Friday, December 30, 2011

Out with the Old, and In with the New

As one of our Christmas traditions, we design and print a new tee-shirt that has some family significance for The Goates Kids. This year, as always, the tee-shirts were opened on
Christmas Eve and are usually put to use that first night as pajama tops.

This year was typical, and in the design process with everyone's name printed on the back, I counted the grandchildren (it's a task in our family). With the recent birth this week of Clara Grace, we now have 38 grandchildren with two more expected in the next three months.

There is something wonderfully energizing and exciting about the birth of grandchildren. Maybe it's because Patsy and I no longer have to do the "heavy lifting." She's up in Washington state this week tending grandchildren. It's her thing to be a Grandma. She's almost as good at it as she has been being a mother. Nothing gives me greater joy than watching her in that role.

It was Carl Sandburg who famously said: "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."

A baby, like a new year, is a fresh beginning. We are reminded in scripture:

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:29-38).

Melanie, the mother of our newest grand-daughter, reminded me last night that everyone walking around on planet Earth today was birthed in the same way as her new infant. Everyone, think of it!, everyone has a mother, and we owe them our lives. I revere my mother, and my memories of her are as real and fresh as if she were still living here among us. Strange that such a common experience doesn't bond us all together as a human family, isn't it? So universal, this matter of birth and death, yet we take it so much for granted that we discount the miraculous nature of it.

We are commanded to "bring up your children in light and truth." (D&C 93:40). These precious innocent children are given to us as a gift, but also as an inheritance. The same blessings promised to Abraham in God's covenant with him are universal to all Abraham's posterity, if we will live for them:

My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Abraham 2:8-11).

All the families of the earth today are being blessed by the seed of Abraham, as the fulness of the gospel spreads forth across the world. Whatever sins of the past have been committed in violation of the agency that has been ours since the foundations of this world were first laid, even since we were first organized as "intelligences," can be swept away in repentance. All that is required of God's children, then, now and always, is the recognition of Christ's atoning redemption for each of us.

The beginning of a new year is a renewal of life, a chance to begin again, to forsake past sins and bad habits, and to cast out the old way we've done things, and to bring in the new. Indeed, the meaning of repentance in Greek translations is literally "to think differently after." Are you capable of doing things differently next year after witnessing the disastrous results of this past year that have brought sorrow to yourselves and others? Can you think differently? Can you act differently? Robert Louis Stevenson said, "You cannot run away from weakness. You must sometime fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now and where you stand?" According to King Benjamin, your salvation depends upon your ability to be consciously aware of your need to change:

And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not. (Mosiah 4:29-30).

The birth of a child symbolizes perfectly our individual and collective preparations for one day living in a Zion society. Indeed, the birth of Zion is prefaced and likened to a woman bringing forth a baby and enduring the travail of her labor pains to produce the birth. Becoming Zion-like begins with each of us and following the example of Abraham. To inherit what Abraham has inherited is the quest of a lifetime of righteous living and doing.

There are some who subscribe to the satanic notion that the world is such a wicked place it is irresponsible to bring more children in to it. Could it be possibly as wicked a place as it was in Abraham's day when children were being routinely sacrificed on a pagan altar? Satan came into this world in the garden with the sole purpose of destroying the family. His inroads are deep and he has had great success since then. He will always have an opponent among the Latter-day Saints, however, who believe the family is at the center of the universe because God designed the plan of happiness in such a way we could all participate in the joy of creation.

So on the eve of another new year, let us all put away the old and begin afresh.

Let us make a pact that we will resist believing all the political punditry coming from the prophets of doom and gloom who are predicting the end of America. We will hear it in a cascading cacophony of escalating decibels all next year in the run-up to the November presidential election. The Iowa caucuses kick things off next week. At this writing, no one has a clue how Iowa will conclude until all the votes are counted, and so it will be state by state until the final election on the second Tuesday in November.

Let us agree to do all we can and dial down the false predictions, since no one really knows until all the votes are in. No matter what you think is going to happen this next year, God's promises and His plan for the establishment of Zion in the last days extend far beyond the here and now. These promises resound in my ears:

I have sworn, and the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment which I have given unto you, that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.
And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.
And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.
Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion
And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled. (D&C 101:10-19).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Jar, by Dianne Bayles, Christmas 2011

[Editor's note: On May 17, 2012, Dianne updated and revised this original post]:

I have always been a sponge for a sweet, sappy, touching Christmas story.  Whether they are true or fiction, I love Christmas stories, books, and movies.  Often they seem a bit far-fetched, but I still revel in them and the spirit of Christmas that they convey.  Snuggling on the couch or in my bed to read and share is among my favorite traditions I take pleasure in during the Christmas season.  We have enjoyed Christmas miracles in the past and along our journey.  Another Christmas miracle at least three years in the making has come to pass this year.

The Christmas of 2008 found our family depleted of all financial resources.  My husband had been without a job in his chosen field in which he holds a Masters Degree, for nearly two years.  Together we worked five different jobs and could barely pay our house payment.  Carrying our own health insurance premiums and just keeping current on our utilities had eaten our savings. Our food storage had sustained us with the help from my in laws’ garden and many neighbors, friends, and brother, who, just as the freezer was empty would miraculously bring a box or several coolers full of meat that they couldn’t use and wondered if we could.  One time, it was a loaf of white bread (a huge treat for the kids who were tired of whole wheat) and two cans of tuna fish.  Countless times, we found in the mailbox, taped to the door, under the front mat and tied to the doorknob envelopes of money.

Sometimes notes were attached of encouragement, but always anonymous.  One time it was a twenty-dollar bill with a note written in a shaky hand (obviously from one of our very elderly friends).  Another time it was a back-to-school kit with gift cards from a sister’s family that lived far away, or a check from a sister that said, “I love you”.  At first our hearts were filled with pride, not wanting to accept the loving offerings, or believing that they were needed, but our hearts were softened, humbled, and filled with hope.  There were so many gifts left that we gave up trying to figure out who our secret friends were and simply offered prayers of gratitude.

On Christmas Eve we returned home from my family's Ranch and having been with my extended family, we were filled with the spirit of the Savior after acting out the nativity and singing around the piano, concluding with family prayer.  My heart was filled with love and tenderness.  We had been able to buy a present for each child with the Christmas dollars from my in laws.  To our amazement, on the front porch we found three large garbage bags (obviously from three different secret Santas).  We felt the love of those around us even though we had no idea who had left the gifts.  We felt the hand of the Lord in our lives as others blessed us.

Thankfully, six months later, my husband was once again employed in his field of expertise, making a steady income.  Money was and has continued to be tight as we raise our six children and try to pay off accumulated debt and rebuild our savings.  As a family we decided that more than anything we wanted to save our money and visit Nauvoo.  We started a Nauvoo fund in a large pickle jar.  We taped it shut to prevent the temptation to dip into it.  Each time the kids received Christmas or birthday dollars, they went into the Nauvoo jar.  Grandparents and great grandparents made donations occasionally.  The children were amazed at how long it took to accumulate.  After a year we had saved about $150.  We knew we needed a lot more to be able to visit Nauvoo.  As a family we talked about our anticipation and excitement. We predicted when we would have enough money to go on our dream trip.  We dropped our change in and added a few bills slowly but steadily.

In the spring of 2009, a close friend, father of six was killed instantly in a car accident.  Three of the children attended our local elementary school with our children.  Their youngest and one of our daughters were best friends and initially brought our families together.   As an outreach of love and support the teachers and children of the school did a penny drive to collect as much pocket change to help the family.  Our little children asked if they could take our jar of change, our Nauvoo jar and donate it to help our friends.  Everyone instantly agreed.  Our mite was nothing compared to the desperate need of this family who we love.  We started over to collect pennies and change in our pickle jar for our Nauvoo trip.

The Christmas season of 2010 was approaching quickly.  Our Nauvoo jar had continued to fill, but we still had a long way to go before reaching our goal.  As I went to church the first week of December, I heard a devastating story of our home teacher’s daughter.  She was a young mother of three small children.  She was battling cancer for the third time.  The doctors had very little hope for her recovery and her response to further treatment.  I was told that this sweet mother was very weak, but her desire was to take her children and husband to Disneyland.

I went home and told my family the story.  We talked about what we could do to help them. The father of this young mother was the first home teacher we ever had that came regularly.  At the time of my husband’s unemployment, he and his saintly wife served our family selflessly, brought us hope, love and kindness in their quiet, humble way.  It was suggested by our 14 year-old daughter that we give them our Nauvoo jar.  All but one of our children thought that was the perfect idea.  I knew we all had to agree if we were to give our precious Nauvoo fund.  I prayed in my heart that I would know what to say to my reluctant child.  I promised our children that if we did this with pure hearts and the desire to bless this family that we didn’t really know, that it would multiply and come back to us in ways that we couldn’t comprehend at that moment.  Tears were shed, hearts were softened and it was agreed that we would give our jar to our home teacher and his wife for their daughter.

