Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mr. Lee Goes to Washington

There's a striking parallel between the old Jimmy Stewart movie and what Mike Lee (R-UT) is doing right now in Washington. Like Stewart in his role as Mr. Smith, Lee has taken a principled stand against all the forces arrayed against him, and he is doing what few before him have ever dared to do -- he's questioning the status quo, asking the obvious questions, and seeking to round up support from his like-minded colleagues.

The Senate still hasn't reconvened yet, but when it does the debate about spending will be front and center.

Mike Lee is doing what President Obama is failing miserably to do: provide true and effective leadership.

As never before, those who are playing politics as usual are easier to spot. Those with serious ideas are boldly declaring themselves despite the potentially suicidal political ramifications of attacking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The polling data would suggest Americans don't really want to dismantle or rearrange their entitlement programs, but if someone can make an honest case why it needs to be done and done now, I believe that principled stand will prevail.

The political miscalculation currently being made by the status quo club -- doing whatever you have to do to win the next election with enough votes -- has a very short shelf life. The America public is now poised to back leadership when they perceive leaders doing what true leaders always must do by taking a principled, rather than a politically popular, position.

In this phone interview yesterday, Lee discusses the progress being made in rounding up enough votes to pass out of the Congress a Balance Budget Amendment. He points out there will be no favorable vote on raising the debt ceiling forthcoming from him and a growing number of his colleagues without an up or down vote on the BBA. Once again, the threshold for amending Constitution is a high bar -- 2/3 in favor in both Houses of Congress, then a 3/4 ratification by the states.

Knowing it will take years to achieve, perhaps, isn't as important as the signal it sends to Americans and the whole world that the United States is serious about taking the corrective steps necessary to rescue our economy from the disastrous trajectory that it is on.

That said, Lee adds in this interview what is fact. The U.S. would not default on its credit obligations if the debt ceiling isn't raised. The Treasury takes in ten times what it owes in interest obligations. Suggesting a credit default in the absence of the vote to raise the debt ceiling is just wildly irresponsible. It hasn't seemed to matter which political party is in power, they have gone to that trough now one too many times.

I like Mike. He's speaking from a position of strength. I don't know how persuasive he'll be in the end of the day among his colleagues in the Senate, but whatever the final outcome may be I am grateful for his leadership in this area. It's only going to take a few more votes to make his proposition viable. I'm hoping the American people will have the integrity to back their elected representatives when it comes to the final vote after all the debating ahead. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) also has a plan worth considering.

We have a better chance now than ever to put the federal government in a strangle hold on discretionary spending. People from both parties would be well-advised to follow Senator Lee's admonitions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Breaking the Debt Ceiling Cycle

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
It's amazing how the "flip-flop" label never seems to stick to Barack Obama, but the debt ceiling debate is where it is most obvious.

While a junior senator from Illinois, he regaled George W. Bush when he proposed hiking the ceiling. He said Bush lacked the leadership to resist spending more. What a laugher! Now as POTUS, he insists that it has to be done or the U.S. faces "catastrophic consequences."

There is at least one U.S. Senator, the junior Senator from Utah, Mike Lee, who is determined to stop the cycle before it gets any worse than it is. Today, he penned an online article for the National Review Online. All it takes is 66 more Senators of like mind and he will veto-proof the proposed Hatch-Lee Balanced Budget Amendment and send it out to the states for ratification.

There's a report I just saw today from the International Monetary Fund in The Wall Street Journal predicting the end of U.S. dominance in the world as early as 2016. The IMF is saying China will overtake the U.S. as the world's number one economy. A forecast is not infallible, but it indicates one thing -- the sharks are circling the blood in the water. When I was in business school the 10-year Treasury note was considered to be the benchmark for risk-free investment. How much longer can that perception last unless the U.S. gets its fiscal house in order?

What's at stake? In just the last three years the national debt load has burgeoned from 64% to 93% of the GDP. Mike Lee and the other 46 Senators in the Senate Republican caucus are absolutely right in their refusal to vote for an increase in the debt limit without insisting on the BBA. So far it looks like he's got 5 Democrats who have agreed to go along, leaving the need for 5 more to sign up for the veto-proof majority. Don't rule it out. There should be no doubt what the people back home are expecting their elected representatives to do, and that's to stop the presses printing more worthless currency and issuing more Treasury notes. Investors in Treasuries are already cooling off, and it won't be long before the perceived adjusted risk will push interest rates for U.S. borrowing higher and higher.

