Thursday, September 30, 2010

ONE BIG REASON to vote for Morgan Philpot

In case you missed it, in the news you read this item probably avoided your radar:

Yesterday, 39 House Democrats joined Republicans in voting against adjournment - but not Jim Matheson. Nancy Pelosi did not want to discuss tax cuts before the election. She moved to adjourn and avoid a vote to extend the Bush tax cuts to American families and businesses.

Last week Congressman Matheson told his Utah constituents that he wanted to vote on the tax cuts before the election. Apparently, he says one thing in Utah, and then caved to the demands of Pelosi and voted with her to adjourn.

Here's the disastrous news for America -- the vote to adjourn passed by ONE vote: 210-209.  If Matheson had joined the other 39 Democrats and defied Pelosi, the House could have debated and passed the tax cuts.

So who does Matheson have in mind?  He's not interested in what's best for his constituents, apparently.  And, oh by the way, his worst vote in history was voting with his caucus to seat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House in the first place.  His allegiance to Nancy Pelosi is apparently a higher priority than his constituents in the 2nd District.  I am one who has made the mistake of voting for him five times in the past.  Never again.  

On the other hand, two Republican members of the House from Utah -- Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz -- did vote against Pelosi's motion to adjourn so that the tax cuts could be discussed. Unfortunately, for Utah families, they needed one more vote. Jim Matheson failed to provide that vote.

When people tell you their vote doesn't count, remember this example of what one vote actually amounts to.  It's time for Congressman Matheson to be held accountable for his actions. It's time for the citizens of the 2nd District to elect a Congressman who values the opinions of the voters here in Utah more than the demands of Nancy Pelosi. 

It's time for Morgan Philpot.

If you are upset by Matheson's vote, please forward this message to all your friends in the 2nd Congressional District.  Join Morgan's team by visiting his website.

Statement by Congressman Rob Bishop:

"Democrat leadership should be embarrassed that they brought the entire Congress from around the country back into session for just one day and then left with so many issues that impact our economy just hanging out there. Congress should have at least stayed in long enough to extend the tax cuts to stop massive tax increases and provide some stability and certainty. More time would also have allowed for better policy decision on a whole host of issues, including the NASA bill."

Statement by Congressman Jason Chaffetz:

"Yesterday the House decided by a single vote to adjourn until after the election this fall. It is totally irresponsible for Congress to leave town when critical issues such as extending the Bush tax cuts need to be debated. In order for the marketplace to thrive, businesses need some regulatory certainty. Congress has failed to deliver. At a time when our economy is weak and people need jobs, it's very frustrating to see Congress act in such a negligent manner. It is up to voters to hold those Members accountable who place politics above the American people."

Statement by Congressman Jim Matheson:

"I have led the effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to extend tax cuts for all at this time of fragile economic recovery.  Efforts to suggest otherwise are playing politics and that is a shame."

* * *

Memo to Congressman Matheson: 

It is you, Congressman, who is playing politics now.  If that's your best defense to the people of the 2nd District whom you represent, it is a lame definition of "leadership" and we will dismiss you without further argument on November 2nd.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The President Who Cried "Wolf!"

As a boy, I first heard the tale of the little boy who cried "Wolf!" one too many times.  It's a familiar story, but it bears repeating in the current political climate in which we find ourselves.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Milo Winter in a 1919 Aesop anthology

"The Boy Who Cried Wolf," is also known as "The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf."  It's a fable, of course, and it is usually attributed to Aesop.  It's a little story about a bored shepherd boy who entertained himself by tricking nearby villagers into thinking a wolf was attacking his flock of sheep. 

When they came running instantly to his rescue, they found the alarms were false and they had wasted their time.  Finally, the day came when the little boy was actually confronted by a wolf, and the villagers did not believe his cries for help.  The wolf ate the flock (and in some versions the boy too). 

The moral is stated at the end of the fable as:  Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed.  The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth.

To "cry wolf" has long been a common idiom in English.  The phrase "boy who cried wolf" has also become somewhat of a figure of speech, meaning that one is calling for help when he or she does not really need it. Also in common English there goes the saying: "Never cry wolf" to say that one never should lie, as in the above phrases.

So how alike is this old fable to today's headlines over the last nineteen months?  No analogy is perfect, but this one seems to me to strike close to the mark.

The White House Talker in Chief
Again and again we have heard the desperate cry from this President, "If we don't (fill in the blank with yet another big spending bill), the world as we know it will come to an end."  So with all the votes tucked neatly in his tailored suit pocket, this President has passed a prodigious package of legislative verbage the experts are still trying to unravel.  Nobody yet knows what it all means.  The uncertainty is palpable.  The economy is frozen in its tracks.

We have all observed what a good talker our President is.  The man is a gifted talker, maybe in the top tier of all-time talkers.  He once told Harry Reid, "Harry, I have a gift." 

Let's review the "Wolf!" cries we've heard, and see if you don't agree.

1.  We got a near-trillion dollar "stimulus" bill that was passed over the objections of a majority of the American public.  When polled, they said, "We don't believe it will help, and we don't want it."  But the President talked and talked and convinced his Democrat majority it was the only way to hold unemployment at 8 percent.  Now his economic team, one by one, is leaving, their credibility in shambles.  And it isn't just the economic team -- even his chief advisor and his chief of staff are heading for the exit doors.  Everyone knows the economy is still suffering despite all the passionate talking, and funny thing -- President Obama, in perma-campaign mode keeps talking and talking and talking about his failed policies to convince us we're on the right path.  He's all alone in a bad echo chamber right now.

2.  We got a health care bill with another trillion dollar price tag, and President Obama talked and talked and talked about how it would revolutionize health care, cut medical costs, bend the cost curve into the future without damaging Medicare by saving waste in the program and wouldn't add "one dime" to the federal deficit.  Remember that line from his State of the Union address?  Since the Congressional Budget Office has now had a chance to actually analyze it, not one of those statements has proven correct.  The American public, once again, when polled rebelled against getting something they didn't want, and the Tea Party (however you define it) was born.  By the way, here's a story from today's Wall Street Journal that defines the Tea Party very well.  But what does the President do?  He ignores those stupid common folk who don't really know what's best for them.  He talks and talks and talks about how marvelous it's going to be for all of us -- no pre-existing conditions will be denied, children will be insured on their parents' plan until age 26, and the talk, talk, talk continues.  None of it's true, but he loves to hear the sound of his own voice saying it, apparently.

3.  Under this President the Congress, when faced with extending the Bush-era tax cuts, has failed to act.  We're in a staggering economy that's stalled and stagnant.  Raising taxes in this environment is wrong-headed and idiodic, but what does this President and Congress do?  They adjourn to fan out across the country in over 400 campaign fund raisers to get re-elected without taking action on behalf of the American people, and the President continues to talk, talk, talk about the class warfare issues that are so passe they defy reason.  "We're going to tax the wealthy, rebuild the middle class and eradicate racial discrimination."  Blah, blah, blah.  It's all part of what Obama really believes -- that hiring decisions should and must be in the hands of the government, not private businesses and the high-income people who own them and actually create jobs.  Ask any American, "Do you want higher taxes right now?"  I'm no political genius -- I only play one on this page -- but even I can hear them screaming in my ears.  Their answer is a resounding "NO," but what does this President do?  He continues to talk, talk, talk about how wonderful his economic policies are.  He should have checked in with his crack economic team, who are dropping out of his administration one by one, apparently embarrassed by the havoc that has been wrought on the American free enterprise system.