We invited them to dinner that night.  Following dinner, unprompted, our five-year old daughter went to the cupboard, retrieved the jar and gave it to our home teacher.  They were overcome with emotion and tears as we gave them our offering.  They didn’t know what it was, other than a jar of change.  At first they didn’t want to accept it.  As each of our children, one by one, told them to take it to their daughter, they were gracious and grateful.  In the scheme of overwhelming medical bills and a terminal disease, our little jar of change wasn’t significant in financial support or solution but we hoped they would feel our love, support and more importantly that Heavenly Father was aware of them.  We were grateful for the opportunity to share what little we could to lighten their burden.

The next day we started another Nauvoo pickle jar, penny by penny.  It seemed that rather than multiplying as I had promised my children it would, it was taking longer to accumulate.  October came and the kids asked if they could dump it out and count the money.  I was a bit hesitant. I knew there wasn’t much in it.  They did and there was just over $200.  They were so excited that we had collected that much.

Just after that, my oldest nephew received his mission call.  He is a young man who had overcome great difficulty and challenge in his life.  His parents have as well and were in the middle of the greatest financial crisis of their lives.  We decided we would contribute $100 of our fund to his mission.  There was not even a question in any of our minds if that was what we wanted to do.

Weeks after that, around Thanksgiving, we realized another family member was in need.  They had generously helped us when we needed it during our unemployment and we wanted to help them.  We sent them our last $100 from our Nauvoo jar.  It wasn’t much, not near enough to really help them, but we wanted them to know how much we loved them and they lived so far away that we couldn’t even visit them, hug them, play, or lift their spirits.

It was now two weeks before Christmas of 2011.  I had done most of the shopping and purchased “knock offs” at a much lower price of the items on my children’s wish lists.  I still had the Nauvoo trip in mind for a gift for Christmas.  I stayed strictly within my budget and spent the least amount that I ever had.  I started my research and realized even with the frugal gifts I had purchased, we wouldn’t be able to make up the funds from the emptied jars.  We’d just have to wait.  I had forgotten about the promise I had made my children that if we gave what we could with pure hearts that it would be multiplied and come back to us.  That remembrance came as my three oldest children bounded in the door from mutual with a green gift bag that had been left on the front porch.  The rest of the family had been home all evening, and even answered the door several times to receive popcorn and homemade treats from the neighbors with no notice of the green bag.

We opened the green bag and found inside a jar filled with silver coins and the book Christmas Jars, by Jason Wright.  I was overcome with emotion; my family is used to that.  As we read the book out loud, I realized that the promise that I had made to my children was beginning to come to fruition.  As we read the book together my heart was touched as each of our children made connections of our experiences of giving, spreading the light of the Savior with good deeds, secret acts, and sharing our jar in different ways.

The night after we finished reading the book, I found a black garbage bag as from Santa himself, in our garage filled with the gifts that my children had asked Santa.  It had been left inside the side door.  No note or explanation, simply there filling Christmas wishes.  Each gift was exactly what children were wishing for.  Santa was the only person who knew, they had not told anyone else their wishes.  If I took back the gifts that I had purchased and received the money back and added the Christmas dollars from Grammy and Grandad, it would bring our Nauvoo jar more than double of what we had given away from our collection of coins. The promise that I made to our children of receiving back what we had given had indeed multiplied in miraculous ways through others.  Our dream of visiting Nauvoo is a reality.

I have been reminded again of Heavenly Father’s plan. He is in charge and oh so mindful of each of us.  As we strive to bless and lift others, He never stops blessing each of us.  We can never truly pay Him back for the most precious gift of His Son, His Plan; we will never be caught up or ahead of the blessings.  My greatest desire is to serve Him and be His instrument in blessing His children.  I have certainly been blessed by many of His.  How grateful I am for the miracle of our jar, through the hands and hearts of many.


I wrote this story of our Christmas Jar the week before Christmas 2011.  I shared it with my parents, my husband’s parents and my grandparents asking them not to share it with anyone else until after Christmas.  My husband and I wrote a treasure hunt to give to our children on Christmas morning that ended with the filled jar and this story.  Our oldest read the story to her siblings as we were overcome with the blessings that the Lord had given us and the amazing Christmas spirit and giving.  They had not realized that the multiplicity that I promised had come to pass.  By the time Christmas evening came, our jar had doubled twice more.  I knew the reality of how much our trip would cost, we were still a long way off what it would really take to make the trek to Nauvoo, but we determined we would go for spring break.

January ended with a two-day stay in Primary Children's Hospital with our youngest with a random Staph infection in his toe.  I paid cash for the ER and all the bills as they came, not something we generally have budgeted for.  I was accepting every cleaning and sewing job that came my way and was stashing the extra dollars hoping to increase our chances of going to Nauvoo.  We were getting closer all the time but still had a way to go.

My husband is really physically active and a triathlete.  He had mentioned on occasion that his knee had been bothering him since Christmas.  After an appointment with a doctor, it was determined that he needed surgery.  Again, I paid cash as we went to the doctor and the hospital, thinking I was taking care of the bills the day of the treatment.   While he was recovering (the two days I could get him to stay down) we really got serious about Nauvoo.  He researched on the computer the different places to stay.  We booked our rooms, made appointments to visit the Nauvoo temple, mapped out our route and planned our meals, etc.  We were totally committed to the days we would stay in Nauvoo, as we had to pay 50% up front to stay at a pioneer cabin.

We enjoyed General Conference weekend as we prepared to leave the following Thursday for our trip.  That week we received more donations from our parents and another anonymous gift that came in the form of a plastic Easter egg taped to the front door with a note and cash.   In the mailbox on Wednesday, I received not such happy news in the form of medical bills from each hospital in the amount due of $500 each.  Our insurance deductible had changed to $500 per person per year.  It was a blow!  We did not have $1000 to pay the bills.  Immediately thoughts came that we should not go.  How would we pay these bills?  I decided that I would not think about it and I would deal with it when we got home.

Thursday night we were off on our adventure!  This was the first trip we had ever taken our kids on and we were filled with gratitude for all that had led us to this point.  As we offered a prayer of gratitude and asked for safety and peace to accompany us; we were all touched by the spirit of love and anticipation.  We drove as far as my brother’s home in Green River, Wyoming, and stayed the night there.

Friday we drove to Mount Rushmore and drove as far as Sioux City, South Dakota.  Saturday we got up early and stopped at the Winter Quarters temple, visitor center, and pioneer cemetery.  It was a powerful experience as I realized that my 5th great-grandfather was born there, and lived.  There are so many babies that died.  The temple itself is magnificent.  The stained glass windows are breath-taking.  Onward on the journey as we made PP&J in the car, and only stopped for gas and potty breaks to arrive in Nauvoo, which we did at 5pm that night.  We drove straight to the temple.  What a feeling!  We checked into our pioneer cabin (which was so fun in and of itself!) and got settled in for what was to be the most amazing experiences we have had to this point.

Easter Sunday we went to church and started visiting the sites of historic Nauvoo.  Each place the missionaries shared the stories of the people who had lived, run businesses and built the temple and the city.  A gospel principle was shared.  We felt the spirit.  Monday we continued to see historic Nauvoo, went on a wagon and carriage ride and absorbed the amazing pioneer spirit.  We made some special connections with the couple missionaries.  At each spot, the people we interacted with were divinely placed.  Because we were there in the off-season, we had their full attention, private, intimate tours everywhere we went.  It was everything we hoped it would be!

Tuesday was our temple day.  What sacred experiences we had!  I could have stayed in the temple for a week.  The craftsmanship was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, the spirit undeniably special, the gratitude for the restoration of Priesthood keys on the earth was tangible.  The spirit I felt and we felt as a family was building with each experience.  How grateful we felt.

The air was chilly Wednesday morning as we checked out of our pioneer cabin, and prepared for our last day in Nauvoo.  We got an early start as we went to the Nauvoo Grove.  There are quotes on plaques from journals and testimonies of the Prophet Joseph that bathed us in the spirit of the faith and testimony of Jesus Christ that was written in the hearts of the early saints.  Following the grove our next stop was the Joseph Smith sites that are owned by the Community of Christ.  They own the original homestead of Joseph and Emma, the Nauvoo House, the Mansion House, and the Red Brick Store; they also have and visitor center/museum.  We learned and saw much and were given a lot of information.  There was a different feeling, a lack of burning spirit, than we had experienced in the other places in Nauvoo.  My children noticed the difference and mentioned it throughout the tour.  I was grateful that they could feel the lack of the spirit that they are used to feeling.