That's why we sent Mike Lee to the Senate in place of Bob Bennett. He won't back down in the face of the forces aligned against him. Forcing the vote on the BBA will finally force Senators to declare themselves in the showdown, and that's not a bad thing for anyone.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

American Economy Needs Resurrection

Before it dies, the American economy needs Resurrection with a capital "R."

Forgive me for sounding a purely political tone on Easter Morning, but the facts are staring us in the face.

Based on the latest estimates after all the dust settled over the deficient and delinquent 2011 budget settlement, we will bump up against the debt ceiling around May 16th. We narrowly avoided a government shutdown for failure to pass a working budget through the end of FY 2011, and now we are staring at it again.

Many in the conservative ranks (myself included) would like to see an up or down vote on some version of a Balanced Budget Amendment in the Senate as the quid pro quo for raising the debt limit. There must be a plan in place this time before the debt ceiling is increased again. Whatever the actual day of hitting the debt ceiling is, time is running out of the hourglass. The only reason you're not hearing much about it is Congress is enjoying its Easter/Passover recess.

I was remembering the other day what happened in September 2008. I hailed the House for voting down the first proposed Bush administration $600 billion bank bailout. The stock market saw it differently and took a nose dive on the news. It wasn't just a "blip" either -- it tanked the next day in a 778-point free falling nosedive. Panic set in and the Senate hastily passed the $700 billion TARP and sent it back to the House, which approved it the second time. The floodgates for spending were flung wide open and the debt mounted exponentially.

Even last week on just a whiff of bad news with the S&P's credit warning about its negative view on America's credit standing, the stock market experienced an immediate and sharp sell-off. We're now poised to do something dramatically different than just throwing more money at the problem.

Both parties are feeling the heat as another game of who blinks first begins to take shape. Neither side won last time. Taking .068% off a $3.7 Trillion budget can hardly be hailed as a victory for either side, despite all the credit for "historic" compromise that was being trumpeted from Capitol Hill on both sides.

I predict there will be yet another accommodation when the debate sparks up again, and there won't be a government shutdown. Neither side can benefit politically from it, so it won't happen.

It is my belief the House Speaker John Boehner and the majority of other mainstream GOP leaders agree on the need to raise the debt limit. Having said that, they are listening to the persistent voices of the freshmen who were swept into office in the tsunami of the 2010 mid-term election, and they don't want to be held liable for a new financial meltdown caused by failure to aggressively go after major spending reductions. It appears to me we need both.

There seems to be little cooperation visible yet from the White House, however, and the Democrats still control the Senate. Hard line liberals think Obama has already caved too far (hard to believe), but to win concessions they seek the Republicans need Obama to offer much more than he has been willing to give so far on spending cuts.

Here's what's at the root of the impasse, as I see it. It's been hard to agree on what's even causing the deficit spending. You cannot discount the reality of the deficit spending for Bush's two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there's the much-maligned "Bush-era tax cuts." People argue that Obama has pushed us into a socialist society, but how can hard line conservatives explain away Bush's profligate spending for an expensive prescription-drug program inside Medicare?

On the other hand, Republicans will blame excessive government spending as the reason for deficits, and under Obama we have seen nothing but government spending on steroids.

All of that may seen like political hyperbole, but a deep and protracted recession -- the Great Recession -- is causing the slow and painful death of the American economy. What's really happened is that with so many Americans out of work for so long, drastic reductions in tax revenues have been replaced by hundreds of billions of dollars in well-intentioned stimulus spending under both the Bush and Obama administrations to replace the missing tax revenue.

Rather than stimulate the economy with debt and deficits, the borrowed stimulus money has done very little to ignite and revitalize the economy. Income solves everything in Management 101, so let's figure out how to promote policies to increase the GNP in the private sector.

When the government keeps extending unemployment benefits there is a marked disincentive among job seekers to find new employment. It's evidence I see every day of the entrenched welfare state in America. When potential new hires have to discuss with me how few hours they can work to keep their unemployment benefits, I know too many have been drinking the government entitlement welfare Kool-aid.

