the knives of the enemies of the Church come out in full force to embarrass the former leaders who are quoted has having been advocates for the so-called "doctrine."  Pitting the dead prophets against the living prophets is such fun for them.  On February 26, 1980, at BYU in his classic exegesis on the topic, President Ezra Taft Benson warned:  "Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence." 

Were Brigham Young and others misquoted?  Did they really teach the things ascribed to them?  What if they taught a false doctrine?  Worse yet, what if it's true?  How does one reconcile the difficulty?

On February 19, 1981, Elder Bruce R. McConkie addressed a private letter to Eugene England, then a professor at BYU, dealing with the so-called "Adam-God Theory."  The letter was later published to the world by those indefatigable critics of the Church, Sandra and Jerald Tanner.  In part, Elder McConkie wrote:

". . . As it happens, I am a great admirer of Brigham Young and a great believer in his doctrinal presentations.  He was called of God.  He was guided by the Holy Spirit in his teachings in general.  He was a mighty prophet.  He led Israel the way the Lord wanted his people led.  He built on the foundation laid by the Prophet Joseph.  He completed his work and has gone on to eternal exaltation
"Nonetheless, as Joseph Smith so pointedly taught, a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such.  Prophets are men and they make mistakes.  Sometimes they err in doctrine.  This is one of the reasons the Lord has given us the Standard Works.  They become the standards and rules that govern where doctrine and philosophy are concerned.  If this were not so, we would believe one thing when one man was president of the Church and another thing in the days of his successors.  Truth is eternal and does not vary.  Sometimes even wise and good men fall short in the accurate presentation of what is truth.  Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord.
"Yes, President Brigham Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him.  [He could have added blood atonement too.]  This, however, is not true.  He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel.  But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things.  What I am saying is, that Brigham Young contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe.  The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the Standard Works. . .
"I repeat:  Brigham Young erred in some of his statements. . . but Brigham Young also taught the truth in these fields on other occasions.  And, I repeat, that in his instance he was a great prophet and has gone on to eternal reward.  What he did is not a pattern for any of us.  If we choose to believe and teach the false portions of his doctrines, we are making an election that will damn us. . .
"Wise gospel students do not build their philosophies of life on quotations of individuals, even though those quotations come from presidents of the Church.  Wise people anchor their doctrine on the Standard Works. . .
"We do not solve our problems by getting a statement from the president of the Church or from someone else on a subject.  We have been introduced to the gospel; we have the gift of the Holy Ghost; we have the Standard Works and it is our responsibility to get in tune and understand properly what the Lord has revealed and has had us canonize.  The end result of this course of personally and individually pursuing light and truth is to reach that millennial state of which the scriptures say it will no longer be necessary for every man to say to his neighbor, 'know the Lord,' for all shall know him from the greatest to the least.  Joseph Smith says this will be by the spirit of revelation."  (Italics mine).

I remind you of a verse found in D&C 132:26, as it applies to Brigham Young.  I am confident it is the doctine Elder McConkie was applying in this case.  To have to stumble and trip over the statements of the dead prophets while taking counsel from the living prophets is all part and parcel of our grand test in mortality. 

In the pursuit of diamond pure truth encouraged by Elder McConkie, there are always contradictions, ironies and paradoxes aplenty.  As one example, there is an expression connected with the ordinances that seems strangely paradoxical and counter-intuitive, but the symbolism is breathtaking and sweet if understood.  It is "having one's garments washed white with the blood of the Lamb."  In the literal sense, of course, one could not expect to wash a shirt in blood and have it come out sparkling white.  On its face, this expression defies logical thinking.

It is the The Book of Mormon that clarifies the apparent contradiction.  Alma tells us "there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.  And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?  Behold, what will these things testify against you?  Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, . . . guilty of all manner of wickedness?"  (Alma 5:21-23, italics mine).

Being guilty of "the blood and sins of your generation," you may not "have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white."  (Alma 5:24).  Such purity is what is required for "sitting down" in the presence of God.

There are two kinds of blood-stained garments I have discerned in the scriptures.  One shows the blood and sins of this world, while the other blood stains are the purifying sacrifice of the Lamb cleansing the people and the prophets of their sins.  Their garments are white when stained with His blood.