And what does President Obama do?  He keeps talking and talking and talking, as though anyone is left who is listening to what he's saying.  He's lost all credibility in my view.  His policies are NOT working.  The American electorate is aroused as I've never seen it in my lifetime, and the Chief Talker in the White House has managed to turn an overwhelming approval rating nineteen months ago into dust. 

The Democrats are now disavowing any and all knowledge of how all those bills got passed, almost as if some phantoms did the deeds of which they are accused.  They, too, have lost all credibility in the eyes of their constitutents.  The political pendulum has swung wildly back to the right.  Generic Republicans are leading in virtually every poll in every Congressional contest.

Whenever Obama opens his mouth now, it seems, the American public is hearing, "I believe in deficit spending, I want bigger government, I want to spend money we borrow from the Chinese to stimulate our small businesses in America, and I want the government to make all the decisions."  It doesn't really matter anymore what he actually says when he talks and talks and talks, because that's all the American people are hearing at this point.

He's cried "Wolf!" one too many times.  Our ears are stopped up with political "weary wax."  Words, simple words like "Wolf!" have lost all meaning.  Up is down, down is up, white is black, black is white, right is wrong, wrong is right.

Believe me, when Russ Feingold (D-WI) skips out on the chance to appear with President Obama for fear of losing votes, you know Feingold is in full retreat and battling against all odds to retain his Senate seat.

In the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, 41% of respondents strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing. Only 29% strongly approve.

Races all over America are tightening -- governorships, Senate races, and Congressional seats.  Despite the polling data, I hear people openly asking if Americans will care enough to even show up to the polls.  Historically, mid-term elections are ho-hum yawners.  This year, however, I predict a record turnout on November 2nd for a mid-term election. 

People are demanding "CHANGE" -- and not what they asked for and hoped for in 2008.  This time around they've got plenty of fire in the belly to get what they want -- repeal Obamacare for openers.

I actually heard a news report in which he said in Wisconsin, seeking to re-energize the demoralized Democrat faithful, "We can't let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didn't care enough to fight."

Uh, excuse me?  Fall backwards?  That's exactly what we've done for the last nineteen months, Mr. President.  The political atmosphere in which we now live is toxic beyond imagination.  He's adopted policies in direct opposition to the will of the majority of Americans, as I pointed out above.  His policies have not worked, we are not on the right course, and we have fallen backwards from where we were before he took office, hard as that is to admit.  The financial pit is deeper, wider and now more unfathomable than ever before. 

When we once recoiled at the mention of Billions in deficit spending we have now become numbed to Trillions. 

Okay, enough's enough, rant over.  Now I feel better for having unloaded.  Time to go to work and elect Mike Lee, Morgan Philpot and Gary Herbert, my top three 2010 picks for great first-time candidates in the great state of Utah!

Mike Lee on Fiscal Discipline

As a volunteer and avid supporter of Mike Lee, I found this in my e-mail inbox tonight from him.  Worth reposting:

Rebuilding our Economy through Fiscal Discipline

Mike Lee, Utah's Next Senator
By U.S. Senate Nominee Mike Lee

Americans in general and Utahns in particular, are positive people by nature. Our citizens look for the silver-lining, believe in the impossible, have confidence in themselves and continually hope that the best is yet to come. The current economy has rocked our nation and caused even the most optimistic among us to question what lies ahead. I believe a rapid reality check, followed by a good dose of fiscal discipline will restore the country's confidence, jump start the economy and put us back on path toward better days.

Reality Check

According to the Department of Labor, the current national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, meaning nearly 15 million of our friends, family members and neighbors are unemployed today. The options available to them, at the moment seem slim, and the uncertainty of the current landscape is not providing businesses or investors the confidence required to grow or expand.

Even those with jobs are feeling some of the dread, drag and drain of the economy. The average 401(k) account has lost more than a quarter of its value and the average home value is down nearly a third. Consumers are paralyzed and confused by media messages which cast further doubt on the future.

The reality is that this situation as a whole didn't come about by chance or bad luck. It is the unfortunate result of wasteful federal spending and policies that have halted economic growth. The Obama Administration and congressional Democrats have compounded the problem by implementing bad policies, spending borrowed money and increasing regulation on business. The result is seen in record-breaking spending, soaring deficits and a rapidly increasing national debt.

President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package from 2009 has failed to address problems in the job market. And even before all of that money has been spent, the administration has proposed that another $350 billion dollar package be piped in to the economy as an additional attempt to revive our nation's economic condition.

This kind of irrational spending is a major reason why the U.S. is quickly approaching a $15 trillion dollar debt-a debt that will be inherited by our children and our grandchildren. It's causing hard-working Americans to work three, four and sometimes even five months out of the year to pay their federal taxes. This spending is irresponsible, it's inexcusable, and it has to stop.

A dose of fiscal discipline

It's time for our federal government to rein in spending and allow Americans to build and create wealth. It is time to stop punishing hard-working people with higher taxes in order to fund unnecessary programs and costly bailouts. It is time to return to the fiscal discipline found in a constitutionally limited government. This is the path that will get America back on its feet and return it to greatness.

Although the current outlook appears bleak, there is hope on the horizon. With the election in November we have an opportunity to elect truly conservative Republicans who will rein in federal spending and adopt the financial discipline required to begin to balance our ever-increasing budget. This kind of discipline will ensure Americans will again have an opportunity to create their own wealth and distribute it as they please, which will naturally enrich the economy, bolster consumer confidence and create real jobs.

As Ronald Reagan once said "It's morning in America again." There is hope for the future, and cause for confidence. November 2nd will mark another new morning, with new leadership and the renewed fiscal discipline required to restore an optimistic future to the people of this great Country.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Test Your Religion IQ

I took this 15-question quiz tonight, created by the Pew Research folks.

Survey findings and full analysis are available at

Take the quiz and see how you do.  I got 14 out of 15.  Missed the one about the Catholics' interpretation of the emblems of the sacrament.  I thought they gave up the transubstantiation doctrine.  Apparently not.

Give it a try.  Good luck.

Here's a "news flash."  Another study indicates Mormons are the most conservative religious group in the United States.

And in Utah, headquarters of the Mormon Church, it's no wonder Utah has earned the moniker as the "reddest" state in America.

So, the natural corollary (drum roll, please, can you guess?) -- Mormons rate President Obama with the lowest approval rating of any other religious group.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Faaaaaasssssst Pitch

Aroldis Chapman
The fastest pitch ever recorded in Major League history:

105 mph -- ball two to Tony Gwynn (the son of the Hall of Famer) from Aroldis Chapman, the young fireballer from Cuba who might be the only bright spot in the Cincinnati Reds' season.

Out of the 25 pitches Chapman threw in 1 1/2 innings of work, none of them was below 100 mph.

Don't blink, you'll miss it.

It's the Stupid Electorate

Velma Hart
First it was Joe the Plumber with an embarrassing question for candidate Obama in the 2008 election cycle.  Recently, it was Velma Hart, who described herself as "a CFO, wife, mother and veteran."  In one of those "not-intended-for-prime-time" unguarded moments at a town hall meeting to tout the end of the recession, the rolling cameras from MSNBC caught her on tape.  Now that moment, on the very day, September 22, 2010, the recession was officially pronounced as "over," is going viral on YouTube.

She explained first she was an avid supporter of President Obama and had voted for him in 2008.  But then she expressed her "deep disappointment" with Obama's economic record -- to his face.

"I've been told that I voted for a man who said he's going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir. . .  I'm waiting, but I don't feel it yet."

