Monday, August 30, 2010

Chad Hymas -- Generosity of Spirit

My life has been blessed once again today by being with Chad Hymas

For the second time in only a few months, we were privileged to sit at his feet and be taught.  The first time he came and spoke, he was given a standing ovation.  Today, he would have none of it.  He scolded us for clapping for him at his introduction.  Chad will be the first to tell you, "It's not about me." 

Each time Chad has come to speak to our Monday morning Professional Networking Group at the LDS Business College, he has left us pondering so many valuable life lessons it is difficult for me to summarize them all in the few minutes he has spent addressing us.

He shatters all the myths associated with the job search.  Whatever difficulties our candidates are facing, they pale by comparison to what Chad must deal with every morning of his life.  Unassisted, he has driven into the city from his ranch to be with us.  I know he got up a lot earlier than I did this morning.  But you won't hear a word of complaint from Chad. 

He chooses to soar on the wings of his generous spirit instead of being earthbound.  And he lifts others to the same majestic heights.

The life lesson he embodies most, it seems to me, is his generosity of spirit.  He exudes lovingkindness.  It was King David who defined its use:  "Thy loving-kindness, O Lord, is in the Heavens, Thy faithfulness reaches unto the skies. Thy righteousness is like the mighty mountains; Thy judgments are like the great deep; man and beast Thou preserveth, O Lord, How precious is Thy Loving kindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou makest them drink of the river of Thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light do we see light. O continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know Thee; and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart." (Psalm 36:5-10). 

Chad is a quadriplegic, but that obvious limitation has seemingly helped his spirit develop in ways that transcend the physical dimensions. 

Today he spoke of time.  The greatest gift we give to each other, he said, is our time.  We validate another's existence when we give our time to one another.  It's not about us, he emphasized, it's about them.  He is quick to point out the painful ways he learned that lesson from two people -- Melanie and his father.  But he learned it well, and now inspires others with his lesson. 

When we say we don't have time for (fill in the blank here), what we are saying is that our spirit lacks the largesse of spirit Heavenly Father is trying to bestow upon us. 

I know Chad didn't say it in these words, but the Spirit whispered to me while I listened, "David, I have given you so much of My time -- lots of it -- hoping to develop you into the man you are today.  And I have been patient with you, oh, so patient with the harvest I have waited so long to reap in you." 

Then, I hear Him gently nudging me, "Please go and do likewise with others. . ." 

I felt so many times today while I listened to Chad speak that I have robbed God because of the stingy nature I possess.  My time is valuable, I have said to myself.  I don't have time to serve, I have protested.  Each time I have extended myself, however, I feel expanded.  It's the very lesson Heavenly Father has been trying to develop in me.  Heavenly Father is helping me to learn greater generosity of spirit, but I have not been always been compelled to learn that lesson. 

That's why He has had to be so patient with me. 

Others are instinctive givers of themselves.  That's the way Patsy is.  She doesn't have to overthink it like I do.  She doesn't do the analysis in advance.  She just automatically defaults time and again, year after year, moment by moment to serving others selflessly and giving her time even when it's inconvenient. 

I have to do the calculations first, then I serve.  I have said before, I am a very slow learner.  When I have been so impatient with others, I cringe to think what Heavenly Father thinks of my feeble weak-kneed efforts when measured against His generosity with me. 

I am not nearly as generous of spirit as Chad Hymas and Patsy Goates.  I've never had a one-ton bale of hay fall on my head and crack my neck to awaken me to my sense of the need to share my time without complaint.

So tonight, I thank Chad for the reminder once again to be conscious of my opportunities to serve and to love everyone without the accompanying smallness of spirit I tend to exude. 

His fee for sharing his time with us today? 


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Marion G. Romney on Socialism

Because of the out-of-control rhetoric, all the charges and counter-charges about socialism being unleashed in these modern times, I thought it wise to reprint a talk given by President Marion G. Romney (former counselor in the First Presidency).  The subtleties between the Lord's way and Satan's way today seem to be so nuanced and blurry it may be useful to re-examine President Romney's clearcut distinctions when things were more easily viewed in black and white 44 years ago.

With pinpoint accuracy, President Romney describes exactly what is being implemented today in America.  The unthinkable seems to have overtaken us, the very conditions President Romney warned about.  By understanding the comparisons between freedom and tyranny in all their carefully shaded hues, one can discern why taking steps to reclaim the government "for the people, by the people and of the people" this November is job one in America.

He compares and contrasts the Lord's way with Satan's way in this compelling exegesis on the topic.  The talk, hopefully, will be useful to all, even if you weren't at BYU on the day he gave it.  I was one year out of high school, and had no appreciation for what he said then.  I certainly do today. 

Like all the prophets before and since, you can judge this prophetic insight by how much has happened exactly as he warned it might if left unchecked.  America in 2010, I believe, is finally awakening to an understanding of what has happened and why its reversal is paramount to our survival as a free nation under God.  Enjoy.

* * *


An address delivered to Brigham Young University student body March 1, 1966.
President Marion G. Romney

I have been asked to direct these remarks to the question: Is socialism the United Order?


Perhaps an appropriate first step in comparing socialism and the United Order would be to define the terms.

Webster defines socialism as:

A political and economic theory of social organization based on collective or governmental ownership and democratic management of the essential means for the production and distribution of goods; also, a policy or practice based on this theory (Webster's New International Dictionary, 2d ed., unabridged, 1951).

George Bernard Shaw, the noted Fabian Socialist, says that

socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property and the division of the resultant income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1943 ed., 295).

George Douglas Howard Cole, M.A., noted author and university reader in economics at Oxford, who treats socialism for the Encyclopedia Britannica, says that because of the shifting sense in which the word has been used,

a short and comprehensive definition is . . . impossible. We can only say [he concludes] that Socialism is essentially a doctrine and a movement aiming at the collective organization of the community in the interest of the mass of people by means of the common ownership and collective control of the means of production and exchange (Encyclopedia Britanica, vol. 20).

Socialism arose "out of the economic division in society." During the nineteenth century its growth was accelerated as a protest against "the appalling conditions prevailing in the workshops and factories and the unchristian spirit of the spreading industrial system."

The "communist manifesto" drafted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, for the Communist League . . . in . . . 1848 is generally regarded as the starting point of modern socialism (Ibid.).


The distinction between Socialism, as represented by the various Socialist and Labour Parties of Europe and the new world, and Communism, as represented by the Russians, is one of tactics and strategy rather than of objective. Communism is indeed only Socialism pursued by revolutionary means and making its revolutionary method a canon of faith. Communists, like other Socialists, (1) believe in the collective control and ownership of the vital means of production, and (2) seek to achieve, through state action the co-ordinated control of the economic forces of society. They differ from other Socialists in believing that this control can be secured, and its use in the interests of the workers ensured, only by revolutionary action leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the creation of a new proletarian state as the instrument of change (Ibid.).


A major rift between so-called orthodox socialism and communist socialism occurred in 1875 when the German Social Democratic Party set forth its objective of winning power by taking over control of the bourgeois state, rather than by overthrowing it. In effect, the German Social Democratic Party became a parliamentary party, aiming at the assumption of political power by constitutional means.

In the 1880's a small group of intellectuals set up in England the Fabian Society, which has had a major influence on the development of modern orthodox socialism. Fabianism stands "for the evolutionary conception of socialism . . . endeavoring by progressive reforms and the nationalization of industries, to turn the existing state into a `welfare state.'" Somewhat on the order of the German Social Democrats, Fabians aim "at permeating the existing parties with socialistic ideas [rather] than at creating a definitely socialistic party." They appeal "to the electorate not as revolutionaries, but as constitutional reformers seeking a peaceful transformation of the system" (Ibid.).