The Savior's blood washing garments clean is not the blood that defiles them.  We learn from the story of the suffering among the children of Israel in the wilderness that a serpent raised on a staff healed the people, but it was not a serpent that killed (see Numbers 21:9).  Another paradoxical symbol.

Mortality is filled with paradoxes, and we all know it.  Opposition in all things is mandated by the plan of salvation (see 2 Nephi 2).  On one hand we can be "encircled about eternally in the arms of [God's] love" (2 Nephi 1:15), but we can also be "encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction."  (Alma 5:7).

We can be perfectly united in the "at-one-ment," but we can also be "cast out" forever (Alma 5:25) having "[our] names. . . blotted out. . . the names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people."  (Alma 5:57).

We are admonished by Lehi:  Do "not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom."  (2 Nephi 2:29; see also 1 Nephi 13:29; 2 Nephi 28:19; Alma 8:9). Once you yield to this powerful opposite force for evil we learn he will hold you in his strong embrace, having a great hold over you.  (Alma 10:25; 12:17; 27:12; Helaman 16:23).

Irony of ironies, contradiction of contradictions, on his first encounter with the forces in the universe, the fourteen-year-old boy Joseph Smith felt and experienced that evil power before he was enveloped and consumed in the light.  He reported it was not an imaginary power at all.  Rather, it was a power many have felt since.  (JS-H 1:16).

The son of Helaman, Nephi, reports when you yield to him Satan "get[s] possession" of your heart.  (3 Nephi 2:2).  The Savior counseled the Nephites to beware of Satan's wiles "for Satan desireth to have you."  (3 Nephi 18:18). 

Who else wants us?  The Lord.

So while on the one hand, God "inviteth and enticeth to do good" and be one with him, so on the other hand Satan "inviteth and enticeth to sin."  (Moroni 7:12-13).

Why did God interject the devil into the program of salvation?  Why were mortals not simply stripped of the possibiility of doing evil?  It's pretty simple, really.  Without some kind of a test we could not prove ourselves either good or bad.  We'd never have to choose between the two.  (See Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 166-68, also in CWHN 3:182-84, for an interesting treatise on this topic). 

If a probationary experience on earth is to have true meaning, then it "must needs be that there is an opposition in all things."  (2 Nephi 2:11, 15).  So, says Lehi, we must all take a turn at resisting various enticements.  (2 Nephi 2:16, 21).  Lehi knew too well:  "That an angel . . . had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God" and then proceeded to administer temptation, deception, and misery to the human race.  (2 Nephi 2:17-18).

Do you observe any evidence for a tangible, real, more-than-theoretical devil in our midst?  Is the world full of misery?  Who wants a world like that?  But we are consumed with wickedness all around, which leads many to conclude there is no god because of evil's very presence.  Satan's system works like a fine-oiled machine, and that's why he's so smug about his boasts that he rules here (see 1 Nephi 13:29; John 12:31; 14:30).

We don't have to play with him, however.  We can overcome our own weaknesses through repentance.  The invitation is extended to ALL, not just a few who are chosen:  "God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me."  (3 Nephi 11:32). 

We all have golden opportunities to repent every Sunday as we partake the emblems in token of his death at the sacrament table.  "The days of the children of men were prolonged, according to will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh," all living in "a state of probation, and their time was lengthened," to give them every possible chance, for otherwise "they were lost."  (2 Nephi 2:21, italics mine).  So the task before us is simple:  "All men must repent" and then keep repenting as long as we live.

Would anyone discount the need?  We see each other's sins with such perfect 20-20 vision, don't we?

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."  (2 Nephi 2:25).  Humans, "redeemed from the fall, . . . have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, . . . free according to the flesh; . . . free to choose liberty and eternal life, . . . or to choose captivity and [eternal] death" in the power of one who "seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself."  (2 Nephi 2:26-27).  He has that "power to captivate" because we give it to him.  (2 Nephi 2:29).

The plan of salvation (it should be obvious) compels participation.  We're supposed to get involved.  It's more than theological, theoretical gas.  To think otherwise would be like Heavenly Father instructing us to come down here, play in the gutter and then command us never to get mud on our pants and our skirts.  Of course we get muddy, and the commandment is to clean up in the blood of His Son!