The total national debt before the recession was $9 Trillion in late 2007. Today, four short years later, it has burgeoned to $14.3 Trillion, nearly 90% of the GNP. Even the federal government cannot continue writing blank checks forever. Sooner or later the holders of our debt will demand high interest rates as their perceived risk increases, unless we as a people give a clear signal we are serious about reining in our appetites.

More government spending is not going to cure the problem. More taxation is not going to offer a cure either. What is needed now is a voluntary and cooperative effort by America's leadership to resurrect the economy through a combination of aggressive across the board spending cuts and tax policy that favors new entrepreneurial activity. That will put America back to work quicker than "quantitative easing" ever will. We're running out of time and accounting tricks to cover the root cause.

We are way past the time when we need more wrangling over the class warfare arguments of whether or not the rich should be taxed more heavily and the poor should be given more entitlements to save them.

Resurrection is possible. I loved what Joe Scarborough, MSNBC's token conservative, tweeted about it the other day -- "only a fool would bet against America." Give a listen to Carrie Underwood and remember that with God we can do anything:

Where the physical body is concerned resurrection is an absolute certainty. Where the body politic is concerned, it is an immediate necessity. With God's help we will survive and Zion will come.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Grandma Patsy's Easter Letter

April 2011

My darling children and grandchildren,

Happy Easter! This is a glorious time of year. It is one of my favorite times of the year. April is the month that our Savior, Jesus Christ was really born. It is also the month when the Church of Jesus Christ was organized. It is General Conference month when we can listen to our prophets and learn what the Lord wants us to know and do. It is also the month (usually) that we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I decided as an Easter remembrance this year I would like to tell you about my testimony of and my gratitude for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and why it means so much to me.

As a child and for as long as I can remember I have loved my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. I loved to hear about them and I loved to sing songs about them. I loved to pray to my Heavenly Father and I knew He would answer my prayers. I always wanted to feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus and do the things that they wanted me to do. Those are the things that made me happy.

As I grew, my testimony of the principles of the gospel also grew and developed. I knew my Savior loved me. I knew He experienced all kinds of trials and ridicule. I knew He suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross for me and for all mankind. I knew on the third day, after he died, that He was resurrected. I knew that meant we could all live after we die.

But when I really KNEW the great blessing and reality of the resurrection was when I was fifteen years old and a sophomore at East High School.

Lin Hewlett, 1963
Life as a fifteen-year-old was good. I had a great family and some wonderful friends. It was easier to be a “lowly sophomore” because I had an older brother who also went to East High. Lin was seventeen and had lots of friends and lots of talents and abilities. He was a senior. He played basketball, baseball, and sang in the A’Cappella and Madrigals. He was a “big man on campus.” He was a good brother to me. He acknowledged that I was his sister and his friends all said hello to me even though I was just a tenth grader. I was quite shy and so all of those people made being at a new school with over 2500 students easier for me. My best friends, Karen Burton and Becky Young, were the oldest in their families. Thus they had to “make it on their own," unlike those of us who had older siblings.

Hewlett Children, 1963
School started in September, so by October I was feeling fairly secure. All was good in my world. Then on October 21, 1963, my world was forever changed. My mother was President of the East High PTA. She and my father had a meeting at school that night.

Lin was off playing basketball at a stake center out south with his best friend, Flemming Christensen, and Gary Barrus. I was home tending John and Ernie. After Mother and Daddy returned home we were talking about what teachers had to say, etc., and the phone rang. They answered and quickly hung up. Evidently Lin had been in an accident and they had to go to the hospital. They quickly left.

Soon after, the door bell rang. At the door was Uncle Budge. Aunt Marlene and Uncle Budge lived above us on 16th Avenue. He asked for Mom and Dad and I told him they were at the hospital. He responded he knew that and when we asked what had happened he said, “I guess there was an accident and your brother was killed.”

A drunk driver had crossed four lanes of highway on Wasatch Blvd. and had hit Lin’s car head-on. Lin and Flemming were both killed instantly. Gary was injured, but soon recovered. What a shock! How shattered we all were. Lin was gone. . . never to return home. I was devastated! I was hysterical! I was in a fog! How would we ever go on without Lin?!