The differences in forms and policies of socialism occur principally in the manner in which they seek to implement their theories.

They all advocate:

1. That private ownership of the vital means of production be abolished and that all such property "pass under some form of co-ordinated public control."

2. That the power of the state be used to achieve their aims.

3. That with a change in the control of industry will go a change in the motives which operate in the industrial system.

So much now for the definition of socialism.


The United Order, the Lord's program for eliminating the inequalities among men, is based upon the underlying concept that the earth and all things therein belong to the Lord and that men hold earthly possessions as stewards accountable to God.

On January 2, 1831, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Church was under obligation to care for the poor (see D&C 38). Later he said,

I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth,. . . and all things therein are mine.
And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
But it must needs be done in mine own way (D&C 104:14-16).


On February 9, 1831, the Lord revealed to the Prophet what His way was (see D&C 42). In his way there were two cardinal principles: (1) consecration and (2) stewardship.

To enter the United Order, one consecrated all his possessions to the Church by a "covenant and deed which" could "not be broken." That is, he completely divested himself of all of his property by conveying it to the Church.

Having thus voluntarily divested himself of title to all his property, the consecrator received from the Church a stewardship by a like conveyance. This stewardship could be more or less than his original consecration, the object being to make "every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs" (D&C 51:3).


This procedure preserved in every man the right to private ownership and management of his property. At his own option he could alienate it or keep and operate it and pass it on to his heirs.

The intent was, however, for him to so operate his property as to produce a living for himself and his dependents. So long as he remained in the order he consecrated to the Church the surplus he produced above the needs and wants of his family. This surplus went into a storehouse, from which stewardships were given to others and from which the needs of the poor were supplied.


These divine principles are very simple and easily understood. A comparison of them with the underlying hallmarks of socialism reveal similarities and basic differences.

The following are similarities: Both (1) deal with production and distribution of goods, (2) aim to promote the well-being of men by eliminating their economic inequalities, and (3) envision the elimination of the selfish motives in our private capitalistic industrial system.

Now the differences:

1. The cornerstone of the United Order is belief in God and acceptance of him as Lord of the earth and the author of the United Order. 

Socialism, wholly materialistic, is founded in the wisdom of men, and not of God. Although all socialists may not be atheists, none of them in theory or practice seek the Lord to establish his righteousness.

2. The United Order is implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men, evidenced by a consecration of all their property to the Church of God.

Socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state.

3. As to property, the Church believes "that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life" (D&C 134:2).

In harmony with this doctrine, the United Order preserves the rights of private ownership and individual management of property.

Thus in both implementation and ownership and management of property, the United Order preserves to men their God-given agency, while socialism deprives them of it.

4. The United Order is non-political.

Socialism is political, both in theory and in practice. It is thus exposed to, and riddled by, the corruption which plagues and finally destroys all political governments which undertake to abridge man's agency.

5. A righteous people is a prerequisite to the United Order.

Socialism argues that it, as a system, will eliminate the evils of the profit motive.


The United Order exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and humiliating limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by consecration and by imparting of their surplus for the benefit of the poor, not by constraint, but willingly as an act of free will, evidence that charity for their fellowmen characterized by Mormon as "the pure love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47).

No, socialism is not the United Order. Distinguishing between these two systems need be no more difficult than solving the problem of the farmer who could not tell one of his horses from the other. They weighed the same, pulled the same load, ran at the same speed; from the looks of their teeth they were the same age. Finally, as a last resort, he measured them, and, sure enough, the white horse was six hands higher than the black one.


Notwithstanding my abhorrence of it, I am persuaded that socialism is the wave of the present and of the foreseeable future. It has already taken over or is contending for control in most nations.

At the end of the year [1965] parties affiliated with the [Socialist] International were in control of the governments of Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Israel, and the Malagasy Republic. They had representatives in coalition cabinets in Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Italy, Luxemborg, and Switzerland; constituted the chief opposition in France, India, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and West Germany; and were significant political forces in numerous other countries. Many parties dominant in governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America announced that their aim was a socialist society (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1965 Book of the Year, 736).


We here in the United States, in converting our government into a social welfare state, have ourselves adopted much of socialism. Specifically, we have to an alarming degree adopted the use of the power of the state in the control and distribution of the fruits of industry. We are on notice, according to the words of the president [Lyndon B. Johnson], that we are going much farther, for he is quoted as saying:

"We're going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the 'haves' and give it to the 'have nots.'" (Congressional Record, March 24, 1964).

That is the spirit of socialism: "We're going to take." It isn't the spirit of "We're going to give."


We have also gone a long way on the road to public ownership and management of the vital means of production. In both of these areas the free agency of Americans has been greatly abridged. Some argue that we have voluntarily surrendered this power to government. Be this as it may, the fact remains that the loss of freedom with the consent of the enslaved, or even at their request, is nonetheless slavery.


As to the fruits of socialism, we all have our own opinions. I myself have watched its growth in our own country and observed it in operation in many other lands. But I have yet to see or hear of its freeing the hearts of men of selfishness and greed or of its bringing peace, plenty, or freedom. These things it will never bring, nor will it do away with idleness and promote "industry, thrift, and self-respect," for it is founded in theory and in practice on the principles of the evil one.


As to the fruits of the United Order, I suggest you read Moses 7:16-18 and 4 Nephi 2, 3, 15, 16. If we had time, we could review the history (what little we know) of Zion in the days of Enoch and about what happened among the Nephites under those principles of the United Order in the first two centuries following the time of the Savior.


Now what can we do about it?

As I recently reminded my wife of the moratorium on the United Order — that socialism is taking over in the nations and that its expressed aims will surely fail — she spiritedly put to me the question: "Well, then, what would you suggest? That we just sit on our hands in despair and do nothing?" Perhaps similar questions have occurred to you. The answer is, "No. By no means!" We have much to do, and the Lord has definitely prescribed the course we should follow with respect to socialism and the United Order.


He has told us that in preparation for the restoration of the gospel, he himself established the Constitution of the United States that there might be a government which "according to just and holy principles" would preserve to men their God-given agency. This he did because the whole gospel of Jesus Christ presupposes man's untrammeled exercise of free agency. Man is on the earth to be tested. The issue as to whether he succeeds or fails will be determined by how he uses this agency. His whole future, through all eternity, is at stake. Abridge man's agency, and the whole purpose of his mortality is thwarted. Without it, the Lord says, there is no existence (see D&C 93:30). The Lord so valued our agency that he designed and dictated "the laws and constitution" required to guarantee it. This he explained in the revelation in which he instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith to appeal for help:

According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. . . .
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose (D&C 101:77, 78, 80).

Previously he had said:

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


These scriptures reveal the fact that the Constitution is a divine document. They tell us that "according to just and holy principles" the Constitution and "the law of the land which supports the principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before" God; that, "as pertaining to the law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil." They remind us that the Lord has made us free, and that laws which are constitutional will also make us free.


Right at this point, almost as if he were warning us against what is happening today, the Lord said: "Nevertheless, when the wicked rule, the people mourn." Then, that we might know with certainty what we should do about it, he concluded: "Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold."


In its context, this instruction can only mean that we should seek diligently for and support men to represent us in government who are "wise" enough to understand freedom — as provided for in the Constitution and as implemented in the United Order — and who are honest enough and good enough to fight to preserve it.

"Under no other government in the world could the Church have been established," said President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and he continued:

"If we are to live as a Church, and progress, and have the right to worship as we are worshiping here today, we must have the great guarantees that are set up by our Constitution. There is no other way in which we can secure these guarantees." (Conference Report, October 1942, 59).