We are "invited and enticed" from both sides.  We are compelled to declare ourselves.  Unlike the legislative bodies among men, it is not enough to vote "present."  We choose one side or the other and we are all accountable for those choices every day.

King Benjamin offers counsel on how to "play" best in mortality.  He says there is no other salvation to look for and no other conditions for achieving it.  (Mosiah 4:8).  First, "believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things."  He suggests we are naturally inclined (because of our noble parentage) to "believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."  (Mosiah 4:9). 

Further:  "Always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily."  (Mosiah 4:11, italics mine).

Too tall an order?  He promises:  "If ye do this ye shall always rejoice."  (Mosiah 4:12, italics mine). 

I've always thought if "nothingness" seems a rather low estimate of the human race, we have lots of evidence from the most honest and enlightened ones (the General Authorities) who confirm it routinely at Conference time, and the rebellious and wicked ones (political hacks, liars, cheats and thieves and all their ilk) who are the most cynical and disparaging of all.

Lehi explains if we approach the Lord with "a broken heart and contrite spirit," we can make a case for our own salvation, "and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered."  (2 Nephi 2:7).  This puts an end to legalisms and endless litigation between the parties in the debate about who shall obtain salvation, doesn't it?  It's hard to fake "a broken heart and a contrite spirit," as any bishop will tell you.  You cannot discuss dispassionately that condition of heart and spirit.  My bishop's desk was always was well-equipped with Kleenex.  Our calling as missionaries:  "How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth."  (2 Nephi 2:8).  After all, it's really, really good news!!

Some dread thoughts of the final judgment, but that is not its purpose.  Our expectations must be anchored in joy, expecting that "happiness which is affixed" to the law and which is the final purpose or end "of the atonement."  (2 Nephi 2:10).

Who doesn't want to be "one with the Father," which obviously is completely beyond our present capacity?  Only the Son, our Savior and Redeemer, can help.  So Lehi tells us:  "Look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments."  (2 Nephi 2:28).  He will tell us just what to do, for he is anxious to help us.  He wants us.  He loves us.  "Be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit."  (2 Nephi 2:28, italics mine).  The Holy Ghost, that other Mediator and the other Comforter, who comes to take over when the Lord is absent, sends assurances in all of this. 

"Redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah," Lehi tells his son, "for he is full of grace and truth."  (2 Nephi 2:6).  Is there anything greater than that hope and that knowledge?

Think about it.  To be full of grace is everything good that you can possibly conceive of.  It is a perfect combination -- the total sum of love, charity, cheer, hope and joy.  It is everything there is to be cheerful about and grateful for, and it is boundless love without any mental reservation, self-interest, or ulterior motive.  It is NOTHING that is false or untrue.  It is all real, tangible, knowable and discernable -- all possible because Christ is full of grace and truth.

Perhaps one of our most useful segments in the Standard Works attesting to the power of the atonement is found in John:14-17.  John advocates for a literal atonement.  It is real.

It is worthy of note that John is the only New Testament character besides the Lord who is named in The Book of Mormon.  Bible scholars uniformly concur that John is the most "spiritual" book in the Bible, instructing us in things that are true, but they would insert one proviso -- without it being real.  It is true that John is the most "other-worldly" of books, but it is also the most literal.

John himself testifies to "that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life."  (1 John 1:1).  And it is John who reports what the Lord said on the subject: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness."  (John 3:11).  "And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony."  (John 3:32, italics mine above).

John expects us to take literally what he says.  He saw, he heard, he touched, he testified.

In his matchless intercessory prayer, "Jesus raised his eyes to the sky and said, Father, the hour has come.  Glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee; . . . thou hast given him authority over all flesh so that everything thou gavest him, he can give to them, namely, eternal life."  (John 17:1-2).  "So now Father, glorify me in thy presence [or by your side] with the glory I had in your presence before the world existed."  (John 17:5).

Where were we then?  We were there:  "They were thine, and thou hast given them to me; . . . now they know that all that thou hast given me comes from thee."  (John 17:6-7).  I've had a front row seat to many of the world's most stunning developments during my lifetime in mortality, but I suspect none stunned me more than as an eyewitness to the literal atonement, even though I was participating from the vantage point of the spirit world.  Is that any less real because it is in the spirit? 