I remember lots of calls, lots of visitors, lots of food, lots of flowers, lots of love, lots of notes. I remember lots of news articles and lots of tears. Mother and Daddy were amazing. They seemed to comfort all who came. We had the viewing and the funeral. Many commented that Lin and Flemming had gone on their missions early.

Some said the Lord had a great work for them to do. I can’t remember all of the details, but what I do remember is that after I had had a priesthood blessing and I had prayed that a sweet peace enveloped me. I knew through the power of the Holy Ghost I would see my brother again; Christ our Savior was resurrected and because of Him and His sacrifices for us we would be able to live on after we died.

That knowledge didn’t take the pain and the emptiness away, but it did give me the courage to keep living and to try even harder than I ever had to live so I could be with Lin again. I remember lots and lots of days and nights walking to the cemetery and sitting by his grave. I remember crying and missing him. I remember talking to him and to the Lord. It was not an easy time, but I knew without any question the resurrection was real and because of Christ we would all live again.

How thankful I was for that knowledge and how thankful I still am!

Adrienne Goates, 1992
Years have passed and we have lost others we love. It is never easy to let them go. How we still miss all of them, but I know without any doubt we shall see them all again. I know if I keep my covenants that through the atonement and through the power of the priesthood we shall be a family forever! I know God lives and loves us. I know Jesus is the Christ and through Him we shall be saved if we repent and do all we can do. I am so thankful for my Savior. Because of Him and through our covenants in the holy temple we can be sealed together forever!

I love you all more than you will ever know. I pray constantly for each of you! May you all more fully appreciate the gifts our Savior and our Heavenly Father have given all of us this Easter is my prayer.

Mom (Grandma Patsy)

(My reflections on the events of the fall of 1963 are recorded here. A month later, following Lin and Flemming's deaths, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas).

Friday, April 22, 2011

An Easter Testimony

I have remarkable children and grandchildren. This evening we had a video chat, then a story followed in an e-mail I eagerly share with all of you:

My children have a mild obsession with the reenactment of ordinances. They can be found almost daily, filling their tool boxes with little bits of bread to gingerly pass to each member of the family. Then last week I found them "baptizing" each other on the front lawn. I don't know where the fixation started, but I'll take it over playing war or any other number of less-desirable make-believe games, so I have yet to discourage their rituals.

This week has been hard on me. Last week I was an unshakable pillar of strength and patience. It seemed that nothing could get me down in the midst of lots of circumstances that could have. I don't know what changed, but this week my patience and coping are nil. I don't understand why sometimes we cope so much better than other times, but whatever the reasons, I have been running on empty for several days. By the time afternoon hit here I was tied in knots and my fuse was incredibly short. I couldn't cope with the incessant crying of my one-year-old, and the toddlers were doing their best to ensure I blew a gasket by dinnertime. My nerves were shot and I was officially spent. In a frustrated swoop, I grabbed my crying baby from the floor for the umpteenth time and put him on the counter so he could look right into my eyes. "I cannot handle you crying all day long every day, Gideon!" I said to him and yet to no one all at the same time.

And then, in my hour of frustration and exhaustion, the sacrament arrived. Three-year-old Noah quietly walked into the kitchen and held out the offering. "Just one piece, mommy," he gently reminded me. The irony wasn't lost on me. It was Thursday, the day before Good Friday, and the anniversary of Christ's original introduction of the sacrament in that sacred upper room. In that moment I accepted my son's emblem, I was reminded of what I'd covenanted to do just last Sunday. I had covenanted to always remember my Savior, and yet in those hours and days of exhaustion and weariness, how easily do I forget? How easily do I forget that He died for me? He gave His life so I don't have to carry the burdens and responsibilities of life alone. His atoning sacrifice is not just for the big challenges and trials of life, but for my seemingly insignificant challenges that chip away at my spirit and my peace daily. The crying baby, the fighting toddlers, and the unswept floor are all swept up in Him and His precious gift.

That is what I remember as I celebrate His life and His death - that His precious offerings matter in every moment and every detail of my life. It is in those simple moments that I need to accept His sacrificial gift with gratitude, and strive to always remember Him.

Suffer No More, the Good Friday Miracle

Our scant knowledge of the events of the historical “Good Friday” informs us of one fact – God is in the details of the plan of salvation all the way, for there are no half measures here.