Now, not forgetting our duty to eschew socialism and support the just and holy principles of the Constitution, as directed by the Lord, I shall conclude these remarks with a few comments concerning what we should do about the United Order.

The final words of the Lord in suspending the order were: "And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption" (D&C 105:34).

Further implementation of the order must therefore await the redemption of Zion. Here Zion means Jackson County, Missouri. When Zion is redeemed, as it most certainly shall be, it will be redeemed under a government and by a people strictly observing those "just and holy principles" of the Constitution which accord to men their God-given moral agency, including the right to private property. If, in the meantime, socialism takes over in America, it will have to be displaced, if need be, by the power of God, because the United Order can never function under socialism or "the welfare state" for the good and sufficient reason that the principles upon which socialism and the United Order are conceived and operated are in opposition.


In the meantime, while we await the redemption of Zion and the earth and the establishment of the United Order, we as Latter-day Saints should live strictly by the principles of the United Order insofar as they are embodied in present Church practices, such as fast offering, tithing, and welfare activities. Through these practices we could as individuals, if we were of a mind to, implement in our own lives all the basic principles of the United Order.

Let me give you some examples. You remember the principles underlying the United Order are consecration and stewardships and then the contribution of surpluses into the bishop's storehouse. When the law of tithing was instituted four years after the United Order experiment was suspended, the Lord required the people to put "all their surplus property . . . into the hands of the bishop" (D&C 119:1) thereafter they were to "pay one-tenth of their interest annually" (D&C 119:4). This law, still in force, implements to a degree at least the United Order principle of stewardships, for it leaves in the hands of each person the ownership and management of the property from which he produces the needs of himself and family. Furthermore, to use again the words of President Clark:

"In lieu of residues and surpluses which were accumulated and built up under the United Order, we today, have our fast offerings, our welfare donations, and our tithing, all of which may be devoted to care of the poor, as well as the carrying on of the activities and business of the Church.

"Furthermore, we had under the United Order a bishop's storehouse in which were collected the materials from which to supply the needs and the wants of the poor. We have a bishop's storehouse under the welfare plan, used for the same purpose.

"We have now under the welfare plan all over the Church, . . . land projects . . . farmed for the benefit of the poor.

"Thus . . . in many of its great essentials, we have [in] the welfare plan . . . the broad essentials of the United Order. Furthermore, having in mind the assistance which is being given from time to time . . . to help set people up in business or in farming, we have a plan which is not essentially unlike that which was in the United Order when the poor were given portions from the common fund (Conference Report, October 1942, 57-58).

It is thus apparent that when the principles of tithing and the fast are properly observed and the welfare plan gets fully developed and wholly into operation, we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order. The only limitation on you and me is within ourselves.

And now in line with these remarks, for three things I pray:

1. That the Lord will somehow quicken our understanding of the differences between socialism and the United Order and give us a vivid awareness of the awful portent of those differences.

2. That we will develop the understanding, the desire, and the courage, born of the Spirit, to eschew socialism and support and sustain, in the manner revealed and as interpreted by the Lord, those just and holy principles embodied in the Constitution of the United States for the protection of all flesh in the exercise of their God-given agency.

3. That through faithful observance of the principles of tithing, the fast, and the welfare program, we will prepare ourselves to redeem Zion and ultimately live the United Order.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

* * *

President Barack Obama has warned in recent weeks (really, ever since he took office) that stripping him of his Democrat majority in both Houses of Congress would ensure a return to the "failed policies" of George W. Bush.  Well, let me say this about that:  No one is advocating a return to the profligate spending habits of Congress under George W. Bush's administration, and I have certainly taken the position on these pages that TARP was a mistake of disastrous proportions under George W. Bush. 

I don't care what party prevails in November.  Instead, I want independent thinking patriots who will stop the spending madness in the name of socialism, even if it means the systematic dismantling of now the "Big Four" entitlements:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare. 

I could care less whether the patriots we elect are Democrats or Republicans.

P.S.  President Marion G. Romney was a registered Democrat.

Utah Digging Out of Recession

The Associated Press August 24, 2010, 8:14AM ET


Utah is adding jobs faster than it is losing them for the first time in several years, state economists said Monday.

Utah's unemployment rate remained steady at 7.2 percent in July amid signs the state is digging itself out of the recession.

Utah added 17,200 jobs over the past year, with the state work force expanding by 1.5 percent to 1.19 million jobs, according to the state Department of Workforce Services.

The recovery, however, is slow. And the unemployed are filing more than 2,000 jobless claims a week, double the historic average, said Mark Knold, chief economist of the Department of Workforce Services.

Those claims were as high as 5,000 a week at the start of 2009.

Signs of job growth are encouraging, although the survey data is subject to revision and could backslide, Knold said.

Utah is still playing catch-up. About 75,000 jobs have been removed from the state economy over the past three years, he said.

Three of Utah's economic sectors are still showing net job losses -- manufacturing, construction and government.

Knold said the construction sector could stabilize by year's end. Utah has lost a third of its construction jobs since July 2007, and it could take another 10 years before the state returns to the previous high mark in that industry, he said.

During the recession, Utah manufacturers scaled back employment by 4,100 positions to 20,000 -- the worst-hit industry in the state, Knold said.

Other employment sectors made modest gains over the past year.

The department said nearly 98,000 people in Utah were considered unemployed in July.

Utah's July unemployment rate was well below the national figure of 9.5 percent.

* * *

Now that school has begun and the fall season is upon us, we have a better handle on what the unemployment situation is.  I'm using the number of attendees at our Monday morning networking meeting as the gauge here.  Last January the room where we meet was filled to overflowing.  We were seeing around 175 -180 participants every Monday monring.  I have joked that we would only hold that meeting for as long as it took to get the numbers down to the size where we could meet in a phone booth.

The drop since January has been gratifying.  We've got the only job in the Church I know of where you succeed if no one shows up for the meeting. . .  For the last several months we have seen the number of participants decline to 70 or 80 each week.

Even when David Checketts was our featured speaker a couple of weeks ago and I expected to see some "ringers" who weren't really unemployed show up to hear him speak, the number only ticked up slightly to 95.  A year ago, David spoke to a standing-room-only audience in excess of 200.  His stake in New Canaan, Connecticut, had 120 heads of household out of work last year.  This year he reported that number is down to 10.  Despite what the gloomy national statistics are telling us, improvement is discernable and real but still slower than necessary.

Growth is slow because of government intervention.  Get government out of the way and the economy will take off.  Free markets hate uncertainty, and no one has injected more uncertainty into the equation more than the President of the United States and his majority leadership in both Houses of Congress.  Force feeding a fast diet of economic fat fueled by debt, sugar-filled programs, regulatory bills filled with new agencies designed to bypass Congressional oversight and debate, coupled with expanded entitlement spending has been disastrous.

Despite all that, there is significant evidence I can point to that Utah is leading the way out of this recession.  Because Utah's constitution mandates balancing the budget each year, businesses here are hiring, growing and defying the odds.  The growth is slow but discernable and sustainable despite the malaise in evidence in other parts of the country.

There, I delivered some good news.  And there's more. . .

It was reported earlier in the week that 14 Utah businesses are in this year's list of the Inc. 500's fastest growing companies, further evidence Utah is rising above the recession doldrums.  Funding Universe leads the way in Utah at number 34.  And what's the business model for Funding Universe you ask?  Matching angel investors with budding entrepreneurs and their startup businesses. 

Now if we can just reverse the disturbing effects of socialism, entitlements, bailouts and handouts, we'll progress even faster.