Calling herself "exhausted" by having to defend not only her vote for him, but now-President Obama, she lamented that she and her husband had thought the "franks and beans" era of their lives had drawn to a close.  But she went on to say she hears it "knocking" at the door. Then she asked the President if her anxiety is to be her "new reality."

Stunningly, the ever-articulate President Obama when he's using a teleprompter staggered through an unsatisfying review of his legislative record of achievement to completely overhaul the socio-economic structure of America, none of which did anything to directly answer Velma's question or to improve her life in any measurable way that satisfied her. 

But here was the stunner for me in his answer:  "That's [living a life of hard work and responsibility] what we want to reward."  Who's the "WE" in his answer?  It's the arrogance that shocks me.  The "WE" is the federal government that will decide who gets rewarded -- how, how much, when, and what.  This President is so out of touch with his own supporters he can't connect emotionally, it seems, at even the lowest level of empathy. 

At least Bill Clinton in his heyday could come up with a quivering lip and an "I feel your pain."

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
Here's another example yesterday from Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who is once again one of the "political elites" without a clue what Americans are doing, saying, feeling and will soon be voting that way: 

The Boston Herald this morning quoted Kerry as saying, “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.”

Classic!!  So, let me understand, "It's the stupid electorate!"  Now I get it.

Here's your test, America:  Two choices -- A) it is Americans who do not understand what's going on; or B) it is our elected officials in Washington D.C. who do not understand what's going on.

If you guessed A, you will be recycled back to kindergarten.

Translating General Conference, a story from the Harold B. Lee files

I was fascinated this morning with a story that first appeared in the Deseret News in April 2010, highlighting the work of the translators and interpreters at General Conference.

I was amazed to learn that Conference is now being translated into 92 languages.  In 1961, Conference was first translated into four languages — Spanish, French, German and Tongan.  It was a very small group of dedicated volunteers who were situated in cramped quarters under the Tabernacle back then.

Now, conference is interpreted live in up to 92 languages — 52 in the conference center, 28 via the remote Tieline system and another dozen on-site in countries across the world.

In the Conference Center, 43 of the languages, from Spanish to Turkish, are broadcast live, and another nine, including Malagasay, Swahili and Twi, are recorded to be distributed via DVD later.

Teams outside the Conference Center, usually in their native country, interpret the conference proceedings in 28 more languages, including Mandarin, Russian and Dutch, which could be in the middle of the night depending on the time zone. The interpretation is sent via the digital Tieline technology to Salt Lake City and then seamlessly broadcast via satellite, with the other languages.

In all it takes 800 people, including hundreds of interpreters and dozens of support staff, for Conference.

When I read the story this morning, it reminded me of an obscure event in the life of President Harold B. Lee.

President Harold B. Lee
The year was 1973.  The October General Conference had just concluded, and President Lee had gone to Ricks College to deliver a speech in which he gave a memorable assurance that America would not fail.  I have made reference to that speech in a previous post.

A week after his experience at Ricks College, as President Lee was having lunch at the Lion House next door to the Church Administration Building, he walked over to the table of Dr. Truman G. Madsen, director of the Institute of Mormon Studies at Brigham Young University, and after a cordial greeting made this startling statement:  "A translator who was assigned my closing address at the general priesthood meeting of general conference had an experience which was most remarkable. It helps me understand how the Prophet Joseph Smith could translate the Book of Mormon. I would like you to have a copy of his story."

Without further explanation President Lee excused himself, leaving his hearers breathless and wondering. Brother Madsen wrote President Lee later that week for the promised story, but it appeared first publicly in President Lee's words in this press account of the memorable Ricks College address:

"We had something happen at the last conference that I am going to tell you about to indicate something that will give you a key to how the Lord can open the mind of a man and give him spiritual understanding beyond what his natural self could do.
"We had eleven translators or interpreters who were down in the basement of the Tabernacle, translating in eleven different languages. One of these brethren was translating for the Swedish brethren, and for most of the talks they had the script so they could study it, and as the speakers spoke in English, they would repeat it for the benefit of those who were listening. This man, who was translating from my English into Swedish at the priesthood meeting, where he had no script (I was talking from an extemporaneous standpoint in my closing address), said something happened, and I want you to hear what he said:
"'The whole conference was a spiritual experience, but at the general priesthood meeting I had an experience which I have never had before. I knew that there were some Swedish brethren attending the conference who had never been here before and perhaps would never come again. Therefore, I had a great desire that they receive everything that the prophet had to deliver. Not having a script, I commended myself into the hands of the Lord, and as you began to speak, I was startled by the fact that I knew one or two words and even three ahead of the time you would say them. At first, I was so startled that I did not dare to pronounce them as they were given. Usually I close my eyes and listen and then interpret as I hear the speakers deliver, but this time I was prompted to look at your face on the television screen. In this very unusual situation, I looked at you and began to translate the words as they came, but to my amazement I did not receive just the words in my mind, but with my inner eyes, I saw them emanating from the vicinity of the temple of your head and coming toward me. I did not see them actually as written on something, and yet, I saw them and how they were spelled and experienced the power of the Spirit as I received them.
"'One of the things that made it even more dramatic was that when a complex sentence was about to be delivered, I received more words so that I could reconstruct the grammar into good Swedish and deliver it at the very moment you pronounced the words. Never have I experienced the great force with which the interpretive message was flowing as I did at that time.
"'The same experience happened during your closing remarks on Sunday afternoon, except that I did not see the words coming to me. I have talked with the Swedish members in attendance who have expressed an awesome amazement of what they experienced. They said they heard the interpretation and understood the interpreted message delivered at the same moment as you delivered the words in English. But the interpretation was all they heard, that the message came directly from you to them. They have all expressed that their attendance at the conference was a fantastic experience, never to be forgotten.'"

President Lee provided his interpretation of the experience for his Ricks College audience, saying:

"Latter-day Saints, don't you think for a moment that the Lord does not have means of communicating with us, sending us messages that are beyond our understanding, even to translating an unknown language into our understandable language. He did it with the Prophet Joseph. He did it with King Mosiah. He has done it with others. He will do it today, as we have need. I have no doubt.
"My whole soul pleads that I may so live that if the Lord has any communication that he would wish me to receive for my beloved people that I could be a pure vessel through which that message could come. I do not ask for anything. I do not want anything more than the Lord is willing to send, but I trust that I may live worthy so that I won't be a lame vessel or a broken reed that the Lord cannot use in times when he wants to communicate with his people."  (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee: Prophet and Seer, 561-2).

* * *

Having been a careful observer and participant in many General Conferences, it seems to me that each of us is a "translator."  It is for each of us to "translate" into action the words spoken by the living prophets among us as we take counsel from them and give heed to their admonitions.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seven Steps out of Pornography Addiction

This morning an article appeared in the Deseret News, outlining one family's struggle with the husband's and father's addiction to pornography.  This topic is another example of once taboo subjects better left "under the carpet" rather than exposed.  However, like all sins, it loses its grip on those who are addicted when it is dragged out of the shadows into the sunlight.  In the sunlight of open confession, love and forgiveness it dies.  Its power on the individual is eradicated.

The wife and mother in the story says, "I was very nervous about what would happen if it ever leaked out, but privately, I had no clue what it even was. . .  It was something I'd never been exposed to, and I didn't know you could be addicted to it."

Their story can be replicated thousands upon thousands of times across America every day.  Pornography is the drug of this new millennium.  It is highly addictive, and its devastation of families is well-documented by now.  Church leaders have warned for decades of its influence.  The warnings for the most part have gone unheeded with tragic consequences.