Interestingly, Utah may be one of the few states in the nation that does not observe Good Friday except in a casual way as an excuse for a quasi-extra day for a long weekend. Nationwide, Good Friday is a bona fide day off work when businesses formally shutter early for the weekend.

We pause on this day to contemplate the role of suffering. But there is normally cringing over suffering. I could never bring myself to watch the Mel Gibson film about The Passion. I felt I knew enough already in the Savior’s own chilling words:

Therefore I command you to repent — repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore — how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink —
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.
And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. (D&C 19:15-21).

He suffered for all of us so we wouldn’t if we repent and come unto Him. Why repent? To avoid suffering. It’s a simple covenant. Do we suffer for our sins? No doubt. Do others suffer because of our sins? Of course they do. There is no such thing as a "victimless" sin. The ripples in the ponds of our self-indulgence send rings of agony if left unchecked into future generations. That suffering, when it is intense enough, when the dregs have been drained, leads us to the foot of the cross at Golgotha in a figurative way. We partake of the fellowship of His suffering (see Philippians 3:10) only in part, in the allegorical sense by comparison. Our guilt for sin is an inestimable gift to help us keep our bearings on our mortal journey.

Our Father in Heaven and His Only Begotten Son showed us the way to avoid pain and suffering. However, the plan of salvation must be and is completely voluntary. We accept the vicarious suffering accomplished for us to avoid it ourselves. He accepts our repentance and we come to know in time that our earlier pain and suffering can be assuaged and relieved. But only if we truly forsake our sins, not in some feigned confession during Lent, then a quick return to degradation. Agency to choose and to act obediently overarches and undergirds the plan.

All these facts are lovely and they are true. However, when we witness a family member who sustains suffering for many, many years, when we are faced with personal or family tragedy and adversity over a protracted period of time, when addictions claim their victims among those we love most, there seems to be no relief in sight. How is our tolerance for faith in the plan then?

While serving in a bishopric years ago, we routinely visited a homebound sister who had lain in bed for many years, the victim of a debilitating disease that slowly disabled her. On those Sunday afternoons when we entered the temple of her suffering for visits we always came away uplifted. On one such afternoon, I dared to ask, “Mary, how is it that you maintain your faith, when the pain is so great?” She had raised a wonderful family, but lamented she could now do so little for them. Then she said something I never forgot. Diminished as she was in her physical limitations, she said, “But I can still pray for them.” And we all knew her prayers for them went straight to the throne of God.

In recent years, our global communication networks have assured we see human suffering without respite. Little is left to imagination. The work of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, oil spills, nuclear power plant meltdowns, gang and drug murders -- all of it -- is on full display with unedited accuracy. Political strife and discord assault our senses. Awareness of suffering is on a grander scale now than at any time in history perhaps. Imagine what God sees and knows that we do not! Even seeing in part causes some to turn away and doubt there could be a God in the face of such agonies.

It is ever so much more difficult when trials of faith are no longer detached from us halfway around the world. When it is me who suffers, the pain is acute. The words, "All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7) hauntingly remind us there is still much to learn, apparently. The wintry reminders often make us shiver at the implications. We cry out, "Haven't I had enough of that experience yet?"

Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. . . It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.” (Cited in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98).

Lacking understanding of God's plan of salvation, we often misread life's trials. We see others stricken with unrelieved ailments and we wonder, "Why?" The answer is that God and Jesus, possessed of perfect love and omniscience, demand that we trust Them. That simple requirement, "Trust me," is not discipleship for the faint of heart, knowing what the Savior said about His agony. "Trust me," He reminds us, "that my suffering was sufficient for you, and that ample provision has been made for your deliverance." That's tall timber in a vast forest of human suffering to have to chop sometimes, isn't it?

Do you sometimes shudder at the mention of “liken” scriptures? (See 1 Nephi 19:23). It seems everywhere we look on the pages of scriptures we find an invitation to engage – anxiously – in similar outcomes.

If in the plan we are not required to exercise moral agency, accept the risk of failure, and if uncertainty did not play a major role in our decision making, there could be no real sustainable and lasting character growth. Our faith must be tried in the furnace of affliction and accompanying discipleship. What will we choose first? Will we choose happiness? We are admonished to “be of good cheer.” Can we really choose that in the face of everything seeming to destroy us and make us suffer? Absent insecurity or anxiety, can you really step up to be counted?