Following the Joseph Smith sites, we traveled to Carthage Jail about 23 miles from Nauvoo.  As I made PP&J sandwiches, our daughter read to us an account of the 21 days leading up to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail.  It was literal accounts of the eye-witnesses and other members of the church.  The spirit was present and reverent as we drove.  It set a perfect stage for what we were about to experience.

As we opened the doors to the car in the parking lot at the visitor center in Carthage, the spirit washed over us.  We began the walk to the visitor center reading the granite markers that detail the first vision and testimonies of the Prophet.  I was overcome with the spirit.

We were able to have a private tour, just our family of the jail.  How blessed we were to have time in the upper room to sit and feel the power of the spirit testify to each of us that what we thought we knew, we know we know.  It was a sacred event for each of us.  We had the opportunity to sit and ponder and share our testimonies with each other.

I have always had a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I knew that he was the prophet of the restoration, that he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove, that he was taught by angels, that he translated the gold plates that is the Book of Mormon, that the heavens were opened to him to restore all things in Christ’s Church to the earth, and that he was martyred in this very jail of Carthage.  I knew that before, but what an incredible thing to be able to see and partake of the spirit in such a way.  I am so grateful for the experiences and the testimony that I am blessed with and was strengthened.  I am equally grateful that my children were able to have faith building, testimony fortifying, love enduring experiences and feelings that will be burned in their hearts and mine forever.

Friday, we visited Far West, Adam-ondi-Ahman, Liberty Jail and as the crowning jewel of our trip we went through the Kansas City Temple open house.  These sites are particularly reverent and sacred.  We had felt the spirit along our journey, but what a tremendous way to end, especially for our little children who aren’t old enough to go into the Nauvoo temple, to walk from room to room in a holy house of the Lord.  Each room was more exquisite, more beautiful, more full of light and symbol.  It was the perfect way to end our journey, the reminders of covenants, eternity, sacrifice, love and all the other gifts we have and had been given.

As we returned to “real life”, the after-glow of our experiences has lingered.  We have an increase of love and commitment to each other.  The medical bills were still here and I really didn’t know how we would pay them.  We had paid cash all along the way for gas, lodging, food, souvenirs and everything.  I was sure we had spent what we had.  A couple of days went by.  My husband was going to go to Costco and wondered if I needed anything.  I told him that I better check out our account and double-check what we had spent before he spent any money.

To my amazement, we had $1000 left.  How could that be?  We had accounted for every penny, and yet, we had just enough to cover the medical bills.  The multiplicity and out pouring of blessings continue as our every need is met.  Not just our temporal needs, but our spiritual needs.  I am grateful for each mite, each sacrifice, each blessing, each miracle.

Others may say that it all came together as it should or by coincidence, but I choose to acknowledge His hand in it all.  Every miracle, small or big, each act of secret service and all gifts is because of Him, the giver of all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mike Lee - Balanced Budget Amendment Dies in Senate Today

Senator Mike Lee
Senator Mike Lee's (R-UT) statement on the BBA vote in the Senate today qualifies as the Political Quote of the Day:

“Though it was no surprise that getting the requisite two-thirds vote on either amendment was a tough hill to climb, I am shocked that more than sixty percent of the Democrat caucus could not support either version.  It sends a strong signal that the majority of Democrats in the Senate do not view Congress’s out-of-control spending to be a problem, and the American public should be appalled.  Despite all the warnings from economists and experts on both sides that we are headed for a fiscal meltdown if we don’t control spending, the majority of Democrats in Congress are content to do nothing about it and choose instead to fight political battles aimed at the next election.

“The silver lining is that with 47 Republican votes for SJRes 10 and 20 Democratic votes for SJRes 24, we have a total of 67 Senators who are officially on record supporting a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget. Americans should find some relief in the fact that Congress has the votes to pass a balanced budget amendment so long as we can find consensus on a bill.  I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on this issue.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mitt Romney, Gambling, Politicians and Forgiveness

The bet not taken (Perry was wrong, and it's a bet Mitt would win, but never should have offered)

Last night, Mitt Romney made a $10,000 bet he was right in what he'd said in his book about the individual mandate not being intended for nationwide distribution. It was all done in good humor, but Perry wisely declined to take the bait. For starters, Perry was wrong and Romney was right, and not everybody thought it was such a boneheaded play by Romney.

It was a stupid statement for Romney to make. First, because I'll betcha Mitt Romney is not by nature a gambling man. If he's ever dropped so much as a nickel in a slot machine, the internal "betting police" of the Church would have exposed him long ago. So why offer a bet for $10,000 that you're right, when you already know you're right? He was probably trying to put down Rick Perry's nonsensical repetition of an obviously flawed debate point. Perry really has worn this one out, but he succeeded in frustrating Romney with it this time.

In Mitt's case, it was just one of those stupid things people say. Ever heard somebody say, "I'll betcha a million bucks that's not's true?" That would have been laughable, but $10,000 sounded like a real bet. It underscored Romney's wealth. How many people in that hall at Drake University last night could make a similar wager? Not many.

Mitt would have been better off if he'd just said, "Betcha a milkshake." It would have been funny, and more in keeping with his scrubbed persona. But just like that, today there are 10,000 tweets out there giving 10,000 lashes with a Twitterwhip over a stupid gesture.

Mitt could just step up quickly and acknowledge it. Say something like, "That was stupid of me. I was just over-reacting to an obviously inaccurate representation on my position."

But don't hold your breath -- it won't happen. Politicians are notoriously slow to ask the public for forgiveness. Even Rick Perry went against type (to his credit) and lampooned his memory lapse in a previous debate the very next night on the Letterman show. That was refreshing, but his thirty-second pause was enough to sink him forever as the anti-Romney.

Here's the funny thing about political calculus when it comes to forgiveness. Take three recent examples. Mitt Romney has been bludgeoned for his "flip-flops" over decades. He's managed to get more conservative along the way. How's that any different than Ronald Reagan, who actually changed parties from Democrat to Republican and went on to win two presidential terms in record fashion and was beloved by all sides? On marital fidelity, it doesn't get any better than Mitt Romney, but for some reason he's still not "good enough."

Herman Cain was forced to withdraw from the presidential sweepstakes recently when the allegations about his sexual harassment and "possible" extramarital affair became unbearable. Had he merely acknowledged quickly and decisively his part in those incidents, and had he said, "My wife knows all about it, we have no secrets, and she has forgiven me, and I'm hoping the voters will too," then we may be looking at Cain as the front-runner today instead of Gingrich. Instead, he fumbled his chance for repentance, and we all learned something about how America really feels - there's just not much forgiveness for a black conservative, apparently. Cain, of course, vehemently denied it all, then withdrew, suggesting there might have actually been some substance to the "unsubstantiated and unproven accusations."

That brings us to Newt Gingrich. This is a man working on his third marriage, having committed (and admitted) adultery in both cases. He said last night he had sought forgiveness from God, is now a 68-year-old grandfather (presumably "reformed"), and he has moved into front-runner status without so much as a hiccup from the people who once thought he'd gone off the rails and were seeking to have him dumped as Speaker because he wasn't "conservative enough." Rick Santorum praised him last night as his role model, then admitted this morning on the Sunday talk shows that he and Lindsey Graham wanted him gone, along with others in the party. He is also guilty and was driven from office as the Speaker of the House for lapses in ethical conduct, and nevertheless continued to feed at the public trough, most recently giving advice to Freddie Mac to the tune of $1.6 million in consulting fees. But, avers Gingrich, consulting is different than lobbying. Well, okay, if you say so, Newt. Somehow, his past misconduct has boosted him in the polls to front-runner status. Go figure.

Apparently, Newt's repentance has been accepted by the voters for the moment. They are, after all, in search of a mythical David who can slay the untouchable giant Obama on the field of battle in a series of nationally-televised debates. Here is their champion who can go toe-to-toe with Obama and slay the armor-clad dragon of their political theater. They fantasize over a picture Gingrich has painted for them, and they've gone for it in a big way. The picture includes three "Lincoln-Douglas-style debates" - each three hours long - to debate the critical issues of the day. Gingrich's constituents are tantalized with the imagery he has slapped onto the canvas for them. They will forgive him everything just for a ring-side seat to that heavyweight bout.

But the problem is simply this: It is a myth. Obama isn't going to agree.