David Brooks wrote a thoughtful piece in the New York Times this morning comparing Germany's approach to the financial crisis with America's.  Under conservative leadership in Germany, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany elected to spend significantly less on stimulus borrowing as a percentage of GNP, and their unemployment numbers are back down to pre-crisis levels.  Germany's economy is expanding right now at a blistering pace.  However, America's bloated experiment with massive debt and unbridled spending has frozen economic recovery by contrast.  Germany rejected the thinking of America's "best minds" on economics and has proven their case.  She has shown the example to America -- if you're the government, you can't borrow and spend your way out of a recession.  Hip, Hip, Hooray for capitalism, Ms. Merkel!!

Let's hope Americans have seen enough data to reverse course in November and follow the example of Germany.  I never thought those words would come out of my cyber pen, but there you go. . . America should take an economic lesson from Germany.   

Unthinkable. . . until now. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top Four Reasons Liberalism is Failing

I hate to be the messenger of bad news -- I'm always looking for the bright side.  However, there are hard data now emerging to suggest the liberal agenda advanced by President Barack Obama for the past eighteen months is failing miserably.  It isn't just your imagination.  I have been stunned -- more honestly AMAZED -- that we have been revisiting socialist ideas as the way to heal America's economy.  I thought we had grown up in our thinking.

But I digress.  Here are the top four reasons I'm seeing:

1.  The housing market is still in dire straits despite all the bailouts and the stimulus legislation that's been thrown at it.  Instead of the government trying to solve this problem, letting foreclosures proceed and the market finding its own bottom, the administration has actually slowed the readjustment in pricing by artificially trying to prop it up.  The first-time home buyer tax credit expired in July.  The result from this artificial "prop" to housing pricing was predictable, reaffirming we haven't found the bottom yet.  This week, the National Association of Realtors reported July sales of existing homes fell by 27 percent from June of this year and by 25.5 percent compared to July 2009.  The annual sales rate of 3.83 million homes, they stated, was the lowest since NAR began keeping track of sales in 1999.  Further, the Commerce Department reported July sales of new homes fell 12.4 percent from June and by 32.4 percent compared to July 2009.  The annual rate of 276,000 new units sold is the lowest since 1963, when government records were first kept.  The source of the plunge is no secret: July's numbers reflect the first month when existing home sales received no boost from the home buyer tax credit.

2.  New automobile sales are drying up after the ill-fated "Cash for Clunkers" program ended.  Again, it was an artificial "fix" that didn't fix anything.  New automobile sales tanked when the program ended.  General Motors' sales dropped 36 percent in September 2009 compared with August.  Ford collapsed by 37 percent, and Chrysler sales dropped by a similar percentage, 33 percent.  So who's benefiting in the car market?  It's not the manufacturers of new vehicles.  Used car sales have rocketed up this year, and your local mechanic is doing a land office business.  Because everyone's credit has been dinged, people are hanging on to their used cars and getting them repaired or buying a lower-priced used car.  It can be traced to the government's intrusion into the marketplace.  When does the government finally wake up to the reality that you can't provide a "free lunch" to everyone?  When you provide this grab bag of goodies with borrowed money from the Chinese, you don't create new wealth in the U.S.  All that happens is the government moves money around from one "pocket" to another, but nothing of value is being created.  It's Economics 101.  Unfettered markets would find the right places to put the money without a government-mandated program.

3.  Stimulus spending isn't stimulating much at all. Government spending does not stimulate economic growth. All it does is move resources away from one sector of the economy to another. Pick any "central government" in the world -- their track record for correctly and efficiently allocating resources is abysmal.  The USSR, with a GNP 1/6 the size of the U.S. economy in the 80s was outspending us in military spending 3:1.  We all know how Ronald Reagan exploited that disparity and convinced Mikail Gorbachev their priorities were going to bankrupt them.  All Reagan had to do to end the cold war was to convince them we were not the least bit interested in their destruction.  Remember "MAD?"  It was the acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction, and it was flawed.  When government attempts to allocate resources, jobs are lost, not created, in the shuffle and the transfer of the resources.  Why liberals can't see this simple fact is hard to fathom.  I was astounded back in February 2009, when I heard President Obama, say:  "This is not something that we're just doing to grow government. We're doing this because this is what the best minds tell us needs to be done." That statement is either naive or intentionally misleading.  Evidence from past history suggests exactly the opposite.  The "best minds" in today's administration must be dead wrong in their assumptions.  Forty-five years ago, when he was still Governor of California, Ronald Reagan asserted: "Anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we're always 'against' things — we're never 'for' anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so."  I told you he was the "common sense purveyor," remember?  You could lift that line right out of today's headlines -- "The Republicans are the party of 'No.'"  Things haven't changed much.

4.  The Home Affordable Modification Progam has been a dismal failure.  I was invited to participate in the program last year -- one year ago this month -- by making three months of reduced mortgage payments during a "trial period."  So I made the first three trial payments, then the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth without so much as a word about what was happening to my loan.  Finally, four months ago I was told I was approved for my modification, and to be sure to look for my new modified mortgage papers in the mail "within a matter of days."  You guessed it -- nothing yet, and we're now in the second year of waiting patiently for President Obama's rescue package.  Some stimulus.  At a meeting last week with leading economic bloggers, attended by Obama's economic advisor, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the program designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure was discussed.  Not surprisingly, the "best minds" in government judged "HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock."  Really?  Because it "helped banks" it's a success?  Really?  And what about the little people?  How's that been working out so far for all of you? 

Shocked at the admission that HAMP was meant to bail out banks and not help owners, Media Matters fellow Duncan Black wrote: "When Liberalism Doesn't Work It Discredits Liberalism." 

Liberalism is not working. Socialism is a failed experiment.  Charles Krauthammer weighed in on this topic in the Washington Post.  As usual, he nailed it on the head with even more ammunition than I've used here.  The sooner we leave it in our rearview mirror, the sooner the American economy can get back on track unaided by its government's "best minds." 

We'll find out in the coming months just how discredited it is in the eyes of the American people.  The best gauge you can watch is what happens in the mid-term elections on November 2nd.  And, yes, I AM wishing time away until then. . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"My Job Campaign" by Steve Asay

A few weeks ago we pulled out a small group of job seeking candidates at our weekly networking meeting for a focus group, seeking to improve our offering in the Professional Placement Program.  The feedback and insight we received from the participants was valuable, pointing us to creating a "roadmap" a candidate could follow in seeking their new employment opportunites. 

Many commented how great the Monday morning meeting was, and they appreciated the motivation and inspiration provided, but they felt they needed more guidance for what to do Tuesday through Friday.

What follows comes from the ever-creative and awesome mind of Steve Asay.  He has generously shared his thinking after reducing it to paper on Monday.

Steve has challenged all the candidates looking for new employment to give their families a wonderful Christmas gift -- secure employment before December 14, 2010.