For most men, it begins with curiosity.  Access to pornography is easier with the Internet age.  Telltale signs emerge in every case:  Isolation from the family, longer and longer hours away or at home with the computer, lie after lie to cover up what's really going on, denial that it's really a problem, mounting guilt, hopelessness when it becomes obvious it has become a problem much larger than imagined, then ultimately acting on the impulses triggered by the addiction. 

Pornography, many who defend it will argue, is "victimless."  "Nobody's going to be hurt by what I'm doing," they will tell themselves.

There is a long trail now of evidence to the contrary.  Men have lost jobs because its addictive nature leads them to download images at work on the office computers.  That activity can be easily tracked, and is, by most IT departments these days.  The bandwidth capacity of the Internet is routinely being utilized in mounting percentages by those who are accessing pornography.  The good uses to which the Internet can be deployed are squeezed down because pornography is muscling its way into homes and businesses.

Marriages are destroyed because of the betrayal it represents.  A wife and mother takes a second seat to air-brushed images in an unreal "perfect" world that does not exist except on a computer screen.

Children are estranged from fathers who are distracted by pornography and disinterested in what is going on right under their roofs in their childrens' lives.

Virtually every crime that is committed in Summit County, Utah, according to the county sheriff, has a pornography component.  Did you catch that?  Every crime.  Not just the ones related to sex.  The sheriff's assessment -- "If you can believe and tell the lies about pornography, you'll lie about everything, and every criminal we arrest is a liar."

"Victimless?"  Hardly.

Let me offer seven steps for your consideration if you know someone, or you are one, who is addicted to pornography.

1.  Find a friend.  If you don't have a friend who can accept you for what you are and with whom you can discuss this problem in your life, then find one quickly.  This may be a close friend who himself struggles with pornography addiction.  Strengthen each other, confide in each other, hold one another accountable for your actions in this area.  Be brutally honest with each other.  Remind each other that your wives and families deserve better than a patriarch who has succumbed to the tentacles of pornography.  Don't sugar coat it for each other -- this is your friend, and you are his friend.  Help each other before something tragic happens.

2.  Confess to your priesthood leaders, your bishop and your stake president, that this is a problem.  I can't tell you how many disciplinary councils of which I have been a part when I have heard those who have fallen tell us, "It all began with pornography, and I had no idea how powerful its hold on me had become."  When they have committed serious sins like fornication and adultery, invariably the gateway to those sins has been pornography.

3.  Tell your wife and children openly.  When you attend addiction recovery programs like AA, the first thing people say is, "Hi, I'm Henry, and I am an alcoholic."  When it's drugs, "Hi, I'm George, and I'm an addict."  When it's pornography, "Hi, I'm John, and I'm addicted to pornography."  When it's your wife and children, "I'm your husband and father, and I have a problem I need your help, faith and prayers to overcome."  Once it's up on the table, it loses all its power.  The only reason addiction perpetuates itself is that it is hidden from view.  Once exposed, it withers and dies.

4.  Ask Heavenly Father for His help.  I have always loved this scripture from Nephi, most often referred to as "Nephi's Lament."  The only reason we have this precious insight is that it was recorded on the small plates upon which Nephi wrote "the things of my soul."  If for no other reason, I am grateful the first 116 manuscript pages were lost so we could have these precious words:  "O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. . . My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.  He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.  He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.  Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.  And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me."  (2 Nephi 4:17; 20-24).

5.  Start telling the truth.  Addicts become liars.  Most become very skilled liars.  They first lie to themselves about their addiction, then they begin lying about everything else to everyone around them.  Stop the lies.  Practice telling the truth in little things like where you're going, with whom you will be, how long you'll be gone, what you're doing, etc.  Unlock your doors, put your computer out in the open for everyone in your household to see and use.  Hide nothing.  Be open.  Be accessible.  Re-engage.  Ask those whom you love the most to hold you accountable.  If you don't have the strength to tell the truth at first, then ask them to coach you, prod you, challenge you, and it will become easier with practice.

6.  Hold your head up.  Get out of the "victim" mindset quickly.  You were addicted.  You will probably always be an addict, even in recovery.  So what?  Remind yourself you are a son of God, endowed with His power from on high.  You have value and worth as His creation.  He loves you.  He will sustain you.  Go to Church.  Sit in the meetings.  Participate.  Be productive.  Be positive.  Be hopeful.  Be smart.  Be a role model for someone else.  Get yourself back in the game.  Don't be a "six-dipper."  Dip a full seven times as the prophet directs, and you will be cleansed.  (See 2 Kings 5:10).  Be confident you are overcoming.  Remember you are not isolated, alone or living on an island of misery of your own making.  You are part of a community of fallen sinners in the Church and in your own family.  Membership in the Church is more like being a patient in a hospital for sinners than it is membership in Club Perfection.  We are all fallen, we all struggle, and we all have problems.  We can help and build one another.  Be part of it.  Partake of the sacrament worthily, not because you are perfect and you have fully overcome your addiction and the accompanying temptations, but because you are a true disciple of Christ, you have turned over your sins to Him, and you are truly one who is trying diligently to partake of the power of the atonement in your life.

7.  Change old patterns.  As editor of the record, Moroni reminds us:  "Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; And if men will come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness [meaning, our mortal flesh] that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."  (Ether 12:26-27).  I had an uncle who once told me the hardest addiction he ever had to overcome was smoking cigarettes.  Everywhere he would be during the day, his office, his car, his study at home, had a supply of cigarettes at the ready.  He had to take them all away from himself.  His patterns were so deeply ingrained in found himself reaching in all the old familiar places for cigarettes long after he had quit.  But he changed his patterns.  With pornography it is no different -- find a replacement.  The scriptures are a wonderful substitute.  Redirect temptations into a more productive channel.

This is not the perfect roadmap out of pornography addiction, but I can tell you if followed it will work.  Above all, be patient with yourself.  You will not become "cured" overnight.  However, you will become less and less inclined to reach for it if you have replaced it with something else.

The article cited above reports:  "Because sexuality is part of the sacredness of marriage for most Christians, when the truth came out Christina felt 'it was the same as (him) having an affair. If you're going to look at it on the screen, you've already done it in your mind.' When she discovered the images that shattered his secret on the home computer, 'it took me years to get them out of my head, and it took me four days to get up the courage to confront him.'"

A recent Republican primary election victor in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, is running for the vacated seat of Vice-President Joe Biden.  She was openly guffawed in the press for a statement of her belief that masturbation was synonymous with adultery.  She took the same position as the woman in today's story cited above.  If O'Donnell triumphs in the general election in November against what pundits are calling 10-1 odds against, the lame duck session before the new Congress is seated will be blocked from its filibuster-proof majority, because she would be seated immediately after the election.  Whatever further damage the lame duck session might dream up would effectively be negated.  It's no wonder the media want to paint her as a buffoon.  And why is she a target?  Because she speaks the truth and dares to expose the sophistry.

In today's sophisticated world of anything goes, what else would we expect?  The root word of "sophisticated" is. . . sophistry.  The word means "plausible but fallacious argumentation."

You can try to persuade me, yourself and others that pornography is a harmless, victimless and insignificant indulgence in your spare time, but you are merely indulging in sophistry.

When a senatorial candidate dares to speak the truth about it, the world tries to kill the messenger with sophistry, but it doesn't alter truth one iota.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lewis H. DeYoung Obtained Priesthood Keys of Power

Many years ago, a missionary son asked, “How is it that women can officiate in temple ordinances, inasmuch as they do not have the priesthood? By what authority do they do those things?”

That’s an excellent question, and this one does have an answer! The handout (see attached - click to enlarge, download it or print it to read the small print, or ask me for a pdf version) from today’s lesson outlines the priesthood holders (men only) who hold priesthood keys in the hierarchical structure of the organization (those on the right side of the handout).  I have written for years about this topic.