"I am asking for their sake: I do not plead for the world [those who refuse to repent and acknowledge the atonement], but for those whom thou gavest me, because they are thine, and everything that is thine is also mine, and I am glorified in them."  (John 17:9-10, italics mine).  "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me."  (John 17:11).  That's the way it reads in the King James Version, but in the Greek text there is no direct object "whom," and the word tereo can mean to "test by observation or trial."  (Regarding tereo, see Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 1789).

So now we see it, the literal sense in which we are one, the true "at-one-ment."  As to the ordinances on earth, paraphrasing slightly, "When I was with them I tested them in the name by which thou didst endow me, and they have kept the secret and not one of them has been destroyed except the son of perdition, that the scriptures may be fulfilled" (see John 17:12).  "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am of the world."  (John 17:14).  "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."  (John 17:22-23

John cannot possibly be mistaken or misinterpreted, can he?  We are endowed ("initiated, completed") to make us one with the Father and the Son, "so have I also sent them into the world."  (John 17:18).  Our commission as disciples of Jesus Christ is to do as He has done with His name and in His name.  "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."  (John 17:20-21).

Was the world, then, to be universally converted?  No, says John, but they all have to be given a chance:  "Ye are of our father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.  Which of you convinceth me of sin?  And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?"  (John 8:44-46).

John reminds us of the premortal drama:  "If God were your Father, you would love me: for I proceedeth forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me."  (John 8:42, italics mine).  That word sent is very literal -- sent from somewhere to somewhere.  Time, space and place are involved here.

All the references to time, space and place are meant to convey precisely what they presuppose -- it's all real.  "These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. . .  Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away and come again unto you.  If ye loved me, ye would rejoice [they are sorrowing because they do not understand it], because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. . . Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."  (John 14:25, 28, 30, italics mine).

How are we to avoid seeing the whole atonement in the other world when we read, "Father, concerning what thou hast given me, what I want is that wherever I am they too might be with me that they might behold my glory which thou gavest me, because thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world."  (John 17:24). They are going back to that premortal glory.  "And I have made known to them thy name, and I shall make known that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them as I also in them."  (John 17:26).

There are more than a dozen enlightening discourses on the atonement in The Book of Mormon, but the word atonement occurs only once in the New Testament.  (For example, see 2 Nephi 2; 9; Jacob 4; Mosiah 3-4; 12-16; Alma 5; 7:11-13; 34; 42; 3 Nephi 11:9-17; Ether 12; Moroni 7).  

Perhaps the most eloquent is also the shortest:  "I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest.  And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality; and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father.  Amen."  (Enos 1:27, italics mine).  It's literal.

Here's another witness to clear up the "mystery" of "blood atonement," this one from Amulek:

For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.
Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.  (Alma 34:9-16, italics mine).

I am well aware of all the quotations about blood atonement made by early Church leaders.  A simple Google search on the term will yield a plethora if you are not yet educated on the topic.  However, the hypotheticals posited (and that's all they are) in those early statements revolve around such a small segment of possibilities it is hardly worth discussing.  What is required to qualify as a "son of perdition" is so egregious, extreme and extraordinary that one need never spend a fleeting moment considering the possibility.  (See TPJS, 358).  It's a discussion as pointless and ridiculous as estimating the number of angels that could perch on the head of a pin.

The statement cited at the top of this post summarizes the correct view of "blood atonement" as enunciated by today's living prophets. 

Let not your hearts be troubled about anything else.  Once understood, the true doctrines of salvation as taught in today's Church harmonize perfectly.

2010 Utah GOP State Convention Delegates

Because of the failure of the main stream media to accurately report in any kind of scientific way about the caucus process and the selection of delegates to the state nominating conventions, I am offerng this post to clear up the persistent claims (and I believe they are false claims) about the makeup of the 2010 Utah GOP State Nominating Convention delegates. 

The prevailing claims we have been reading in the press locally and nationally can be summarized this way:  The 3500 elected delegates were, 1) rabid, wild-eyed conservative nut jobs; 2) they were not representative of the larger electorate; and 3) were political activists seen as "hired guns" motivated by extremist groups outside Utah to bring down Senator Bennett.