The high point in the debate for Gingrich (in my opinion) was when he channeled my thoughts to Reagan going against all the conventional wisdom and branding the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire and demanding that Gorbachev "tear down this wall" in Berlin. That was in response to Gingrich's recent statement about the Palestinians being nothing more than an "invented people." He said, "They're terrorists." Here's Gingrich saying to everyone, "I tell the truth." Others are compelled to agree with Gingrich from an historical perspective. Whether or not he becomes the nominee, his defense of his statement scored some debate points.

If Bill Clinton taught us anything, it should be that despite your flaws you can still ride off into the sunset flawed but beautifully human if you eventually ask forgiveness of your constituents. How soon we forget - Clinton was impeached for lying under oath while he was president. The rule of thumb on seeking forgiveness is sooner is better than later. Nixon was another who comes to mind. The cover-up was worse than the original break-in at the Watergate. Then there was Reagan and Iran-Contra. Better to fess up and take your lumps quickly. But politicians are, above all people, slow learners.

Mitt's best moment last night, despite his worst moment with the $10,000 wager offer, was when he began describing his role as "pastor" as a bishop and a stake president in Boston. For whatever reason, Romney has been branded as "stiff, aloof, out of touch and distant" from the real people. Talking about his pastoral role humanizes him, tenderizes and softens him, and the mainstream media is beginning to pick up on it. Romney has a life story worth telling. He isn't perfect, but he's the real deal. He isn't the perfect conservative, but he's clearly been moving in that direction for a long time.

He IS the Romney who all the would-be anti-Romneys would like to be.

Now, he needs to repent - and quickly - for gambling.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shepherds in Israel at the Gates of Christmas

Christmas always reminds me of the years I served as a bishop. I was an eyewitness then to the lovingkindness of my ward members for one another. As a steward of the sacred fast offering funds donated to the Church, a bishop is often the one who stands in the breech when all other help flees from those most in need.

To announce His birth as the Shepherd of Israel, the angel appeared first to shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. Today's modern under-shepherds are the bishops of Israel who succor and nurture the sheep in the wide expanse of this world.

Fast offerings are donated monthly on the first Sunday of each month. We observe the fast for a twenty-four hour period beginning on Saturday. The cost of the two meals skipped is suggested as an offering to assist the poor and the needy who live among us. The bishops of the Church are encouraged to "seek out" the poor and needy, and not to wait until they land on his doorstep. It is a sobering and humbling assignment, as any bishop will attest.

It seems the Christmas season brings more stories as the years unfold. Of course, the best stories never are told. They remain the sacred and secret domain of bishops and their flocks. But this past week another story is added to my personal lexicon. I share it here, preserving the anonymity of those involved.

I had a phone call from a former co-worker with whom I hadn't spoken in months. He said, "I was speaking with someone the other day who suggested I call you. I need some of your wisdom. I've gotten myself into a situation, and I need your help. Could we meet for breakfast tomorrow?"

At breakfast my friend poured out a story I had not anticipated. He and his wife had encountered some health issues since we had last spoken. They had gotten behind on their bills, and he had taken out some payday loans to meet their obligations. He had not told his wife, not wanting to alarm her. The exorbitant interest payments were now consuming all their income, and the rent was due the following day. They had just moved from one distant city to another nearer his work, and had done some painting to enable themselves to get into a new rental home. Now the first month's rent was due and they had no way to pay it.

We discussed possible sources of help. He had consulted a bankruptcy attorney last year, but they hadn't taken any steps in that direction. His sister, a CPA, was the executor of his mother's estate, but he feared she would treat him harshly when she heard the predicament he was in. There seemed to be no options. He had requested a consolidation loan from his bank, but they had declined his request because his credit had been impaired.

I suggested three alternatives to explore. 1) Re-connect with the bankruptcy attorney to see if she could help stop the freight train of the escalating interest payments due to the payday lenders; 2) call his sister to see if there might be any way she could think of to help him, and 3) call your new bishop. I also recommended that he not hide their situation any longer from his wife.

My friend reminded me he was not a member of the Church, but my response was, "Everyone in this world has a bishop, most of them just haven't met each other yet. Your wife was a member of the Church at one time, wasn't she?" He confirmed she had been. But he hastened to add he had been a lay minister in another church before he had moved to Utah and met his wife. He had to give up his ministry to accept a job here, and he wouldn't even know how or who he should contact.

I took a moment to explain how to find his bishop through the Church's website. He wrote down my instructions carefully. I had a chance to explain that like him, bishops in the Church are lay ministers, called for a period of time by their leaders from among their congregations, then released to go back into the ranks from which they had been called. I explained a little about fast offerings, and the purposes for which bishops may use those member donations as they feel inspired to do so. I told him without even knowing who he was, I was certain his bishop would stand ready and able with resources to assist him.

As we parted, I was gripped with a moment of fear. What had I just done? I didn't even know who his bishop was! How could I make such an audacious promise and assume it would play out smoothly the way I hoped it would?

Then the Spirit whispered to me, chiding me a little and speaking peace to my heart, "You were a bishop once, David. You know how I work, don't you? Have a little faith."

Later in the day, I finally had a chance to check my voicemail. There was a message from my friend. He said he had done as I had suggested, found his new ward and his bishop. He had called the bishop, who heard his story with an empathetic ear, and suggested that they meet that morning at his office at the ward building. In part, he said to me in the message, "I went over my scenario with him, and he's going to help me with the rent. I'm so glad I came to you. Thank you for listening to me and for your wisdom and your advice."

Honestly, the Lord makes us all smarter than we are if we listen to His spirit directing us and we act on those impressions. He said at the end of his message, "I should know God is in charge. He's proven it again to me this morning. Thank you." Our part is to humble ourselves. He manifests His love for each of His children without judgment or reservation.

I thought of pennies, nickels and dollars that comprise the monthly fast offerings of the faithful saints, and I felt to give thanks once again for those who give in the same spirit our Father in Heaven gives. It is all about His love for His children.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

I echo with heartfelt gratitude the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, who offered these insights about bishops in a General Conference address:

"I stand in humble gratitude and respect and admiration for the bishops of this Church. In the most dire of circumstances, I watched them in La Lima, Honduras. I spoke with them, shook their hands, loved them. How thankful I am for these men who, without regard for their own comfort, give of their time, of their wisdom, of their inspiration in presiding over our wards throughout the world. They receive no compensation other than the love of their people. There is no rest for them on the Sabbath, nor very much at other times. They are the ones closest to the people, best acquainted with their needs and circumstances.

The requirements of their office are today as they were in the days of Paul, who wrote to Timothy:

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
"Not given to wine, no striker [that is, not a bully or a violent person], … not a brawler, not covetous" (1 Timothy 3:2–3).

In his letter to Titus, Paul adds that "a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; … Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:7, 9).

I suspect there will be a "sequel" to this formative introduction. How marvelous that a bishop stands ready to help the constituency of his flock, even those who have not as yet been "branded" as one of his own. . .

For, in fact, we are all His.

Sometimes we are the recipients, other times we are the givers, but He always ministers to our needs through His under-shepherds, the bishops of Israel.

Today, somewhere in Sunnyvale, California, one of our sons-in-law was ordained as a new bishop, the first to serve in our family's next generation. I know he will be blessed as the mantle rests upon his shoulders and he takes up his new role as a shepherd in Israel to the flock where he is assigned.

The gates of Christmas are flung open wide for all who will come to enter therein. . .

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why Barney Frank is the Poster Child for Congressional Malfeasance

Today's blog post comes from, summarizing the reason Barney Frank in any other business setting would be sitting on a cot in isolation at the Graybar Hotel somewhere. As a Congressman, however, he gets a pass. If Frank wasn't one of the architects and promoters of the mortgage securities crisis bubble, then he was certainly at least one of its ardent enablers.

At least I have the satisfaction of having seen him early for what he is, corroborated by this well-documented trail of malfeasance. If there is some doubt in your mind about the meaning of the word "malfeasance," try looking it up in a dictionary in some future day. You will likely see a picture of Barney Frank as the defining visual aid for the word.

If you need a target for loathing someone who had a principal role in the current financial debacle this country has inherited, look no further than Mr. Barney Frank. There is nothing "Honorable" about him.

One can only hope the American electorate at large in 2012, and the constituents in his district specifically, will have the collective wisdom to make a better choice than to send people like this to Washington ever again.