The presiding keys of authority within the Church are very specific, and are held only by those who preside at the various levels of the Church. The President of the High Priesthood, the President of the Church, holds all the priesthood keys (see D&C 132:7). There is only one man on the earth at a time who holds all the keys of the priesthood. In actuality, however, he receives those keys through ordination by all the Apostles, since the keys reside in The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Until an Apostle rises to the first position in seniority (based on his ordination date), those keys remain dormant with each individual Apostle.  If two Apostles are ordained on the same day, the one who is older by age is senior in the Quorum.

The authority dimension of the presiding keys is referred to as “the right of presidency.” (See D&C 107:8). According to their positions in the Church, God gives his servants authority to act within certain bounds. Only the authorized ministrations by priesthood holders operating in proper channels are legally binding and acceptable before him. (D&C 132:8-10). These keys are variously referred to in the scriptures as “the keys of the priesthood,” (see D&C 132:7; 124:34, 123), “the keys of the kingdom,” (see D&C 81:2; 128:14), and “the keys of the oracles of God,” (see D&C 90: 4-5; 124:39, 124).

The Keys of the Priesthood

These presiding keys are often called “the keys of the priesthood” for at least two reasons: First, these presiding keys of authority are exclusive to the priesthood, and are handled and controlled only by those ordained to the priesthood; secondly, the keys pertain to offices or positions in the priesthood. (D&C 107:9).

The Keys of the Kingdom

The presiding keys are also called “the keys of the kingdom.” (D&C 81:2). By virtue of these keys God’s servants preside in his kingdom on earth, have authority to officiate in all the offices or positions and perform or administer all the ordinances thereof. Because of these rights, his servants may also enjoy the wherewithal to discern all the spiritual gifts or powers operative in the lives of the members of the kingdom to ensure they are of God. (See D&C 46:27).

The Keys of the Oracles of God

Sometimes these keys of presidency are called “the keys of the oracles of God,” because they give God’s servants the right to ask and receive revelation pertaining to the direction of his Church upon the earth. (D&C 90:1-6). They also give his servants the authority to speak for God. Anciently, the holy of holies in Solomon’s Temple was called “the oracle,” or the place where conversations with God took place. (See 1 Kings 6:16, 10-23).

The full and proper name of the priesthood is “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (See D&C 107:1-4). We learn by revelation that the name of the priesthood was changed to avoid the too frequent reference to the name of the Supreme Being. The priesthood became known as the Melchizedek Priesthood, named after the great high priest Melchizedek. Two “divisions or grand heads,” consisting of the Melchizedek and the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood operate within the Church.

These priesthood keys are the exclusive domain of men only in the Church. These are the keys that some aspiring women in the Church who do not understand the doctrine are seeking to acquire – they want to be on an equal footing with men, and they want the priesthood. However, only men preside in this Church with priesthood keys of authority. Women who preside in the auxiliary organizations (the Young Women, Primary, Relief Society) do so at the invitation of priesthood leaders who hold the keys of authority, so that there may be order in the Church.

All that said, now to your question, Joe: “Do women who preside over the women’s organizations in the Church or work in the temple performing ordinances also hold presiding keys of the priesthood?” The answer is that women, like their male counterparts in the priesthood, are “set apart” to preside or officiate when called by their leaders who hold the priesthood keys to preside. Presiding keys of the priesthood are conferred upon men who are called to preside, but women do not receive the keys of the priesthood to preside.

Do not misunderstand, however, there are priesthood keys of power held by men and women, but within the organization of the Church presiding keys of priesthood authority is a male-only domain. One can hold the priesthood, yet not have the authority to do particular things.

Conversely, one can have authority to do particular things and not hold the priesthood. For instance, to preside in one of the Church's auxiliary programs, a person must be properly called, receive the sustaining vote of those over whom he or she presides, and be set apart by the same authority by which he or she was called. In this manner, the men who hold the priesthood keys give authority (but not keys) to women to preside over auxiliary organizations and to officiate in the temples.

Specifically, the priesthood’s presiding keys are held by stake presidents, mission presidents, bishops, elders’ quorum presidents, but not by presidents of the Young Men’s organization, the Young Women, the Primary, or the Relief Society. Those without keys, including counselors and secretaries in the various organizations when they are set apart, are entitled to “blessings, privileges, authority to act,” etc., but there are no keys of the priesthood conveyed. Nevertheless, in each of the Church’s organizations that touch our lives through their ministrations, we may be blessed by the service of others if we will sustain them and pray for their inspiration on our behalf.

The Priesthood Keys of Personal Revelation

Now, on the left-hand side of the handout you will see something called “Priesthood Keys of Personal Revelation” – a complete contrivance on my part to illustrate the most important dimension of priesthood power. These keys are given without the necessity of priesthood ordination, since women and men can access their use to unlock the heavens, either in their Church calling or in their personal lives.

This is probably the best-kept "secret" in the Church.  Harold B. Lee once defined the word secret or mystery as a truth that cannot be known except by revelation.  Often those God-given truths are simply waiting for individual discovery, not because God has not yet revealed them.  Such is this "secret."  A little study and pondering will reveal it to anyone who seeks to have it revealed.

The presiding keys of authority are what everyone – men and women – seem to be most interested in obtaining for some reason. You witness it first in the mission field – everyone clamoring for positions of authority – district leaders, zone leaders, APs – you know the drill. It most often goes under the heading of “mission politics.” Rich just mentioned it last week in his journal pages. What missionaries don’t realize (and they are in good company along with about 99% of the whole Church) is that these presiding keys are highly over-rated.

They are the most visible positions in the mission field and in the Church, true enough, but the keys of personal righteousness are the where the power in the priesthood resides.

Think about this for a moment. In the next life, how will we be organized? Two choices: A) as a church; B) as a family.

In this life, we are routinely deceived. We value what we can discern through our physical senses, and visible priesthood positions seem most desirable, so we aspire (naturally – since we are dealing with the “natural man” here) to obtain that which is highly visible. Our peers in the Church generally honor people who hold prominent Church positions.

We even go so far in our thinking to assume that because God has bestowed this position upon us that we are somehow better than, or more blessed than, or more acceptable before God. We equate position with God’s approval. We think this is God’s way of patting us on the back by rewarding our good efforts by bestowing upon us a visible and prominent position. Members of some families agonize for years sometimes because they haven't obtained some desirable office in the Church when other siblings have.

Lewis H. DeYoung Obtained Priesthood Keys of Power

I attended the funeral yesterday of an obscure uncle who never held a prominent position in the Church.  He was lauded for all the things that mattered most to his posterity -- he was hailed as "perfect" -- a perfect husband, brother, father, grandfather, mentor, guide, example and confidant.  In the end, this was a faithful servant to all, beloved and cherished because he was the embodiment of one who had kept and magnified his temple covenants and has now passed through the veil to a reunion with his beloved Audrey and his eternal reward.  Together they triumphed over mortality -- not that it was easily conquered.  In their case it involved a long-suffering journey into humility through consecrated service.  And it had nothing to do with his positions as a presiding authority in the Church. 

It's sad to observe this wrong-headed fixation with postions in the Church, because the real truth is these things are comparatively trivial in God's eyes. 

Like the workings of the Spirit in our lives, the real treasures lie hidden beneath the trappings of outward appearances. It is in the domain of the personal revelations of the Holy Ghost that God whispers his approval of our lives day by day, until that crowning day when we part the veil, and “the Father teacheth [us] of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.” (D&C 84:48).