One of the "perks" (if you can view it as such) of being a state delegate this year has been participation in all the collected polling data.  As a sidebar footnote, the most intelligent questions I was asked in this pre-convention season came from a surprising source -- students at Riverton High School, whose Social Studies teacher crafted a series of questions and then had his students make the calls to the elected delegates.  I was impressed more with that poll than any of the others in which I participated with the possible exception of what follows, clearly the most accurate and scientific.

Because few if any of the general public would ever know about what BYU professor, J. Quin Monson, Ph.D., Associate Director Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, actually does for a living, I am sharing the results of his pre and post-convention delegate surveys that were provided to me as a participant.

About the Survey

The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (CSED) conducts an ongoing Internet survey of Utah voters entitled the Utah Voter Poll (UVP).  In May of 2010, CSED conducted a special edition of the UVP by surveying Republican state convention delegates with a pre and post-convention survey.  The pre-convention survey was in the field between May 3rd and May 7th. The post-convention survey was open between May 12th and May 19th.

Pre-Convention Survey Methodology

CSED used a list of delegates, their mailing addresses, and their email addresses to invite individuals to participate in the online survey. 

CSED faculty collaborated on the design of the online survey instrument.  On May 3rd, email invitations containing a link to the survey were sent to the 2,625 state delegates whose email addresses were available.  Two-hundred and twenty-one emails were returned as undeliverable.  Forty-one of the returned emails contained obvious errors in the email address that were corrected and placed back in the sample.  Invitation emails were sent to the corrected email addresses on May 4th.  On May 5th, a reminder email was sent to encourage delegates to complete the survey.  A total of 2,445 state delegates were an email invitation prior to the convention.  (The reminder email was mistakenly sent to all delegates instead of only to those who had not yet completed the survey.  CSED researchers used a duplicate case function in SPSS software to identify and remove the duplicates.)

To reach state delegates who did not make their email address available, CSED sent 845 survey invitation letters by first-class mail on May 3, 2010.  Each letter contained a unique survey ID number to be used to gain access to the survey.  As of May 24th, 17 letters were returned to CSED after failing to reach delegates.  A total of 828 delegates received invitations to take the survey before the convention. Delegates who participated in the survey after receiving an invitation in the mail were invited to participate in a follow-up post-convention survey and then asked to provide their email addresses.

Data were collected as respondents accessed the online survey from May 3rd at 4:00 P.M. to May 7th at midnight.

Pre-Convention Response Rate and Margin of Error

The response rate for the pre-convention Utah Republican State Delegate Survey was 40.7%.  The delegates who received email invitations to take the survey responded at a significantly higher rate (47.2%) than those who received the mail invitation (21.3%).

Response rate calculation:

Total mail and email addresses provided: 3,470
Total valid email addresses that received survey invitations: 2,445
Total valid mail addresses that received survey invitations: 828
Total accessed surveys from email invitations: 1155
Total accessed surveys from mail invitations: 176
Response rate from email invitations: 1,155/2,445 = 47.2%
Response rate from mail invitations: 176/828 = 21.3%
Overall response rate: 1,331/3,273 = 40.7%
The margin of error for a sample of 1,331 of a population of 3,470 is about ± 2.11%.

Post-Convention Survey Methodology

CSED researchers also collaborated on the design of the post-convention survey.  Comments from the delegates received on the pre-convention survey were informative in this process.

On May 12, 2010, a post-convention survey invitation was sent via email to 1,298 delegates who completed the pre-convention survey.  Not all pre-convention survey participants were invited to participate in the post-convention survey because email invitations were sent only to respondents whose email addresses were on the first list or to those who provided them directly to CSED during the pre-convention survey.  Mail invitations to participate in the post-convention survey were not sent.

A total of 1,096 delegates accessed the survey, and 1,079 delegates completed it between 5:30 P.M. on May 12th and 1:00 A.M. on May 20, 2010.

Post-Convention Response Rate and Margin of Error

Only delegates who responded to the pre-convention survey were invited to complete the postconvention survey.  The post-convention survey cooperation rate was 84.4% (1,096/1,298).  The response rate based on the original population is 33.5% (1,096/3,273).  The margin of error for a sample of 1,096 of a population of 3,273 is about ± 2.45%.