He introduced an outline (see below) that if followed will produce the new job in four months: 

Month 1 – Week 1

 Identify tools needed for Campaign
o Telephone
o Computer
o Office/Place to Work
o Network of Contacts
o Resume
o Portfolio
o Website
o Blog
o Twitter
o Other

 Determine Values
o Type of positions willing to accept
o Salary range
o Benefits required
o Geography
o Time
o Travel
o Deal Breakers
o Other

 Initiate update of Resume and Portfolio

 Start 100 Cards networking list

 Create initial profile on

 Meet with your Ward leadership

Month 1 – Week 2

 Set Campaign objectives – BIG IDEA

 Begin Discovery Experiences
o Wise Wanderings Map
o StrengthsFinder 2.0

 Develop a list of 50 or more target companies for review

 Complete Career Workshop 1

 Determine who and invite Accountability Team to help

 Complete updated resume

 Continue Portfolio collection

 Complete profile on

 Form a Peer Team with other job candidates

 Perform Service Hours

Month 1 – Week 3

 Meet with member of Monday Professional Program Team
o Review Campaign objectives
o Demonstrate use of Power Statements
o Review resume
o Review profile
o Review portfolio
o Review Accountability Team

 Begin calls to 100 Cards

 Begin filtering 50 target companies through Wanderings and Strengths

 Test resume on CareerBuilder, Monster, etc

 Begin Informational Interviews

 Meet with Peer Team

 Report to Accountability Team

 Perform Service Hours

Month 1 – Week 4

 Continue calls to 100 Cards

 Update resume based on internet test

 Update profile based on internet test

 Network into target companies

 Add new target companies to maintain list at 25 minimum

 Continue Informational Interviews

 Complete video interview with Professional Program Team

 Accept and attend all job interviews from test

 Meet with Peer Team

 Report to Accountability Team

 Perform Service Hours

Month 2 – Weekly Activities

 Report to Accountability Team

 Meet with Peer Team

 Continue calls to 100 Cards

 Tract into at least 5 new companies each week

 Perform Service Hours

 Complete at least 10 interviews per week
o Job Interviews
o Informational Interviews

Month 2 – Monthly Activities

 Report progress to Ward leadership

 Meet with Professional Program Team for update and refinement of Campaign

 Complete Career Workshop 2

 Update objectives

 Build Action Plans for targeted companies
o Review Action Plans with Professional Program Team
o Implement Action Plans for targeted companies

 Complete a Second Interview practice with Professional Program Team

Month 3 – Weekly Activities

 Report to Accountability Team

 Meet with Peer Team

 Continue calls to 100 Cards

 Tract into at least 5 new companies each week

 Perform Service Hours

 Complete at least 10 interviews per week
o Job Interviews
o Informational Interviews

Month 3 – Monthly Activities

 Report progress to Ward leadership

 Meet with Professional Program Team for update and refinement of Campaign

 Refine resume

 Refine portfolio

 Update objectives

 Add new targeted companies

 Update Action Plans for targeted companies
o Review Action Plans with Professional Program Team
o Implement Action Plans for targeted companies

Month 4 – Weekly Activities

 Report to Accountability Team

 Meet with Peer Team

 Continue calls to 100 Cards

 Tract into at least 5 new companies each week

 Perform Service Hours

 Complete at least 15 interviews per week
o Job Interviews
o Informational Interviews

Month 4 – Monthly Activities

 Report progress to Ward leadership

 Meet with Professional Program Team for update and refinement of Campaign

 Refine resume

 Refine portfolio

 Update objectives

 Add new targeted companies

 Update Action Plans for targeted companies
o Review Action Plans with Professional Program Team
o Implement Action Plans for targeted companies

Monday, August 23, 2010

Multiply and Replenish

Earlier today, one of our sons forwarded a question from a friend about the temple endowment. In substance, the question was, “Why does God say multiply and Replenish the earth?”  As you know, I've written about this with Scott Strong before, but here are my thoughts today:

The First Commandment:

“Multiply and replenish.” Through the years, Mom and I have been accused of taking that first commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” totally upon ourselves without leaving room for anyone else. I promise that was never our intent. We were having our family back in the day when birth control pills were first introduced. We were warned by the world’s leading social scientists and astute demographers that if the birth rate continued unchecked mankind would run out of space on the planet.

Of course, this “zero population” movement we were exposed to in our young married life was nothing more than another of Satan’s lies.

Now all these years later, the cries of "overpopulation" and "the depletion of resources" are still as shrill as ever and it is taking its toll. I checked the Internet for the latest numbers to see what’s happened since the last time I checked. I know this may seem off topic from the question, but it is the very essence of the answer you seek.

The latest data from the Population Reference Bureau indicate there are currently twenty countries in the world with negative or zero natural population growth. This is unprecedented in human history!

Negative or zero natural population growth means these countries have more deaths than births or an even number of deaths and births. These data do not include impacts of immigration or emigration. Even including immigration over emigration, only one of the twenty countries (Austria) is expected to grow between 2006 and 2050.

Ukraine has the highest decrease in the natural birth rate, with a natural decrease of 0.8% each year! It is expected to lose 28% of their population between now and 2050 (from 46.8 million now to 33.4 million in 2050).

Russia and Belarus are not far behind with a 0.6% natural decrease. It is estimated now that Russia will lose 22% of its population by 2050. That’s a loss of more than 30 million people (from 142.3 million today to 110.3 million in 2050).

Japan is the only non-European country in the list and it has a 0% natural birth increase and is expected to lose 21% of its population by 2050 (shrinking from 127.8 million to a mere 100.6 million in 2050). The streets of Tokyo won’t be as crowded in a few decades as they are today!

Here's the list of the countries with negative natural increase or zero negative increase in population and the number after the semicolons indicate where they will be by 2050:

Ukraine: 0.8% natural decrease annually; 28% total population decrease by 2050
Russia: -0.6%; -22%
Belarus -0.6%; -12%
Bulgaria -0.5%; -34%
Latvia -0.5%; -23%
Lithuania -0.4%; -15%
Hungary -0.3%; -11%
Romania -0.2%; -29%
Estonia -0.2%; -23%
Moldova -0.2%; -21%
Croatia -0.2%; -14%
Germany -0.2%; -9%
Czech Republic -0.1%; -8%
Japan 0%; -21%
Poland 0%; -17%
Slovakia 0%; -12%
Austria 0%; 8% increase
Italy 0%; -5%
Slovenia 0%; -5%
Greece 0%; -4%

The effect on the economies of those countries has been devastating. Russia has now begun offering cash incentives for childbirth! Without the replenishment of population at least to the level ratio of 1:1, there are not enough “worker bees” to sustain an aging population and the economies will shrink. What is America’s destiny? Trending in that direction.

The words of the temple marriage covenant have never been rescinded and are easily remembered by anyone who’s witnessed a sealing ordinance: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth,” but seldom do we focus on what comes next – “that you may have joy and rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As Mom and I have learned, there is nothing to compare with the blessing of a righteous posterity in your old age. It equates to a literal fulfillment of “joy and rejoicing.” We don’t have to wait for the morning of the first resurrection – we can experience it here and now, and we are living proof.

This is the period of the earth’s temporal existence when modern society sees those two words, “multiply” and “replenish” as antiquated and irrelevant. It is important to note the Lord’s meaning of “replenish.” In Hebrew (see footnote at the bottom of page 2 in Genesis Chapter 1 under verse 28c), that word is translated as “fill.” We are told the earth was created to “fill the measure of its creation” in the 88th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, and that it would be crowned with celestial glory (verse 19). That ultimate destiny is accomplished by one eternal family doing its part at a time, to “multiply and replenish” the earth. Now that we’re done with child bearing, there’s plenty of work left to do for others.

Here’s the irony: Those who curtail their families for selfish reasons (careers and money are the usual reasons) claim those who are obedient to this command are really the selfish ones. But staying on the Lord’s side of that line, this seminal truth remains in force:

I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. (D&C 104:16–18).

Selfishness underlies many of the reasons we are not obedient to God's commands. Because of selfishness we rob ourselves of the very blessings the commandments were designed to provide. It seems the greatest opportunity to learn eternal values and to achieve heavenly potentials, lies in the possibilities associated with the covenant responsibility and the privilege to create bodies for Heavenly Father’s spirit children. We believe and do what we can to further the eternal plan, or we don’t and end up thwarting it. What I have learned as a father is that the spirits who have come into our home in physical bodies we have prepared for them are really in every sense our brothers and sisters who were awaiting their chance for mortality. Without question, each has been more valiant, more intelligent, and more amazing than we ever were. It is humbling to think they were held in reserve to come forth in these last days. It is an inestimable privilege to be their parents.