Real power in the priesthood lies in personal righteousness (the byproduct of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and true repentance). One can have authority to act in a position in the Church, but ordination or setting apart to a position in the Church never guarantees God’s acceptance of our lives, personal purity or power in the priesthood.

Remember, "power in the priesthood" is what we desire most for ourselves and our posterity throughout all eternity!  Everything else pales into a trivial pursuit.

*  *  *

I have always appreciated these inspired insights from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, as reported by his son in The Bruce R. McConkie Story, 330-31:

There is an inherent danger in centering undue attention on the importance of offices and callings. Salvation is not found in offices, and a preoccupation with them can be self-destructive. Dad was very sensitive to this danger and took great pains to warn his family against such a danger. He recalled that when President J. Reuben Clark was changed from first counselor in the First Presidency to second counselor, President Clark reminded the Church as a whole that what matters is not "where one serves, but how." (J. Reuben Clark Jr., Improvement Era, June 1951, 412). 

Dad explained that when there is a vacancy in a bishopric, a stake presidency, or among the general authorities, there are those in the ward, stake, or Church generally who begin to speculate and wonder whether they ought to be called. Some of them obviously pray to the Lord and ask to be called and then think that when someone else is called, the best man has not been chosen. He pointed out that "there are usually many men who could fill any position, who could take any vacancy that arises and do it honorably and well, building up the kingdom and furthering the work. But some individual has to be called to do it. It is certain that whoever is called thereby becomes the Lord's anointed, and even if the Lord would have preferred someone else, yet the one called is entitled to inspiration, and if he seeks to magnify his calling to the full, he will come off triumphant in the work assigned."

The great lesson is that it does not matter what position we have in life. What does matter is how we keep the commandments. "The family unit and working in the cause of righteousness are more important than any position. Service is essential to salvation, but the place where we serve is not."

Years before, Dad was assigned to attend a quarterly conference in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. In one of the meetings, Dad spoke about magnifying one's calling in the priesthood and thereby working out an inheritance of exaltation and receiving all that the Father hath — this in accordance with the statements in Doctrine and Covenants 84 on the oath and covenant of the priesthood. George F. Richards, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, followed Dad and spoke on the same general theme. One of the things that President Richards said was, in substance, there are many in the Church who hold no position at all who in eternity will have higher positions than many of the Council of the Twelve. Furthermore, he said that he did not have the slightest doubt that there would be a realignment of Church positions and responsibilities in the life to come. People who were not called to leadership positions in this life could well be called to such positions in the spirit world. He also foresaw a future day when the organization we now have will no longer exist. The only promise that we have about apostles and prophets in the scriptures, for instance, is that they are going to continue until there is a unity of the faith, meaning that some time during the millennial era, apostles and prophets will no longer be needed. That is because every man will be converted, and there will no longer be a need for special witnesses to bring them to the truth. This will also be because everyone will know all of the doctrines, including all of the future, and there will be no occasion for prophets to foretell it.

Elder McConkie held that what was of eternal moment was the family organization, the patriarchal system, which goes from father to son. The thing that counts will not be what position someone held in the Church in any dispensation but, rather, how he lived and whether he is entitled to exaltation and his place in the patriarchal order.

*  *  *

This past week, I was eyewitness to just such a man, Lewis H. DeYoung.  I am grateful to Uncle Lewis for the reminder of the things that routinely matter most.  The world took little notice of his passing, but among his family, those who knew him best, we have the assurance he is not only entitled to exaltation, but he has now taken his de facto place in the patriarchal order of the priesthood beyond our sight and charted the course for all the rest of us.

And it had nothing to do with the positions he held in the Church. 

It had everything to do with his obtaining the priesthood keys of power through his faithfulness.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's the Spending, Stupid -- Part Deux

Recently, I posted with a headline, "It's About the Spending, Stupid!"  Today, the headline was repeated by Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal and bolstered with even more recent polling data from Rasmussen to back up the claim.

"Look at the astonishing numbers in the Rasmussen poll released last week. Nearly seven in 10 respondents (68%) want a smaller government, lower taxes and fewer services. The party breakdown: GOP, 88%; Democrats, 44%; and Other, 74%. In short, the independent voters who decide national elections have moved into the anti-spending column. I don't think they'll leave any time soon.

"In a note on last week's poll, Rasmussen points out that the only time it recorded a higher shrink-the-government number, at 70%, was in August 2006. That was just ahead of the famous off-year election in which Republican voters withheld support for their party's free-spending members in Congress."

In a prior post I talked about how Obama had lost the middle.  It wasn't wishful thinking -- the numbers are proving it now.

Peggy Noonan observed as much in her column today.  She talked about pendulums swinging in a shorter and quicker political arc than ever before, as I did in a prior post.  There is something MONUMENTAL about to happen in America on November 2nd.

Yikes!  National commentators are making all my earlier predictions come true!

We are increasingly a country of one heart and one mind regardless of political party, and I like it.  You can be part of it too, but you have to get out and vote this year.  You have to help put an end to spending.  You have to vote for people who will scale back government.  The Republicans couldn't ever do it, and the Democrats couldn't ever do it. 

But you can.  Because the government is what you say it is.  You have to stop those who would perpetuate the status quo of profligate borrowing and spending.  We are the people who founded this government.  It will yield to our will.

Change is on the way, and this time it will be change YOU can believe in. 

And because YOU believe, YOU will do it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An important "part" of my life

 In the Church we repeat the same series of lessons every four years in Sunday School based upon the scriptures.

In prieshood quourms and Relief Society meetings we are studying the updated version of the Gospel Principles manual.  Today in our priesthood lesson we reviewed the organization of the Church.

Too often, I fear, we who have been in the Church most of our adult lives discount the power of repeating the lesson material, claiming it's all been done before, we've heard it all our lives, and there is nothing new under the sun.

For these reasons, many absent themselves first from the temples (that never changes much either), then their absence at stake meetings follows.  Eventually, because of indifference it becomes easier to be absent at Sunday meetings.  Weeks stretch into months, months into years and soon they find themselves losing interest all together in the ongoing miracles of the Restoration.

"Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies," observed Elie Wiesel.  He also said, "Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil."

I picked Wiesel for a quote about indifference because of his praiseworthy journey from the abyss of hopelessness accompanying Hitler's occupation of Europe during World War II and the subsequent atrocities of the concentration camps to his eventual embrace of God and his renewal in overcoming the effects of it.  Wiesel became a beacon light of hope for many who lost their way during those days, and remains an inspiration for those who seek hope and faith. 

It is worthwhile for a moment to pause and remember what this man had to deal with in his life, when indifference would have been more desirable than hope.

In 1940, Romania lost the town of Sighet following the Second Vienna Award. In 1944, Wiesel, his family and the rest of the town were placed in one of the two ghettos in Sighet. Wiesel and his family lived in the larger of the two, on Serpent Street. On May 16, 1944, the Hungarian authorities allowed the German army to deport the Jewish community in Sighet to Auschwitz Birkenau. While at Auschwitz, his inmate number, "A-7713", was tattooed onto his left arm. Wiesel was separated from his mother and sister Tzipora, who are presumed to have died at Auschwitz. Wiesel and his father were sent to the attached work camp Buna, a subcamp of Auschwitz III Monowitz. He managed to remain with his father for over eight months as they were forced to work under appalling conditions and shuffled between three concentration camps in the closing days of the war. On January 29, 1945, just a few weeks after the two were marched to Buchenwald, Wiesel's father was beaten by a Nazi as he was suffering from dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. He was later sent to the crematorium, only months before the camp was liberated by the Third Army on April 11.