The convention was really a race between four viable candidates:  Bob Bennett, Tim Bridgewater, Cherilyn Eagar, and Mike Lee.  Going into the convention Lee held a commanding lead among the delegates:

Lee -- 38.9%
Bennett -- 22.7%
Bridgewater -- 22.7%
Eagar -- 11.8%

After the first vote at the convention, the actual results were:

Lee -- 28.8%
Bridgewater -- 26.8%
Bennett -- 25.9%
Eagar -- 15.8%

The post-convention survey questions included an option for those who did not cast a ballot.  The percentages have been adjusted here to reflect only the responses of survey participants who reported casting a ballot:

Lee -- 30.7%
Bridgewater -- 27.0%
Bennett -- 25.4%
Eagar -- 14.1%

Myth Busting

Most media reports about the caucuses and nominating convention would have us believe the caucus system is somehow "broken" because it was skewed in favor of first-timers who "took over" the caucus meetings and "bullied" their way into being elected.  The facts say otherwise:

Only 23% of the delegates elected were first-time caucus participants.

Not surprising to me, 33.4% of elected state delegates had attended more than six neighborhood caucuses in the past.

Interestingly, 662 of the delegates (50.7% of the respondents to the survey) were elected as state delegates for the first time.  What that tells me is that "passive" caucus participants in the past became more motivated this year.  I've been a state delegate many times before in the past in a different precinct, but this year I was certainly more motivated than ever before.  948 (72.5%) went with the sole intention of being elected as a state delegate.  I was one in that number.

It was widely reported by the media that so-called straw polls were being conducted in the caucus meetings to ascertain the "sense of the caucus" about who favored which candidates, but the respondents in the survey clearly refuted that false claim -- 82% said there were no straw polls.  66% said they did not believe they were obligated one way or the other to vote for a particular candidate, again refuting the widespread media reports that the caucuses were requiring litmus tests to oust Bennett.

The vote was split in the survey about whether or not they told their caucus who they intended to vote for.  50.6% said they declared their support for a candidate at the caucus, 48.1% said they did not.

Over 90% of the delegates surveyed strongly opposed three hot-button issues:  Economic stimulus bills, Obamacare, and "cap-and-trade" designed to limit greenhouse gases and address climate change.  98% said things in the country have gotten "pretty seriously" off track.

The "favorable rating" data are interesting.  Going into the convention the delegates stacked up their preferences this way:

Mike Lee -- 73.11%
Tim Bridgewater -- 72.81%
Cherilyn Eagar -- 61.56%
Bob Bennett -- 42.11%

With less than 50% favorable, Bennett was in deep trouble.

Bennett thought he was "done hard by" those favoring the Tea Party movement.  But Tea Party advocates were only 42%, those not advocating Tea Party positions balanced off their influence at 42%, with 15% having no opinion one way or the other, again busting the myth that the Tea Party advocates dominated the "dump Bennett" sentiment.  75% of delegates reported they had given no money to the Tea Party or any of its organizations.  62% felt it's more important to have policies that adhere to Constitutional principles rather than crafting policies to solve pressing national issues.  74% wanted to see less government intervention in our lives.

95% use the Internet more than once a day.  75% were males.  64% were over age 45.  Only 62% considered themselves as "strong Republicans," with the others leaning more moderate or independent.  63% considered themselves as "strongly conservative," while 35% said they were "moderately conservative."  36% were college graduates and 39% held post-graduate degrees.  90% of the delegates were Mormons.  88.8% considered themselves "very active" Mormons.  95% were White/Caucasian.  92% were married.  79% made more than $55,000 a year.

Bob Bennett can only conclude he was "eaten" by his own kin when you drill down on these data points.

Post-convention Results

86% reported they were "satisfied" or "very satisified" with their convention experience.  73% liked the outcome of the final voting in the U.S. Senate race.  70% said the caucus system should not be changed.  71% believe the present system allows candidates with little or no financial backing to compete fairly against more well-heeled candidates.  95% wanted to be re-elected as delegates in the future.

50% of the delegates saw the controversial "who represents Utah values" flyer before the convention.  35% assumed it came from Lee's camp (it did not).  75% thought it was offensive.

If you would like to see the whole study, click here.