In the October 1942 General Conference, the First Presidency delivered a message to “the Saints in every land and clime,” in which they said, “By virtue of the authority in us vested as the First Presidency of the Church, we warn our people.”

And they said: “Amongst His earliest commands to Adam and Eve, the Lord said: ‘Multiply and replenish the earth.’ He has repeated that command in our day. He has again revealed in this, the last dispensation, the principle of the eternity of the marriage covenant. . .

“The Lord has told us that it is the duty of every husband and wife to obey the command given to Adam to multiply and replenish the earth, so that the legions of choice spirits waiting for their tabernacles of flesh may come here and move forward under God’s great design to become perfect souls, for without these fleshly tabernacles they cannot progress to their God-planned destiny. Thus, every husband and wife should become a father and mother in Israel to children born under the holy, eternal covenant.

“By bringing these choice spirits to earth, each father and each mother assume towards the tabernacled spirit and towards the Lord Himself by having taken advantage of the opportunity He offered, an obligation of the most sacred kind, because the fate of that spirit in the eternities to come, the blessings or punishments which shall await it in the hereafter, depend, in great part, upon the care, the teachings, the training which the parents shall give to that spirit.

“No parent can escape that obligation and that responsibility, and for the proper meeting thereof, the Lord will hold us to a strict accountability. No loftier duty than this can be assumed by mortals.”

The second commandment:

“Thou shalt not eat of it.” In Genesis 1:28, Moses 2:28 and Abraham 4:28 we are given the first commandment. The second command was they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

It seems, once again in Sunday School class, we are reminded it was “impossible” for Adam and Eve to obey both of these contradictory commands. (Genesis 1:28; 2:16–17). However, if the metaphor is really about each of us, as if we were Adam and Eve, there really is no contradiction is there? Adam and Eve had to partake of the "forbidden" fruit in order to multiply. But you and I don’t need to. We are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, and we are required to avoid partaking of that which has been forbidden. You and I are capable of keeping both of these commandments simultaneously. It’s an interesting reality, isn’t it?

We all have the very same two options as Adam’s and Eve’s posterity. When we kneel at the altar in the temple to be sealed and enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we are encouraged to keep both commandments, and they are not contradictory are they?

Our first option under the command to multiply and replenish is to be self-serving and to procrastinate having our families until we’re “ready.” “Translate” that any way you wish.

The second option is to sacrifice the luxury and ease of mortality so that our children can be born and grow toward their own exaltation. The choice, the “options” are very straight forward: To have a family or not to have a family. Adam made the choice: "I will partake that man may be!" And we do not partake that man may be born under the covenant. Interesting juxtaposition.

The tree didn’t have death in it. But disobedience did, and produced the first death. Today disobedience produces the second, or spiritual, death. As he often does for me, the Apostle Paul sums it all up nicely:

Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. (2 Peter 1:5–10).

So the offer stands from the Lord: Come unto me and freely partake of all the virtues, fruits and gifts of the Spirit. The fulness of the gospel is here among us, today and forever. By partaking of the fulness our calling and election may be made sure. We are enjoined to get involved. True religion is not merely a spectator sport and a theological exercise in dueling Christian doctrines. We are encouraged to be "anxiously engaged" in bringing to pass "much righteousness," not only in the world, but in our own lives. (D&C 58:27). We are commanded to "seek. . . earnestly the best gifts." (D&C 46:8).

That’s how we stay on hallowed ground on the Lord’s side of the line.

Ronald Reagan said. . .

"The best minds are not in government.  If they were, businesses would hire them away."

(I told you he was the common sense purveyor, right?)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Job (man or metaphor?) revisited. . .

Once every four years (sometimes more often when we talk about Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, see D&C 121, 122, 123), the story of Job is bashed about in Gospel Doctrine class.  For us it happened again today.

I'm not sure why it is, perhaps it's just a Mormon thing, but whenever Job's name comes up the great debate begins again -- was Job a real guy?  Did God and Satan really have a conversation about him?  Or was the book of Job a metaphor?  I'm not certain it matters to anyone, but I believe we'll see Job again in the spirit world someday.  There, I just settled it.

The book is a real problem for a lot of people on many different levels.  Books have been written, symposia have been held, articles have been authored, and each attempts to resolve this "great and holy mystery" without success.  The debate was enjoined and renewed again today.

There are a host of "problems" associated with the book as it stands in today's Bible.  I summarize in the attempt to be brief (a challenge).

The book begins and ends with bookend conversations (Job 1-2; 42:7-17), then there's a story in the middle (Job 3:1-42:6).  In the beginning, God and Satan have a conversation, God brags about how loyal Job is to Him. Satan says that Job is only loyal because he has been rewarded with worldly possessions for his obedience.  Satan asserts God has bought Job's love with a price, and Job is so conditioned by his righteousness he believes blessings are his automatic reward for his faithfulness. Take those all away, Satan contends, and Job would curse God.

It's a little disturbing to most that such a barter would be going on between God and Satan over the soul of a man, but nevertheless God challenges Satan to do whatever he wants to Job.  God says Job will still be loyal.  The worst happens thereafter -- Job's fortune disappears in a New York minute, and his children are all killed in a freak accident.  But Job doesn't cave, he remains true and faithful.

Okay, Satan says, let's inflict a little physcial suffering into the mix, then Job will curse God.  So God gives Satan permission to really hurt Job.  His body is afflicted with painful boils from head to foot.  Still Job blesses God.

So God makes his point with the Devil, restores Job's possessions, his fortunes (twice what he had before) and even gives him a new family.

What are we to learn by this story?  Job was true and faithful, and therefore all righteous people who are loyal to God will prosper.  Job was prosperous as the story began, and after a temporary setback, Job regained the prosperity he deserved -- he was entitled to it because he was true and faithful and God is bound when we do what He says.  (D&C 82:10).

This is a theology based upon a covenant.  The revelation in D&C 82 involves the law of consecration.  The promise is all for all -- you give me all you possess, God says, and you will receive all that I have.  The Old Testmament is filled with the covenant.  The House of Israel is blessed when they are righteous, and they are cursed and punished when they reject righteousness.

The story inside the Job story, however, seems contradictory.  This theology seems to break down.  In his conversations with his friends (all have names, suggesting they are real people), no one shows any awareness of Satan's existence in what is going on.  Rather, the assumption they make is that it is God who is inflicting all this pain upon Job.  Because God is all-knowing, they reason, God must have a pretty darn good reason for doing all these bad things to Job.

Job suffers.  He even curses the day he is born.  There were other prophets, notably Jeremiah, Jonah, Nephi, Paul, Moses, Isaiah who come immediately to mind who did as much.  All were filled with not only self-doubt but worse -- they couldn't imagine themselves up to the challenges God put them up to.  Job complains bitterly because he can't see any good reason why God should torment him.  He's been a good son.  He claims he is innocent.  He wants to know why he is being thus tormented and afflicted.  He complains that the heavens seem sealed above his head.  God is either not there or He is not listening.  Job finds no comfort, nor does he get the help he needs.

Job's righteous friends are apparently very familiar with the theology that in obedience we can claim God's blessings, so their only conclusion based upon that theology leads them to conclude Job must not really be what he appears to be.  He must have done something bad to bring down God's wrath upon himself and his family.  They suggest if he would just repent, then God would restore him to his previous condition.

It's not unlike the people who observed the boy who was blind in Christ's time.  "Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  (John 9:2).  This assumption -- that if something goes awry in our lives that it must be our fault because we are sinners is well-entrenched.  In our present calling at the Employment Resource Center we see it repeated again and again.  Unemployment still seems to carry a stigma that those who lose their employment are somehow at fault.  I know, it's stupid, but try to tell that to some of the people I meet who are still suffering under the stigma of well-meaning ward members whose comments tend to reinforce the false premise.  Even some priesthood leaders, I have been told, have suggested as much to their ward members who tell me of their interviews.