J.K. Rowling, who brought Harry Potter to life, also learned to battle off the effects of indifference, and offered:  "Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike."  She now admits indifference as a destitute single mother nearly cost her life, and that she came "very, very close" to committing suicide in the years before Harry Potter became a global bestseller. What saved her?  Her daughter, Jessica.

Over the years we have had many lessons about the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830.  Many years ago as a teacher of one of those gospel doctrine lessons in Sunday School, I felt impressed to ask the question that had been on my mind for a week as I thought about the lesson.
The question is this one, and of course, it’s a pure hypothetical – “What if the Church had never been organized?”
The other corollary questions are, “What if there had been no Restoration?"
"What if there had been no Joseph Smith?”
I asked the class to think about how their lives would be different if none of those things had happened. After some initial discussion, they all concluded that life’s purposes as we have come to understand them in our lives in the Church would be totally pointless.
I reminded them, many people stand to bear testimony in this Church and include words to this effect – “The Church (or the gospel) is an important part of my life.” After posing the questions I did, then discussing them, I think people began to understand that the Church is more than an important “part” of our lives – the Church, this Church, the only true and living Church on the face of the earth with which the Lord is pleased, IS life.  (See D&C 1:30).
The Savior said:  "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  (John 10:10).

There is nothing we do in this life that is not directly tied in some way to our understanding of the purpose of life and our knowledge of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph. All our hopes and dreams are tied to our membership in the Church. All our questions are answered in the Restoration. The only ones that aren’t are the ones that don’t matter much.
After discussing the hypothetical questions, we reviewed together the word of the Lord in the revelations contained in D&C Sections 20 and 21. There are some powerful doctrines in those two sections, far more impact than we could discuss in the class period.

One of the class members posed one particularly troubling question to me. He wondered, after all that I have taught the ward in recent years, if I believed we can really be sanctified in this life. It was obvious because of the way he asked it, that he did not. 

I walked, once again, to the sacrament table. I lifted the tray of bread, then said, “We talk a lot in the Church about coming to Church each week to renew our covenant of baptism. What were you like on the day you were baptized?”

They all answered, “We were clean and pure.”

I said, “That’s right. And another word for ‘clean and pure’ is ‘sanctified or purified.’ What none of you has yet realized is that you are sanctified each week as you come to this building to partake of the emblems of the suffering of your Savior’s gruesome death on your behalf. The prayers offered over the emblems (or symbols) of the deep meaning behind the sacrament are, '. . .we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread (water) to the souls of all those who partake (drink) of it.'" 

We ask for the emblems or symbols to be sanctified -- but are we not really asking for our souls to be sanctified?

Sanctification, therefore, must be attainable, even though it is a process undertaken throughout our lives.

If you don’t really believe Christ can change you from your intemperate and fallen selves, then why bother coming each week to partake of the sacrament? The promise is that you “may ALWAYS have his Spirit to be with [you]." If you don’t believe it, you really don’t have enough faith in Christ. If you did have enough faith, you would come to understand, as I have come to understand over my lifetime, that his power is sufficient to sanctify us, to purify us, and to perfect us IF WE REPENT.  (See Moroni 10:32-33).

The power lies in his perfection, not ours under the requirements of the laws of the gospel. Compliance with the laws of the gospel is what justification is all about. We are "justified" which is a legal term, when we submit to the outward ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

But we are "sanctified" when the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within us as the token of the covenant of baptism we make when we are immersed in the water. The Spirit is like a fire to purify us. The ordinance in and of itself has no power. It is merely a symbol of a spiritual rebirth. It is the Spirit of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us that purifies us. 

When I went home from Sunday School that day all those years ago, I wrote those words in my journal, then in a letter to two sons were were serving as missionaries at the time.  I didn't want to lose the memory of what I had learned once again as I taught what could only be described as the "same old, same old" lesson about the organization of the Church.  Today that memory was renewed as yet another fresh revelation.  There is power in repetition.

Joseph Smith said the Holy Ghost is a sanctifier.  You can't be a member of the Church and avoid being sanctified if you fully understand what you're doing when you partake of the sacrament each week. 

After baptism, we are "sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 27:20). If we were to be immersed in water and then never be confirmed a member of the Church and never receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, we would still be in our sins. "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man," Joseph Smith pointed out, "if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half — that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost" (TPJS, 314; see also 149-50; 360).

Parley P. Pratt wrote that the Spirit "quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being" (Key to the Science of Theology, 61, italics mine).

I don’t know how you could understand all that, and still ask the question, “Can we be sanctified in this life?”

Too many quit trying.  They become weary in the battle of mortality.  The enemy consumes them, wears them down, weakens them, then they give up.  That's when the indifference is the strongest.  They are adrift from the anchor of the redeeming sacrifice of their Savior, right where Satan wants them, safe in their shell, never venturing out again into the land of ironies,condradictions and disappointments in their quest for the sanctification He offers. 

C.S. Lewis once wisely observed:  "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

To be sure, sanctification is a station at which no one arrives in an instant, but it is a process to be incrementally improved upon each week as we come to the sacrament table.

In the end, sanctification is the antithesis of indifference.  When we are indifferent to the majestic possibilities in the Restoration as they affect us personally, the gospel forever remains just an important "part" of our lives.  When we are "hatched" we see it for what it is. . .

. . . it IS life!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hate Speech

This has been a week filled with hate speech directed primarily at Muslims, but also at other religious groups.

It began, of course, with a Florida preacher with a small congregation grabbing more than his share of headlines when he announced several weeks ago he intended to observe the ninth anniversary of 9/11 by burning copies of the Quran.  I can't even dignify that man by mentioning his name.

This past week even more evidence surfaced that hate speech is alive and well in America.  There is at least one Mormon, McKay Coppins, who writes for Newsweek Magazine.  He was on assignment in New York to cover the first meeting of something called the 9/11 Christian Center at Ground Zero, a group seeking to offer itself as a "counter-balance" to the proposed Park 51 Mosque to be built near Ground Zero.

What Coppins was surprised to learn was this group seems to have little to do with Christianity.  Instead, he writes about the hate-filled rhetoric that assaulted his senses as a participant.  Writing as a Mormon, he was sensitive not only to the assault against Muslims, but he reports the preacher's wrath was specific and hateful for Mormons, gays, atheists, followers of Gandhi and Hindus alike.

Comparing himself to Elijah and his "contests" with the priests of Baal in the Old Testament, the fiery preacher, Florida evangelical Bill Keller screamed, “I want to talk about two of today’s prophets of Baal: Glenn Beck and Imam Feisal Rauf,” directing his fire and brimstone at two of the most talked-about media figures of the past month.  He has made a living out of shock rhetoric.

During the 2008 presidential primaries, for example, he was interviewed by both CNN and Bill O’Reilly when he launched an ad campaign declaring: “A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan.”

He doesn't stop there.  Islam, he contends is, "A wonderful religion for PEDOPHILES,” and Gandhi is apparently suffering eternal damnation even though Keller concedes "he might have been a nice guy.”  

If this "preacher" is seeking to illustrate how Christianity is superior to Islam, then God must surely want to re-invent Christianity.  Oh, I almost forgot, He did.  He gave the world Joseph Smith for that precise purpose to restore the lost doctrines, principles, priesthood and ordinances.

Much has been made of the on-again, off-again threats to burn the Quran today from another Floridian preacher, who I intentionally refuse to name by name.  Both these preachers make Christians cringe, but they have the right to speak their minds, guaranteed under the Constitution.