Take a deep breath and read some of the excerpts below. Taken in the context of the quotes cited from various Wall Street Journal articles below, Frank's fingerprints are all over the debacle. If it is upsetting to you, it should be.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.): “Through nearly a dozen hearings, where frankly we are trying to fix something that wasn’t broke, Mr. Chairman, we do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac and in particular at Fannie Mae under the outstanding leadership of Mr. Frank Raines.”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.): “Mr. Chairman, we do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, and in particular at Fannie Mae, under the outstanding leadership of Mr. Frank Raines. Everything in the 1992 act has worked just fine. In fact, the GSEs have exceeded their housing goals.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY): In a hearing several years ago about a report on the safety and soundness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from their regulator, Armando Falcon, Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight Director, Falcon came under fire. Meeks said; “The GSEs have done a tremendous job. There has been nothing that was indicated that’s wrong with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac has come up on its own,” adding the regulator was trying to give the two a “heart surgeon [sic] when they really don’t need it.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.): “The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.): In the same hearing several years ago about a report on the safety and soundness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from their regulator, Falcon, Frank attacked Falcon: “I don’t see anything in your report that raises safety and soundness problems.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.): “I, just briefly will say, Mr. Chairman, obviously, like most of us here, this is one of the great success stories of all time.” (Senator Bob Bennett [R-UT] was Dodd's wingman on the Senate Banking Committee, one more reason he was unseated by his Republican nominating convention in 2010). 

When these elected officials are tasked with regulating the banking industry, but take political donations from their lobbyists, you end up with corruption.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.): “And my worry is that we’re using the recent safety and soundness concerns, particularly with Freddie, and with a poor regulator, as a straw man to curtail Fannie and Freddie’s mission.”

Franklin Raines, former head of Fannie Mae: “These assets are so riskless that their capital for holding them should be under 2%.

Richard Syron, former head of Freddie Mac: “If I had better foresight, maybe I could have improved things a little bit. But frankly, if I had perfect foresight, I would never have taken this job in the first place.”

Note: Raines was forced out of Fannie Mae in December 2004 after the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into alleged accounting problems at Fannie Mae involving an estimated $6 billion in accounting problems. The Office of Federal Housing Oversight sued Raines in 2006, accusing him of aiding accounting shenanigans at Fannie, which allegedly involved the delay of reporting losses so top executives could earn large bonuses.

The suit attempted to recover the $50 million Raines in pay got based on billions of dollars in overstated earnings. In total, OFHEO demanded $110 million in fines and a clawback of $115 million in bonuses for three executives accused, including Raines.

Raines, Fannie’s former chief financial officer and its former controller settled the case in April 2008, agreeing to pay fines totaling about $3 million, paid for by Fannie’s insurance policies.

Raines also agreed to donate the proceeds from the sale of $1.8 million of his Fannie stock and to give up stock options, though the options were worthless. Raines also gave up an estimated $5.3 million of “other benefits” said to be related to his pension and forgone bonuses. In the end, Raines kept most of his largesse – in 2003 alone, his compensation was estimated at over $20 million.

And what of Mr. Barney Frank? Another member of Congress who escapes into retirement without a scratch.

On Monday, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced that he would not seek re-election.

Frank, who is in his 16th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, is the highest ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. In recent years especially, he's been a prolific fund-raiser, often raising huge sums from the industries that the Financial Services Committee regulates.

Since 1989, Frank has raised more than $13 million for his campaigns, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. About $1 of every $3 he has raised as come from interests within the finance, insurance and real estate sector, according to the Center's research, or a total of $4.3 million since 1989.

The securities and investment industry alone has given Frank more than $920,800 -- or about 7.5 percent of his total war chest, according to the Center's research. In every electioncycle since 2004, the securities and investment industry has ranked as Frank's top industry backer.

Commercial banks, too, have shared their riches with Frank. Since 1989, the people and political action committees associated with the commercial banking industry have donated $623,400 to Frank's campaigns -- or about 4.8 percent of his total haul over the years, according to the Center's research. That's enough to rank the industry as his No. 5 top all-time backer.

During the 2008 election cycle, Frank was the top beneficiary among all members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the mortgage banking interests -- an industry that includes Freddie MacFannie Mae and the Mortgage Bankers Association. (During the 2010 election cycle, he ranked as the third highest beneficiary of the industry.)

As the chair of the House Financial Services Committee during the 111th Congress, Frank helped shepherd the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 to President Barack Obama's desk last year.

That law is commonly referred to as the Dodd-Frank Act, after Frank and the legislation's chief sponsor in the U.S. Senate, Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who chaired the Senate Banking Committee. (Notably, Dodd opted not to stand for re-election last year, and instead, he spun through the revolving door and now serves as the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, a pivotal player in the film industry lobby in Washington.)

Frank, who, in 1987, was the first member of Congress to come out as openly gay has also reaped financial rewards from gay rights advocates. The PAC of the pro-gay rights group Human Rights Campaign has donated $76,000 to Frank over the years -- enough to rank the group as his No. 5 top organizational backer.

Additionally, about 22 percent of the money that Frank has raised over the years has come from residents of the Boston metro area, according to the Center's research.

He ended the third quarter with $389,600 cash on hand.

His retirement will set off a race among Democrats to both fill his seat and find a new leader on the House Financial Services Committee next Congress.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A God Who Doesn't Know Everything

This morning I was remembering a comment of an Apostle, who said to me in the middle of a conversation about the future, "I cannot believe in a God who doesn't know everything."

This morning en route to something else, I stumbled over a letter I wrote some years ago to two sons serving as missionaries, one in Canada, the other in Brazil. It's worth repeating here:

January 28, 2001

I have been studying in depth this week – the lesson I did not give today – about the foreknowledge of God.  This is a concept that blows the minds of most members of the Church, but it is absolutely essential we understand its importance and day-to-day significance in our lives.

It seems we can accept without reservation the proposition the Lord knew in advance wicked men in the last days would seek to thwart Joseph’s translation of The Book of Mormon. Because of His foreknowledge of those events, and how those men would exercise their moral agency unrighteously, provision was made by an all-knowing God to have Nephi prepare a second set of records. He also knew enough about Nephi and Joseph to know in the exercise of their agency truth would triumph. God’s desire to bring His words through living prophets to their descendants in the last days would be successful.

“The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. . .”  (D&C 3: 1).

God knew in advance about the Flood, and Noah was obedient to the revelations to build an ark on dry ground. God knows where the world is headed today – that people in the Church and the world at large are filled with darkened minds because of unbelief and vanity. (See D&C 84:54-56). “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments. . .” (D&C 1:17).

All this is true, and we accept it because it is true. When it comes to our own lives, however, it seems we have trouble connecting the dots. He knows you, Rich. He knows you, Joe. There isn’t anything about your missions and their outcomes that He does not know before you even think about what comes next. Because He knows.

Ask yourself: If I am God and I have created spirit children, how many should I create if I don’t know how big to make the world on which they will dwell? Extending that reasoning forward, if I do not know in advance how many of my children will be heirs of the celestial kingdom, then how shall I make provision for the place in time and space that they will someday occupy? Shall I arrange their lives, pull each and every string, or does my knowing their future choices impede them in any way? These are but a few of the questions that this line of reasoning will take you down, but it is an underlying and integral piece of the truth of our existence.

Let me take you on a short scriptural journey to underscore His knowing, then we’ll discuss the implications and how His knowing intersects with our doing. Relax, this isn’t fatalism, and it’s certainly not predestination, as the conventional wisdom of Calvin and Luther would have it.

We must each exercise our moral agency in this life. God is not on trial in our lives – we are. There isn’t anything you can do to prove yourself “worthy” to God (remember, remember – always and forever – “worthy” equates to repenting).

We had a lesson this morning on “qualifying” for the gift of the Holy Ghost in our lives. And the instructor (who shall remain nameless) never, not once, in the course of the lesson even mentioned repentance as the one and only qualifier for obtaining and keeping the Spirit in our lives to guide us. Last time I checked (and I do that frequently these days) the scriptures are replete (meaning they are full to overflowing) with references about the only thing we must do to be “worthy” of the Spirit in our lives is to repent and come unto Christ.  We are promised He will fill us up with His Spirit if we repent. But that’s a story for another day.

God already knows you and all your choices, because He created you. There should be great comfort in this idea, but it seems to cause more angst than joy. It should not be so. Come with me, and we shall learn together:

 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.  (2 Nephi 2:24).

O how great the holiness of our God!  For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.  (2 Nephi 9:20).

And this I do [meaning, Mormon is including the small plates of Nephi in the record he is abridging] for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, [notice, only the whisperings of the Spirit at work here – no open visions of the future] according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.  And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.  (Words of Mormon 1:7).