Rest assured, we are informed we will all be tried at the weakest point of entry (see Ether 12:27) only so we can plumb the depths of our lowest lows, as did the One who descended below all things. In recent years, I have wondered as I have seen others' suffering, "Even this, Lord? Can you mend even this broken vessel?" In time as we grapple with weaknesses, we learn to see the enemy coming from afar off and we are given strength to overcome in the agony of Christ’s suffering for us if we ask for it.

There is comforting assurance of the purpose of our suffering. We read about it in Abraham 3:25 and Mosiah 3:19; 23:21). These true doctrines can brace better for the battle within us. Unwillingness to even try to slay the natural man within can turn him into a raging beast that will rob us of our agency if we succumb and submit, however. I love what C.S. Lewis said:

C.S. Lewis
"Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. . . We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist." (Mere Christianity).

President Brigham Young was ever the optimist, a much-needed attribute today, when he observed:

"If you could see things as they are, you would know that the whole plan of salvation, and all the revelations ever given to man on the earth are as plain as would be the remarks of an Elder, were he to stand here and talk about our every day business. You may now be inclined to say, 'O, this is too simple and child-like, we wish to hear the mysteries of the kingdoms of the Gods who have existed from eternity, and of all the kingdoms in which they will dwell; we desire to have these things portrayed to our understandings.' Allow me to inform you that you are in the midst of it all now." (JD 8:115).

President Brigham Young
Having faith in all the subtleties of the the plan of salvation here and later on and forever, is probably what the Apostle Paul understood when he said "that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). Nephi, likely overwhelmed with what he had just experienced, concluded, "I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (1 Nephi 11:17).

Isn’t it strange that a little boy in our ward who took an “unsupervised swim” at age two and nearly drowned, lost all his mental and physical faculties? Now he lies thirty-odd years later in a special needs chair, his limbs badly atrophied and without speech. He seems to want to “get out" of his crippled body and do so much more, while there are so many able-bodied ones out there in the world, who seem to want to just “get out” of this life by ending it with their own hands. They suppose their pain is so much harder to bear than my shriveled friend in a chair.

Some languish for years in old age longing for departure, searching in vain it seems for the exit door, while young people are snuffed out in the prime of life instantly in a tragic accident. How can one make sense of any of that?

I have wondered if there is another level of understanding in the parable of the talents. When we know more, perhaps we will learn that those with so little in this life like the crippled one in the special needs chair, have done so much before and even now without our knowing. The sanctifying care giving of his parents and family stand as a testament of love, charity and service. God's perfect love and mercy will someday bestow a crown upon those valiant parents and brothers and sisters. The words for which the disciples yearn, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," will no doubt ring in their ears. And what if we were to learn later on of a pre-mortal agreement to accept those physical limitations? Would such awareness now further humble us in our haughtiness over how much we are called upon to suffer in selfishness? Look around. You can count so many more blessings on fingers and toes that work.

Have you often wondered as I do, "Does God really know what I’m dealing with? Does He really hear my impassioned pleas for help?” We believe in a God with body parts and passions like our own. That’s a good question to ask on Good Friday. Does the Father understand passion? The Passion? Would He listen to your pleas now, knowing what His Beloved Son sacrificed for you? The answer is "Yes!" He knows! He cares! He loves you! He knows the end from the beginning. His foreknowledge of your life, your pain, your suffering was all taken into account in the plan. Only in His knowing beforehand, perfectly, could He deliver us here and now. We worship an omniscient Father. His perspective is attuned to our pleading for deliverance. We are endowed with the very the DNA of the Gods. But in our neophyte mortal state we can only develop faith by not knowing, not seeing, not being perfect yet. Experience is lacking. It enables our progress.

Alma prophesied, “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and. . . he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. . . That his bowels may be filled with mercy, . . . that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12, emphasis mine).

So why does He not always intervene for us? Why are not all blessings for health answered? Why are not all wayward children restored instantly to the path of righteousness in answer to a parent’s passionate plea?