At the end of the story God finally appears to Job in a whirlwind and says, "I created everything.  Job, what can you do compared to that?  What do you know compared to what I know?"  God does not answer any of Job's questions and does not take sides in the debate about His covenant -- what it takes to acquire His blessings.  Instead, He seems almost to insult and taunt Job for being little more than "a creature."  Job responds, Moses-like, that he had not understood.  Having seen God, he now despises himself and repents.

On some level Job can be viewed as an "every man" figure metaphorically.  I know many Jobs in today's world searching for jobs, and for the most part I believe they are righteous, faithful people, whether of our faith or not.  I meet many who are not members of the Mormon Church.  In fact, we see about as many job placements among members as we do among non-members.  I believe most have suffered their fate of unemployment through no fault of their own.  The similarity between losing a job (little "j") and Job (big "J") is not lost on me.  To suggest they have lost their jobs through unworthiness is simply a bridge too far for me.

We see Job discussing his plight with his friends in the story, but that could be nothing more than the self-talk I have witnessed with many of our candidates in the Professional Placement Program.  Almost to a person, the first question on their lips is "Why?"  They are simply trying to make sense of their suffering, when sometimes there is no sense at all to it.  Sometimes, most often in fact, we don't get the answer to the "Why?" question until we are on the other side of the crucible looking back.  Or maybe it will be on the other side of the veil before we know.

I believe the message I see in Job's story is that there is no correlation between what people get and what they deserve.  The moral of Job's life story is sometimes there is no answer.  Sometimes there is no reason behind our suffering.  We can suffer for sins, we can observe consequences for sins, but sometimes there is no answer -- stuff happens. 

A few months ago, we had a wonderful speaker at our Monday morning networking meeting at the LDS Business College, U.S. Olympian Mike Schlappi, a paraplegic who was shot accidently by his best friend and was paralyzed from the chest down.  He wrote a book called Shot Happens.  Here's how he describes the book:

"I got shot. What's your problem?  Does that sound sardonic or terse or dismissive? I don't mean it that way. I did get shot and it is my problem. A .38 caliber bullet fired at point-blank range, slammed into my chest, clipped my lung, narrowly missed my heart, and lodged in my spine; paralyzing me from the chest down and I had to deal with it. I still have to deal with it every day. That is my problem. Now, what is your problem? What do you have to deal with today or every day? Do you have something lodged in you maybe not in your spine, but perhaps in your heart or mind that causes you pain and makes you feel paralyzed one way or another? What position are you taking relative to your problem? In other words, what is your attitude relative to your situation? You see, in my book (and this is my book), attitude is a position not a mood; and it is the position we take toward our circumstances that turns bad days into good days. Are you tired of people in wheelchairs talking about attitude? Well, don't put this book down, because what it says about attitude will rock your world. Okay, maybe it won't rock your world, but it will change your world -- at least it will change the way you look at things. . . and that will rock your world."

Mike's book illustrates beautifully that righteous people do suffer and that there may be no reason behind their suffering.  Shot happens.  That reality provides no ammunition, leaves no excuse for the belief that suffering is evidence that God is punishing someone.  When the Grand Designer set moral agency into the equation as the necessary mainspring to make the plan of salvation possible, to introduce sin and consequences, He had to walk away from micromanagement.  So do parents. 

That notion cannot sustain the belief that God tries individuals to test their faith or to improve them. The book legitimizes the right we all have to ask the toughest of life's questions.  What the book also proves to me is that often there are just no good answers. 

I believe Job was a real man facing real life difficulties, but perhaps the best part of the book of Job for me is that it compels me to think about life's imponderables at least every four years.

Before Job was afflicted, he believed as his friends did:  God really does reward the righteous and punishes the wicked during their mortal lives.  But it seems to me since Job did not really deserve his suffering, he had to revise his assumptions and his faith as it was stretched a bit beyond his comfort zone.  He modified his original belief that God was dispensing His rewards and punishments justly.  Some of what happened to him just did not seem fair.  But no matter how he felt about whether or not he was being treated fairly he never lost faith in the Grand Designer behind it all.  I'm using "Grand Designer," because that was the way President Thomas S. Monson characterized our Father in Heaven in his Easter Sunday message at General Conference last April.  I just taught that lesson in our high priests group this morning, so it's fresh on my mind.

Because he never lost faith in God, Job believed He was still the cause of what happened to him, even when the going was pretty tough and the reasons behind his suffering seemed unknowable, even unthinkable.  Job said, "Who knoweth not. . . that the hand of the Lord has wrought this?" (Job 12:9).  He saw God, not Satan, as the cause behind his suffering.  Job cried to his friends, "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me!" (Job 19:21).

In The Book of Mormon, God promises the Nephites and by extension the Latter-day Saints today that He blesses His people when they are righteous and punishes them when they are not.  Much is made in Sunday School lessons about the Nephite cycles of prosperity, then pride, then hardship, then repentance, then restoration.  (Perhaps the most famous statement of this expectation of being blessed for our righteousness comes from Mary Fielding Smith as told by her son, Joseph F. Smith. She explained to young Joseph F., "If I did not pay my tithing, I should expect the Lord to withhold His blessings from me.  I pay my tithing not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing so.  By keeping this and other laws, I expect to prosper and to be able to provide for my family."  "Tithing Blessings," Friend, March 1981, 36.  It's such a familiar story it has become iconic).

So why do faithful saints who pay their tithing not recieve the promised blessings of financial independence?  Why are not all addictions relieved immediately upon a humble pleading?  Why are not the effects of illness erased when faith is present?  Why do infants die, when some old folks suffer for years in a diminished state with little or no quality of life?  Why does unemployment continue to plague us as a country despite trillions of dollars in stimulus legislation?  Why do Republicans reject everything Democrats do and vice versa?

Because shot happens.

We have a plethora of scriptures that teach a harsh doctrine.  For example, Doctrine and Covenants 59:21 says God's wrath is kindled against "those who confess not his hand in all things."  Doctrine and Covenants 87:6-8 teaches God chastens people by famine, plague, earthquakes, and storms.  (Compare D&C 43:25-26).  The Millennial Star's regular column, "Signs of the Times," pointed to various natural disasters in the news — volcanoes, floods, tornados, and famine — as being God's judgments upon humans. (In Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton, 1840-1842, ed. James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander [Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, 1974], 5-6.  Also see Orson Hyde, in "A Timely Warning to the People of England," attributing England's hardships to "the withering touch of the Almighty").

We have a well-developed theology associated with this cause and effect cycle, don't we?  In more recent years, quoting President Joseph F. Smith, President Boyd K. Packer once told Latter-day Saint scholars that those who are wise and careful "see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church. . . the overruling, almighty hand of Him who sent His Only Begotten Son to the world."

So what do we believe about these questions?  Do the diseased, the unemployed, the woeful sinners, the dying, the divorced, the faithful poor suffer at God's hands, if He is truly in everything?  Does He mete out instant rewards and punishments?  Does every righteous person get a life of ease and comfort?  Does every other person who falls short have to struggle against all odds? 
When we are healthy and prospering, loving God and being loyal to Him is simple.  When our children shine forth as righteous examples and make our buttons burst with "righteous pride" (though there really is no such thing), we think God has blessed us because we deserve it.  Or do we?  How do we explain others who are suffering, who so far as we can discern are every bit as righteous as we are?  Does God put them in that position because for whatever reason we don't know God thinks they deserve their circumstances?  Worse, what if we're righteous and we're still suffering?  I think what I really believe is that what matters is how we answer those questions for ourselves.  