And when the time cometh when all shall rise, then shall they know that God knoweth all the times which are appointed unto man [meaning that God even knows the exact moment in time that we will each depart this mortal probation, since this chapter is all about Alma’s teachings on the resurrection].  (Alma 40:10).

And if there be faults [in the writings contained in The Book of Mormon] they are the faults of a man.  But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.  (Mormon 8:17).

By these things [the preceding verses in section 20] we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; 
And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them. . .  (D&C 20:17-18).

Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;
The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes.  (D&C 38:2).

He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.  (D&C 88:41 – also read vs. 5-13).

And I have a work for thee, Moses [or you could say, Joe or Rich], my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is an shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them [antecedent of “them” is “all things”]. (Moses 1:6).

But they [angels] do not reside on a planet like this earth;
But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.  (D&C 130:7).  [Meaning that time simply collapses for God – there is no past, present, future – it is all the same for him – everything is in the present tense, and that’s how he is enabled to know all things.  And it’s just that simple.]

So what are the implications of these things on our lives here and now? Simply, that God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what will happen, what choices we will make, who we will marry, how many children we will have, where we will live, whether or not we will be faithful, how we will rebel, how we will repent, when, where, who, what – everything. None of it is shrouded in mystery for Him. He knows.

But here is the key element - His knowing does not alter our doing, except to give us perspective. Knowing what we know about His knowing should give us a beacon. If we know He knows, if we know that nothing is hidden, that He even knows the thoughts and the intents of our hearts before we act in any manner, would not our knowing help us want to please Him and to do what He would have us do?

The key is to willingly submit to His good pleasure – to offer ourselves as an offering, all that we are or ever hope to be – to simply say, “Lord, what would thou have me do?” It is the willful surrender of ourselves. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, it is sacrificing the beast within each of us each day on the altar of consecration. He will neither pull our chain, yank on our strings, coerce us in any way to choose. He offers a choice. The choice is what Christ vouched safe to us in His atonement.

We must choose, then He will bless our choices if they are righteous desires. When we ask Him about the things He is interested in – how we can bless others, where He would have us look for lost souls, how we can serve, whom shall we serve – and similar questions, we are led and directed. He does and will intercede in our lives and the lives of those we serve. But it is all based upon our doing, and never altered by His knowing.

Is that so hard? When we ask to consume our asking upon our lusts, or when we ask for signs first before we will believe and exercise our faith, the heavens are as brass over our heads. Those are the active principles of sacrifice and consecration – the very essence of the covenants we make in the temple.

And, oh by the way, I learned yet again in sacrament meeting today that we are not yet to live the law of consecration, that we are to live the lesser law of tithing until some as yet unidentified event or circumstance in the future will once again usher in the law of consecration.

Well, phooey. The vast majority of the members of the Church have not yet learned this one lesson - that the law of consecration is different than the practice or the policy to implement it through the united order. It is not the current practice or policy of the Church in these last days to live the united order, but will someone please tell me how and when and where the law of consecration was rescinded?

Salt Lake Temple
It was not. In fact, each time we go to sacred places, we covenant before God, angels and witnesses that we will observe and keep the law of consecration in connection with the law of sacrifice. It is explained in simple terms - that we covenant to consecrate ourselves, and everything else for the cause of the establishment of Zion.

That sounds pretty precise to me, and there are no qualifiers in the words of the covenant that put the covenant in suspension until the practice of the Church returns to some new iteration of the united order. Do not be deceived. After all that Joseph learned about the united order, and all that Brigham Young attempted to implement concerning it, I doubt we are going to suddenly start living it again. It is here and now as an everlasting law, and it is the law of the celestial kingdom.

Those who would have a place in that kingdom must abide the same. It is for each of us to learn for ourselves what God would have us know in how to implement the law into our own individual lives. Indeed, we are promised that “the Father teacheth him of the covenant. . .” (D&C 84:48), speaking of the oath and the covenant of the priesthood, which is only another example of widely misunderstood doctrines in these last days.

It was the Savior who taught this principle best. I love the comparative differences and similarities in the JST accounts:

Break not my commandments for to save your lives; for whosoever will save his life in this world, shall lose it in the world to come.
And whosoever will lose his life in this world, for my sake, shall find it in the world to come.
Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  (JST Matthew 16:27-29).
For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; or whosoever will save his life, shall be willing to lay it down for my sake; and if he is not willing to lay it down for my sake, he shall lose it.
But whosoever shall be willing to lose his life for my sake, and the gospel, the same shall save it.  (JST Mark 8:37-38).
For whosoever will save his life, must be willing to lose it for my sake; and whosoever will be willing to lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and yet he receive him not whom God hath ordained [that would be Christ], and he lose his own soul, and he himself be a castaway?  (JST Luke 9:24-25).

Each rendition of those verses, while slightly different, contains the same enigmatic and seemingly impossible saying – to gain your eternal life, you must be willing sacrifice for my sake while in your mortal probation. Father really does know best. The message for missionaries is simple – give it all up for my kingdom in this world, invest in faith and I will sustain you in whatever righteous desires you may have. There is never going to be a time when life will be as simple, as concentrated, as consecrated, and as Spirit-directed as your time in the mission field, and you have both seen the witness of that truth again and again.

Along those lines, I thought about Steve and the thoughts he shared with me recently about how he has only now had time to write about his experiences of the last year. I remember him sobbing in my arms only hours after his return from his mission in Mexico. He longed to be free from the contradictions, the challenges and the world into which he had been thrust upon his release from his mission. He was so immediately caught up in the need for a car, for employment, for school, and wonderment about his future prospects in marriage, that whatever respite from the cares of the world he had enjoyed while serving a mission quickly vanished. It took him a year to even get his journal caught up! And so it is – treasure each moment, for they are fleeting. How I wish I could impress that truth upon each missionary when I hear your stories about wasted time and energies spent on trivial pursuits in the mission field among some of your acquaintances.

Now, Rich, I said most of this for your benefit. There will never be a time of greater temptation for you. I know you find that hard to believe, but Satan would like nothing more than to discredit all that you have done up to this point in your mission. We have seen this in the cases of some of your friends who have returned. Your position in the mission does little to insulate you from danger. You must be ever watchful. You still have much to do before you hit the finish line. Hit the tape running full stride. Don’t let up. Give it renewed determination, renewed Spirit, renewed enthusiasm for the work, and rededicate yourself to the goals and the programs of the President.

Do all you can in these remaining months to lift and to inspire those around you. Help them to catch the vision, to serve with an eye single to His glory, and to never look back. Just as you were once the young one in the field, now others will look to you as never before for an example of how to do it the right way. Once again, you are in a position of rare trust and accountability. Cherish these remaining days. Too soon, they will all be gone, and you will be homeward bound.

The goal is to sit in that plane seat contented and satisfied that you did all, that you sacrificed your all, that you withheld nothing in the service that still awaits you. And that, good son, is peace and joy unlike anything there is.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today's Political Quote

Today's quote comes from Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, who concluded her column assessing the chances of each Republican candidate with this:

"Which brings us finally to Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney, one of whom will be the nominee and very possibly the next president. Although both candidates have perfect hair, the nominee will not be a woman."

The air of inevitability continues to swirl around Mitt Romney. . .

Thursday, November 24, 2011

America, The "Good Spot of Ground" (Jacob 5:43)

On the eve of July 4th, eighteen months ago, I wrote a post entitled "Pilgrims, Patriots and Prophets." It went on to become one of the most popular posts on this page. The back story of the celebration of Thanksgiving is outlined here in another recent post, and both are linked to the freedoms we enjoy in this great country of America.

I am routinely assailed from all sides with predictions of the demise of America, or America in decline, or the end of America as we know it. To the critics and the naysayers I say, "Phooey." Become an optimist. Choose to believe that America was, still is, and will yet prove to be unstoppable. America is an idea whose time has come once again to renew and rise from the dire predictions. She may be chastened for a season, but if she will remember her underpinnings and keep God enthroned as the Sovereign, she will never fail.

We are divided now as a nation, much as we were when Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War in 1863, issued his proclamation with these pleading words, ". . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, for such singular deliverances and blessings; they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."

George Washington, in 1789, offered his own Thanksgiving Day proclamation. When you read his and Lincoln's words, they leave no doubt these men were devout in their belief in Almighty God.

So today on Thanksgiving 2011, how are things with us, America? I say they are never better, and most certainly better than they were in 1863 by contrast. We just need to be reminded that the lessons learned from the failed collectivist experiment in Jamestown still have merit and are worth remembering when our federal government threatens to become the tyrannical oppressor like the English throne once was in the seventeenth century. We learned lessons early in our history about the need for individual enterprise, self-reliance and personal exertion. Those skills were once honed and enthroned as the means for survival as the colonists carved an existence out of the forests of a continent with nothing but promise and unlimited opportunity as far as the eyes could see. Increased productivity after the near collapse of Jamestown was the result of giving every man a plot of ground (individual property ownership) coupled with the freedom to grow his own crops and work the land his way.