There is room for hope, however.  As the level of unsubstantiated hatred and vitriol rises, the more easily it can be discerned for what it is.  As the wheat and the tares grow together until the final harvest, the more recognizable each becomes and the risk of deception diminishes.  People of goodwill will someday come together in peace and unite under the banner of Zion as we prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It seems there are those who believe they can hasten that day by doing exactly the opposite to bring it to pass.  But until that time we will see more and more goodness emerging too.

Like me, maybe you would be interested to know that in Jerusalem recently, representatives from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities gathered to discuss their respective religious traditions in an atmosphere of mutual respect, cordiality and brotherhood.  Mayor Teddy Kollek, the late and legendary mayor of Jerusalem who sought his entire life to bring peace to Jerusalem through cooperation with all the stake holders in the Holy City, would have been proud.  This is a pattern we could replicate wherever men and women of goodwill live together in harmony and mutual understanding.

Earlier this week, parent company of all the Church's media outlets, Deseret Media Companies, the owner of the Deseret News, KSL-TV and KSL Newsradio, issued a statement Thursday on civility in politics, aimed at elevating the tone and nature of engagement in the political arena.  It's a laudable effort, but as I have pointed out before, responsible political dialogue in this country founded upon the principles of free speech has been almost impossible to achieve even from the inception of the American experiment with freedom. 

As it turns out, freedom of speech is a messy proposition at best.  Grant the protected right and you open Pandora's Box.  Once the bell of freedom has been rung, you cannot "unring" the bell.  That's what makes freedom such a rare commodity and one to be prized.  It can be argued that dictatorships are much more reliable and predictable, but at what cost?  Most Americans prefer their freedom in messy, sticky, and unpredictable boxes where all that is seemingly left is hope, as opposed to dictatorial mandates imposed upon them not of their own choosing.

Upon this core belief hinges the outcome of the mid-term elections of 2010 on November 2nd.  It may perhaps be the last great hope for turning the direction of this country around before it slips over the edge into the abyss of Constitutional oblivion.

According to the DMC statement, political dialogue should:

•  Focus on issues and facts, not innuendo.
•  Discuss platforms and avoid personal attacks.
•  Inform rather than incite the electorate.
•  Avoid hyperbole in favor of balanced and reasoned discussion.
•  Afford respect and dignity to the political process, political opponents and other people regardless of race, nationality, religion and political viewpoint.

As Mormons we know something about hate, persecution and misrepresentation.  Our voices must always be for civility, understanding, cooperation and patience.  We must never find ourselves on the side of those who would belittle, demean or attack others for their religious beliefs.  When we see religious intolerance and hate speech, however, we must stand in bold opposition to it.

We are in a unique position, knowing what we know.  Ours is knowledge based upon modern revelation.  We know, we say we know, by the power of the Holy Ghost who has revealed truth to us, a personal witness now alight in the hearts and souls of a diverse and worldwide population of millions of Church members.  We know what it is to be attacked for our beliefs, and I am a witness those attacks will not subside nor diminish in volume and intensity in the years that lie ahead just because we seek a more compassionate dialogue. 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie offered this chilling prophetic insight on the occasion of the Church's sesquicentennial celebration in 1980: 

But what we can see causes us to rejoice and to tremble. We tremble because of the sorrows and wars and plagues that shall cover the earth. We weep for those in the true Church who are weak and wayward and worldly and who fall by the wayside as the caravan of the kingdom rolls forward.
We rejoice because of the glory and honor that awaits those who come forth out of all this tribulation with clean hands and pure hearts (see Psalm 24:4).
Looking ahead, we see the gospel preached in all nations and to every people with success attending.
We see the Lord break down the barriers so that the world of Islam and the world of Communism can hear the message of the restoration; and we glory in the fact that Ishmael — as well as Isaac — and Esau — as well as Jacob — shall have an inheritance in the eternal kingdom.
We see congregations of the covenant people worshipping the Lord in Moscow and Peking and Saigon. We see Saints of the Most High raising their voices in Egypt and India and Africa.
We see stakes of Zion in all parts of the earth; and Israel, the chosen people, gathering into these cities of holiness, as it were, to await the coming of their King.
We see temples in great numbers dotting the earth, so that those of every nation and kindred and tongue and people can receive the fulness of the ordinances of the house of the Lord and can qualify to live and reign as kings and priests on earth a thousand years.
We see the seed of Cain — long denied that priestly power which makes men rulers over many kingdoms — rise up and bless Abraham as their father.
We see the Saints of God, who are scattered upon all the face of the earth, rise in power and glory and stand as lights and guides to the people of their own nations.
We see our children and our children’s children stand firm in defense of truth and virtue, crowned with the power of God, carrying off the kingdom triumphantly.
We see the faithful Saints perfecting their lives and preparing for the coming of him whose children they are, preparing for the glorious mansion he has promised them in the kingdom of his Father.
But the vision of the future is not all sweetness and light and peace. All that is yet to be shall go forward in the midst of greater evils and perils and desolations than have been known on earth at any time.
As the Saints prepare to meet their God, so those who are carnal and sensual and devilish prepare to face their doom.
As the meek among men make their calling and election sure, so those who worship the God of this world sink ever lower and lower into the depths of depravity and despair.
Amid tears of sorrow — our hearts heavy with forebodings — we see evil and crime and carnality covering the earth. Liars and thieves and adulterers and homosexuals and murderers scarcely seek to hide their abominations from our view. Iniquity abounds. There is no peace on earth.
We see evil forces everywhere uniting to destroy the family, to ridicule morality and decency, to glorify all that is lewd and base. We see wars and plagues and pestilence. Nations rise and fall. Blood and carnage and death are everywhere. Gadianton robbers fill the judgment seats in many nations. An evil power seeks to overthrow the freedom of all nations and countries. Satan reigns in the hearts of men; it is the great day of his power.
But amid it all, the work of the Lord rolls on. The gospel is preached and the witness is born. The elect of God forsake the traditions of their fathers and the ways of the world. The kingdom grows and prospers, for the Lord is with his people.
Amid it all, there are revelations and visions and prophecies. There are gifts and signs and miracles. There is a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
Amid it all believing souls are born again, their souls are sanctified by the power of the Spirit, and they prepare themselves to dwell with God and Christ and holy beings in the eternal kingdom.
Is it any wonder that we both rejoice and tremble at what lies ahead?
Truly the world is and will be in commotion, but the Zion of God will be unmoved. The wicked and ungodly shall be swept from the Church, and the little stone will continue to grow until it fills the whole earth.
The way ahead is dark and dreary and dreadful. There will yet be martyrs; the doors in Carthage shall again enclose the innocent. We have not been promised that the trials and evils of the world will entirely pass us by.
If we, as a people, keep the commandments of God; if we take the side of the Church on all issues, both religious and political; if we take the Holy Spirit for our guide; if we give heed to the words of the apostles and prophets who minister among us — then, from an eternal standpoint, all things will work together for our good.
Our view of the future shall be undimmed, and, whether in life or in death, we shall see our blessed Lord return to reign on earth. We shall see the New Jerusalem coming down from God in heaven to join with the Holy City we have built. We shall mingle with those of Enoch’s city while together we worship and serve the Lord forever.  (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Coming Tests and Trials and Glory,” Ensign, May 1980, 71, emphasis mine).

We tremble and we rejoice.  Well said.

But make no mistake about it, Zion will triumph in these last days, and many of our children and grandchildren will live to witness the unity of the faith seemingly so elusive in our present circumstances.  We know how this all ends. . .

. . . and our rejoicing will outpace our trembling.