It is natural to wonder, as Job did, "What have I done to deserve this? Why has God done this to me?"  It's the first thought that ran through my head when our infant daughter, Adrienne, died quietly in the night. My first thought was this was not a random event.  It had to be the purposeful design of the Grand Designer for a lesson I was to learn.  But what?  He made me totally uncomfortable with my life.  I had to re-examine, reassess, and it was painful beyond belief.  It shook me to the roots.  I was knocked off kilter for months thereafter.  I couldn't accept that "shot happens" -- I had to find a reason, to attribute my suffering as part of God's plan even though I didn't understand it.  I had to continue exercising my faith without knowing the answer.

I said it was natural and I highlighted my experience, but there are a host of others we could cite.  If God truly gives us the situations we deserve (after all, He put us here on earth as part of the covenant, right?) and then those situations cause us to suffer, then our rational mind tells us we must have done something to deserve it.  What were we thinking?  That we were righteous?  Are you kidding me?  Our self-talk continues, "You're an idiot to think you were righteous.  Your personal disasters are your own fault.  I'm suffering, therefore I am guilty.  God has caused me to be infertile because I was on birth-control pills to put my husband through school.  God didn't heal me because I didn't have enough faith.  I didn't get that job I wanted through nine rounds of interviews because I'm just not humble enough, and I didn't seek the Spirit earnestly enough."  I call that "stinkin' thinkin'" and it's destructive.  In this frame of mind, like Job, we suffer not only the pain of the circumstance, but also the burden of unwelcome and undeserved guilt associated with it.

Taken to its extremities, we may also associate the suffering of our loved ones as somehow being attached to us.  "My daughter is dying of cancer, therefore God is punishing me for something."  Then you must believe, if that's what you really believe, that you are more important somehow in God's eyes than your daughter if you are the one being singled out.  I'm going to punish you, Dave, to teach you a lesson by taking your youngest daughter away from you.  I know, it's obvious how stupid that reasoning is, but I can tell you from personal experience it happens, as irrational as it is.

I'm beating around the bush, so let me just say it straight out.  This kind of thinking is false doctrine.  I loved what President Packer said in a General Conference address about handicaps.  We witness those who are physically handicapped in some way, and those handicaps are easier to spot, but having kicked around the planet for a few years now I can tell you what I have come to believe -- we are ALL handicapped in some way.  We do the best we can to manage handicaps in the job search (you're too old, you're too inexperienced, you're too overqualified), and we learn to focus instead on the things we're really, really good at.

President Packer said we are wrong to believe suffering is necessarily a direct result of sin. "There is little room for feelings of guilt in connection with handicaps. Some handicaps may result from carelessness or abuse, and some through addiction of parents. But most of them do not. Afflictions come to the innocent. . .  The idea that all suffering is somehow the direct result of sin has been taught since ancient times. It is false doctrine." (“The Moving of the Water,” Ensign, May 1991, 7).

Sometimes we eventually are able to put a positive spin on our suffering, thinking God has caused difficulty in our lives for some larger and grander purpose. We or someone else we love dearly will ultimately benefit from our suffering if only we can endure it well.  Oops, I thought it was the Savior who made the infinite vicarious sacrifice, not us.  If we are righteous, "all things shall work together for [our] good." (D&C 90:24).  Here's how this line of reasoning goes:  "God gave our family this sick child to bring us together." Or, "God called my father home to the spirit world so he could to do missionary work on the other side of the veil." Or, "God gave my teenager AIDS so He could teach other teenagers that immoral behaviors can have tragic consequences." Or, "God needs my child back with Him more than I need her here on earth." You may find comfort in some of those explanations, but do we really think God has caused a tragedy, if He hasn't told us He has, or that we presume to know His motives when they remain unrevealed?

I'm sorry, but I don't believe in a God who routinely causes catastrophes, displacements and disruptions for His children's benefit or punishment.  It makes Him unknowable to me.  This natural world is filled with lots of suffering occurring naturally.  Ask yourself as a parent if you would do that to one of your children, to knowingly cause them pain and suffering to serve some higher purpose you will not or cannot explain to them for their own good.  Would you do that?  Neither does God.

Richard Holzapfel, when he taught our Gospel Doctrine class was fond of reminding us, "Discipleship either makes us better or bitter."  It's a choice to decide what we will do with what happens to us. 

How often are we reminded of the old expression that we must have "the patience of Job?"  Well, the story of Job tells something different.  He was anguished, angry and bitter.  "I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul." (Job 7:11; 10:1).  He shouts at God, "Let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, before I [die]." (Job 10:20-21).  "God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked. I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark." (Job 16:11-12).

People who have lost their retirement investment portfolios in this latest economic disaster and are bitter might think, "God could have preserved my investments so I could have retired early and served Him in the mission field, but He didn't choose to.  If He hates me that much, then I hate Him too." Or, "God let my husband walk right out the door and abandon me and my children.  What's the divine purpose in Him doing that to us?"  Or, "God could have healed my boy with cancer, but He didn't.  What good is righteousness, how is that binding Him to answer my prayers, when He just turns His back on us?"  Or, "I've been loyal to God just like Job, but look at what He has done to me."  P.S. He can take it, He's heard it all before.

I've heard all those words come out of the mouths of people I know and love, even out of my own mouth.  The story of Job, fact or metaphor notwithstanding, is as fresh as today.  My God is not responsible for everything that happens.  Why isn't it okay for us to say, "I don't know why it happened?"  My favorite answer to gospel doctrine questions I only thought I knew the answer to when I was younger is increasingly, "I don't know and you can quote me on that."

I don't know why a large semi-truck hit and killed a faithful mother in our stake.  I don't know why on a snowy morning a young faithful father was instantly killed while his daughter in the front seat next to him was spared.  I don't know why a young teenager was thrown from a four-wheeler and drowned in a ditch.  I don't know why people are losing their jobs, and I don't know where or when they will find the replacement income they have lost.  Might as well add, I don't know when the Second Coming is coming. . .

I don't know anything about what the Obama administration has been attempting to do in these last eighteen months, and I certainly can't discern their motives, whether they are pure, evil, or just wrong-headed.  I just don't know.

I do know this:  Natural law is at work and causes accidents and disasters. When drought limits harvests, people starve. When cars crash, people get hurt or die. Some proportion of the population will be infertile, and some proportion will get cancer. Some outliers in the bell curve will have homosexual tendencies and others on the other end with overdeveloped heterosexual tendencies make them abusers and murderers.  Some X and Y chromosomes don't get aligned properly at birth.  Despite the efforts of faithful parents, some children will abuse their moral agency and make horrible and destructive choices.

Rather than making God accountable for everything bad that happens to us, I turn again to President Packer.  It sounds harsh that God has no regard for human feelings, but here it is:  "The very purpose for which the world was created, and man[kind] introduced to live upon it, requires that the laws of nature operate in cold disregard for human feelings. We must work out our salvation without expecting the laws of nature to be exempted for us." (Ibid.).

God does help, He does hear our prayers, He often intervenes in the affairs of men and nations when faith is sufficient, He does reward faithfulness, He does allow the consequences of willful sin to play out.  He does provide inspiration to go this way, not that way, He does offer comfort and assurance.  God can help us be the wisest, most loving parents it is possible to be. God can direct us to new employment, He can give us courage to press on into the darkness ahead, and He can help us respond to our difficulties with a mature and disciple-like faith that Father really does know best, even when the heavens overhead seem as brass and our prayers seem to bounce off without response.  He can fill us with the gifts of His spirit, and we can embrace the best gifts He offers us.  We can trust Him.  He is trustworthy.

Even when "shot happens."