The Plymouth Plantation, once individuals were enthroned rather the collective, became the model for the future destiny of America.

However successful that model was for two hundred years, during the past hundred years or so of American history we have seen the very vocal minority of Americans rise up. They have railed against the American tradition of individual enterprise. The reason? Free enterprise, they say, has not provided an equally successful outcome for everyone. It is as if the statement in our founding documents that "all men are created equal" must also guarantee or ensure an equal outcome for all. This vocal minority has defied the American tradition. They will tell you wealth inequality is not the desired outcome from a free society. They would have us return to a communal experiment like Jamestown.

When we cross the threshold of a belief that wealth belongs to the government to be distributed by benevolent dictators to ensure an equal outcome, we have then reversed course. That is not the American experiment at all. It is a return to the failed policies of the past. We can never assume that anyone in government, even a benevolent dictator, has the requisite wisdom to redistribute wealth. No one is that wise, especially when they are dealing with the wealth others have earned through their own diligence and persistence.

When we cede our American heritage to that vocal minority, we have ceased to live in the American way. The argument was framed long ago, even before the foundation of this earth was laid in the pre-mortal world. Christ acknowledged there would be risk if moral agency were granted to all. Some would abuse their agency. Some would fail. Success could not be assured for everyone. Satan's appeal was attractive -- an equal outcome for all was on the table for a vote. All in favor? One-third put up their hands for Satan, and were cast out. The rest of us put up our hands to sustain the Father and the Son. Jesus Christ would become the Redeemer for all who would voluntarily come unto Him. There was to be no compulsion, no assurances of exaltation. It would be risky and it would require individual exertion and faithful obedience to the covenants of the gospel.

In America we believe in the sovereignty of the individual and private property rights under the Sovereign the founders consistently referred to as "Divine Providence." Though we are perilously close to it in 2011, we as a people, free Americans, have never yet adopted an idea that crowns the sovereignty of the collective. Since the dawn of Earth's organization we have upheld the individual. We have accepted the risk of failure. Until recent years in a desperate attempt to preserve the status quo, as a country we have never said, "They are too big to fail." We traditionally have never embraced the notion that people needed to be bailed out when they failed. Failure was and always has been part of the plan of salvation because moral agency is in play. The idea of government-mandated social safety nets has quietly but persistently lulled us to sleep in the last hundred years.

So on this Thanksgiving Day 2011, I give thanks to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for the bounties of this "good spot of ground. . . even that which was choice above all other parts of the land of my vineyard." (See Jacob 5:43). There was intentional design involved to provide bounties in natural resources. There would be a place on Earth where the blessings of freedom could take root and flourish, and those blessings are mentioned in the preamble of the greatest document ever penned by the hand of man, the Constitution of the United States of America.

My thanks this year flow to God for enabling us to continue preserving our liberty. This is still a unique and exceptional country of ours. It was designed to be so if we could apply the choices of our agency to prevent those who would undermine and erode the stated goals of enthroning individual sovereignty here. When we permit the vocal minority who threaten to destroy the foundation upon which America was built, our free-enterprise, private-property system, and displace it with the collective redistribution of resources to equalize wealth, we have forsaken our heritage and squandered our agency.

Freedom has never been free, after all. The warriors on the battlefields of this world have been forever the watchful and protective guardians of freedom's flame. I despise war. As Benjamin Franklin said, "There is no such thing as a good war, and no such thing as a bad peace." But peace has been taken from the earth because of the abuse of agency. That said, we must forever remain grateful to Americans who voluntarily serve us in all branches of the Armed Forces. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They have valiantly defended this Republic and all our freedoms. They've done it for 235 years and counting.

When we brashly launched the American experiment in 1776 with an audacious accusation against King George III, the British tyrant, our founders penned a "self-evident truth" in the Declaration of Independence. The document states boldly their belief that all men are created equal. Every man is born with the same opportunity to make of his life what he chooses.

That inspired declaration is consistent with every revealed jot and tittle of the plan of happiness we have received from our Father in Heaven. It was never intended either in heaven or here on earth that every man would take the opportunity equally. The inequality of results was always assured. Once you pick agency, outcomes cannot be guaranteed, nor should they be. Guaranteeing outcomes is stripping freedoms. May we never tire of permitting opportunity for success in this country and allowing everyone to keep the fruits of his labor without fear of redistribution by a federal government grown too big, too cumbersome, and too invasive.

Let us give thanks for the colonists who originally discovered the secret to productivity, wealth, and happiness. Let us be vigilant in preserving that exceptional American tradition. Lest we forget, let us all remember these truths today especially. Let us remember that socialism was never, is not now, and never will be the law of consecration.

I am grateful for many things on this Thanksgiving Day in 2011. Most of all I am grateful for the God who continues to bless this "good spot of ground," the America I love, despite the growing evidence we are less and less deserving.

Let us realign our thinking and preserve these precious blessings for future generations.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Signs of the Times and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

by Harry Anderson

Every year the course curriculum in the Church calls for these two lessons. I've taught both numerous times in my life in the Church. What never seems to disappoint whenever these topics come up is the number of Latter-day Saints who are clueless in their comments. Words like, "The Second Coming could happen any day." Or another favorite: "If we are more righteous, we will hasten the day." Or, "All the signs have been fulfilled, it's just a matter of how much longer the Lord waits."

These days I normally sit back and take it all in. I've all but given up trying to re-position the conversations back to the scriptures. It's just not helpful to the teacher.

Because we've been travelling around to various wards for events involving grandchildren, no one will guess the ward of which I speak here. The instructor opened the Gospel Principles manual, cited the lesson title, then closed that book and opened Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, and proceeded to read the 51 signs of the times cited therein by the author. He got to number 19 before the time expired.

The pattern continues, much to my dismay. A few weeks ago, same experience. Topic: The Postmortal Spirit World. Approach: Cite the lesson topic, then turn to Duane Crowther and someone (a non-member of the Church), who claimed to have been to the spirit world and back. Amazing.

Only one single scripture was cited in last week's lesson on the Signs of the Second Coming, so let us begin there: "And unto you it shall be given to know the signs of the times, and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man;" (D&C 68:11).

It would have been nice just to get the context of that one isolated verse, but it wasn't to be. The context is that the verse of scripture cited was a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith while the Church was still in its infancy (November 1831) -- only eighteen months after it was organized. It was a call for "all the faithful elders of my church" to be involved in missionary work. It was a clarion call to "Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. And he that believeth shall be blest with signs following, even as it is written." (D&C 68:8-10).

The "signs following" spoken of here include the signs that follow all believers in Jesus Christ -- they emulate the teachings and works of the Savior in their daily walk in discipleship. Those are perhaps the most compelling signs of the times: The miracle of the change of one heart at a time in the midst of all the wickedness is routinely undervalued.

Despite all the wickedness in the world today there are people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. Make no mistake, it is a daily struggle to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It is a daily walk in faith that He was who He said He was -- the Redeemer of Israel who is mighty to save because He alone atoned for our sins. Believing that, His disciples today mirror His image in their countenance. The evidence of the existence of His disciples is everywhere. That's a sign of the times you can take to the bank.

The sequel lesson tomorrow, "The Second Coming of Christ," is the one I get to teach. From the moment Christ was taken up into heaven in the company of many witnesses on the Mount of Olives forty days after He was resurrected, speculation about the timing of His return has abounded. The expectation was chiseled into granite by two angels standing beside the Apostles who queried, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go." (Acts 1:11). All through sacred writings since that moment the anticipation has been that at any moment He could return.

Many years ago I spotted a bumper sticker: "Jesus is coming and he's pissed." It was a six-word memoir before they were even in vogue. The righteous will welcome Him, the wicked will tremble in fear. A Great and a Dreadful Day. Another six-word anomaly.

The lesson tomorrow suggests He will do five specific things when He comes again:

by Del Parson
1. He will cleanse the earth. Whenever something bad happens, people immediately jump to the conclusion that the Savior's return is imminent. I've written before about the reaction to 9/11. Many in our community thought it was the trigger for the much-anticipated Battle of Armageddon. He will come in great power and great glory. There will be no mistaking His identity this time. He will be clothed in garments of red, suggesting He trod the wine press alone, drenched in His own blood for the sins of mankind. (D&C 101:24-25; 133:42-62, also given in November, 1831): "And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat. And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart." While artists continue to represent the Savior in white (see above), the scriptures are clear. When He comes again His garments will be stained with the blood of the wicked instead of His own as they were in Gethsemane. (See D&C 19:16-19). "The end of the world," is interpreted to be the "destruction of the wicked." (See JS-M 1:4).

2. He will judge His people. The separation of the sheep from the goats, as foretold in Matthew 25:31-46 and D&C 63:54 will occur. The time for dithering and fence sitting will come to an end in an instant. The separation between the righteous and the wicked will be complete, judgment will be rendered. The same thing happens when we die and go through the veil -- a partial judgment between light and dark, good and evil, and righteousness and wickedness. (See Alma 40:11-14). I suspect the anticipation for the Second Coming on this side of the veil might be akin to the anticipation of the resurrection on the other side. (D&C 138:50). In the destruction, some of the righteous will perish right along with the wicked, suggesting that how we live our lives determines our eternal inheritance, not the timing or whether or not we survive destruction that is coming. (See TPJS, 162).

3. He will usher in the Millennium. For 1,000 years after His Second Coming, Jesus Christ will come to reign upon planet Earth. Those who are alive on the Earth at the time of His coming will be "caught up" (meaning resurrected) to meet Him at His coming. This event is what is described as the "morning of the first resurrection" in sacred places. (See D&C 88:96, a revelation given the day after Christmas, 1832, known as the "olive leaf. . . plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord's message of peace to us"). It is really a continuation of the general resurrection that happened when He became the "first fruits" of the resurrection during his meridian ministry. Then those who have died and been faithful during their mortal probation between the time of His resurrection and the Second Coming, those who have become heirs of the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, will also be "caught up" to meet Him at His coming. In other words, the morning of the first resurrection will be here.

President Brigham Young
President Brigham Young captured the essence of what will be happening during the Millennium in these words:

In the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is established on the earth in power, glory and perfection, and the reign of wickedness that has so long prevailed is subdued, the Saints of God will have the privilege of building their temples, and of entering into them, becoming, as it were, pillars in the temples of God [see Revelation 3:12], and they will officiate for their dead. Then we will see our friends come up, and perhaps some that we have been acquainted with here. If we ask who will stand at the head of the resurrection in this last dispensation, the answer is — Joseph Smith, Junior, the Prophet of God. He is the man who will be resurrected and receive the keys of the resurrection, and he will seal this authority upon others, and they will hunt up their friends and resurrect them when they shall have been officiated for, and bring them up. And we will have revelations to know our forefathers clear back to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and we will enter into the temples of God and officiate for them. Then man will be sealed to man until the chain is made perfect back to Adam, so that there will be a perfect chain of Priesthood from Adam to the winding-up scene. (Discourses of Brigham Young, 116).

4. He will complete the First Resurrection. As we mentioned above, there is a specific order to resurrection. The faithful come forth from the graves first. (See D&C 88:97-98). The wicked who are destroyed at His coming remain in their graves until the end of the Millennium. Why? So they may have every possible opportunity to accept and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and to repent fully of their sins. It is the merciful part of "the great plan of happiness." The keys of resurrection will be in the hands of faithful patriarchal heads to each family. Who more than they would want to allow for every chance for their posterity to accept and embrace the gospel? All of our Heavenly Father's children will be given ample chances to see things as they really are, and to pierce the fogs of deception that have held them bound. This quote from Gospel Principles (p. 260) sums up:

"After Jesus Christ rose from the dead, other righteous people who had died were also resurrected. They appeared in Jerusalem and also on the American continent. (See Matthew 27:52–53; 3 Nephi 23:9–10).This was the beginning of the First Resurrection. Some people have been resurrected since then. Those who already have been resurrected and those who will be resurrected at the time of His coming will all inherit the glory of the celestial kingdom (see D&C 76:50–70).

"After the resurrection of those who will inherit celestial glory, another group will be resurrected: those who will receive a terrestrial glory. [I suggest the word "after" is when they are "ready" and not before, perhaps also as long as at the end of the Millennium, having settled their eternal station in their own minds and their righteous fathers before them having done all they could to affect the outcome in love, persuasion and long-suffering]. When all these people have been resurrected, the First Resurrection will be completed.

"The wicked who are living at the time of the Second Coming of the Lord will be destroyed in the flesh. They, along with the wicked who are already dead, will have to wait until the last resurrection. All of the remaining dead will rise to meet God. They will either inherit the telestial kingdom or be cast into outer darkness with Satan (see D&C 76:32–33, 81–112, emphasis mine)."

5. He will take His rightful place as King of heaven and earth. The "intrigues between the nations," all the "wars and rumors of wars" were all foreseen in a revelation on Christmas Day, 1832, known as D&C 87. We learn "with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations." (Emphasis mine). It is a worthy goal to pray for "peace on earth," but there will be no peace on earth until He comes again. Peace has been taken from the earth because of the unrighteous exercise of moral agency among the inhabitants. When Christ comes again He will come in triumphant glory to rule and reign, a complete reversal of His first birth in an obscure manger in Bethlehem. He will come this time as "Lord of lords, and King of kings." The epic words of Handel's Messiah, taken from Revelation 17:14, will finally be fulfilled: "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6).

It is almost a "rite of passage" for members of the Church to speculate on the timing of the Second Coming. I know it was a passion of mine at one point in my life. When one is immersed in the study of the Word, it seems events could be accelerated and timing could be imminent. However, age, experience and hopefully some acquired wisdom along the way tempers such pursuits about timetables. I know I have been tempered in my life.

President Boyd K. Packer
We need look no further than the most recent General Conference to the words of the chief Apostle today, President Boyd K. Packer, for a clue about the timing of the Second Coming. Said he,

Sometimes you might be tempted to think as I did from time to time in my youth: “The way things are going, the world’s going to be over with. The end of the world is going to come before I get to where I should be.” Not so! You can look forward to doing it right — getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren. ("Counsel to Youth," Boyd K. Packer).

I would add one more valuable perspective for your consideration from President Lorenzo Snow, who stood in the Tabernacle over 100 years ago to open the 70th Annual General Conference. It was the first conference after the turn of the century in 1900, and it culminated a period of great trial and tribulation for the Church. Total Church membership then was approaching 300,000, with the majority of those members living in Utah.

President Lorenzo Snow
On Friday, April 6, 1900, President Snow said: “The Lord has prospered us amazingly, and we are doing large things at the present time. . .  Now that we are approaching our seventy-first year, the Lord expects that we will do something — something that will cause the nations to marvel, as what we have done has caused them already to wonder.”

Then this thought-provoking statement: “Now, Latter-day Saints, how is it with us? We have received the Gospel. We have received the kingdom of God, established on the earth. We have had trouble; we have been persecuted. We were driven from Ohio; we were driven from Missouri; we were driven from Nauvoo; and once we were driven for a time from this beautiful city. Many have lost thousands of dollars; lost their homes and all they had, and some of the brethren have seen their wives and children lay down their lives because of the hardships they had to experience. . . The people have looked with astonishment at the willingness of the Latter-day Saints to suffer these things. Why do we do this? . . . What is it that enables us to endure these persecutions and still rejoice?”

President Snow then answered his own question. I suggest his answer still reverberates in the hearts of all true disciples over 100 years later: “It is because we have had revelations from the Almighty; because He has spoken to us in our souls and has given to us the Holy Ghost. . .  This Church will stand, because it is upon a firm basis. It is not from man; it is not from the study of the New Testament or the Old Testament; it is not the result of the learning that we received in colleges nor seminaries, but it has come directly from the Lord. The Lord has shown it to us by the revealing principle of the Holy Spirit of light and every man can receive this same spirit.” (Conference Report, April 1900, 2–3, emphasis mine).

President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Gordon B. Hinckley, while touring the missions and stakes in Africa, made this assertion in 1998: "It isn't who we are and where we live. It is our attitude, our love and testimony, our faith and our conviction that make a difference in turning membership in this great and sacred Church."

He said that the membership [of the Church] will grow, "where there are now hundreds, there will be thousands, there will be tens of thousands. This gospel is true; it will spread over the earth.

"With 10 million members we've only begun. We've barely scratched the surface of what will come. I haven't the slightest doubt of that." (As reported 02/28/98 by John L. Hart, Church News staff writer, emphasis mine).

The take away from today's post? I hope it is this: You have time to live your lives in faith and anticipation for the Second Coming in the spirit of hope. There is still much to do before that day comes. So much, in fact, that it is a very long list of unfulfilled events waiting to transpire as we build Zion together.

Mormon eschatology is (or should be) clearly defined in our minds with no uncertainty.