Knowing everything as He does will never alter agency one bit. We and our children are left to choose, even though He knows the choice in advance. It’s why we call the atonement infinite. Everything was taken into account in advance. Joseph Smith said God "has made ample provision," so the purposes in His plan of salvation will be achieved — including our part within that plan if we are faithful. (See Luke 10:17, 18; John 8:44; Revelation 12. In the light of these references consider also Isaiah 14:12-32, and D&C 76:25-90). To overcome evil and the tempter's snares, the plan was based on His perfect knowledge of Satan's role too.

“Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine. . . Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd." (D&C 50:40-41, 44).

This Easter weekend there will be legions of Christians around the world proclaiming their belief in Jesus Christ. The better question is, “Do you believe Christ?” Without the willingness to believe in the foreknowledge of the Father and Jesus Christ, one stares with vacant eyes at the prophecies in scripture and wonders aloud, “How can that be?” To say God is not there or does not care is to discard foreknowledge, if believed, that will sanctify and save us.

So believe it. You will be resurrected. You can be transformed, redeemed and exalted. Yes, even you and me.

On this Good Friday before Easter Sunday, in the midst of destruction in all its manifestations, remember the Lord Jesus Christ is working on a plan of eternal increase, of wisdom, intelligence, honor, excellence, power, glory, might, and dominion, and all the godly attributes that fill eternity. In an upper room the night before Good Friday, knowing what was coming, He gave us the ordinance of remembrance. How simple the objects, broken bread and wine, to symbolize His suffering for us.

What principle does the devil work upon? It is to divide, subtract, destroy, dissolve, decompose, and tear in pieces. This destruction includes marriages, friendships, faith, self-esteem, and life itself.

We worship the One who made the "great and last sacrifice." (Alma 34:10). He triumphed. We benefit when we recognize and accept the gift by emulating His life.

His suffering on Good Friday was sufficient for us all, and today we remember that after Gethsemane followed by the betrayal, the false accusations, the miscarriage of justice, the scourging, the crown of plaited thorns, the mocking at the crucifixion and the thunder and lightning with the earthquake, comes Easter Morning.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Great Big Fat Lie

Several months ago I attempted to explain what a ludicrous idea taxing the wealthy was to balance the budget and redistribute the wealth among the needy and worthy poor members of society. It's classic liberal drivel to pick an example of a poor person or family, then exploit their dire circumstances for political gain.

Last week, President Obama addressed the nation. He trashed the Paul Ryan 2012 budget on national television, putting forward instead a plan to tax the wealthy Americans, demanding that they ante up and pay their fair share to help us get out of debt and reduce the deficits.

I am appalled at the audacity, the boldness and the bald face lies this man tells. Either he has no one in his administration who can do the basic math, or he intentionally attempts to deceive. Whichever it is, the facts simply do not support his assumptions.

Take a few minutes and watch.

What do you think? Can we restore fiscal sanity to Washington by merely taxing the rich? If you need help with the answer, check out the opinion of this writer in The Wall Street Journal. The Cato Institute sets the facts straight in President Obama's attack against the wealthy.

We don't have a taxation problem in America, we have a spending problem. Better get it right, all you politicians, the clock is ticking with the S&P announcement this week that America is on a negative credit watch that could result in a downgrade of America's "AAA" rating two years from now.

"Old Man Morrison"

When Les Goates was writing a regular column for the Deseret News back in the day, he popularized a recurring feature he styled as "Enchanted Moments." Over the years as his descendants we have continued to record what is now a long legacy of stories that have become very dear to all of us.

Really, what they are is an uncollected collection of cherished spiritual experiences. If the truth were told, many of them have not yet been written because of their sacred and personal nature. I am always amused when a speaker rises in a sacrament meeting and apologizes for sharing a personal experience, because I always ask myself, "Well, what other kind of experiences are there besides personal ones, so why apologize?"

Last night I had what could only be classed as an Enchanted Moment. It was a phone call from a dear lifelong friend. We grew close to one another as our paths crossed at East High School, when he joined the Church as a new convert. He served as the Seminary President two years before I did. He went to the University of Utah and joined Sigma Chi Fraternity, and I followed in his footsteps once again two years later.

His mission call was delayed for two years until he was twenty-one and legally able to make the decision to go on a mission because his non-member mother refused to give her consent. When his call finally was able to be processed, he was called to the North British Mission. Four months later, I received my call to serve in the same mission.

We loved our time together in England, though we never served together in close proximity. On occasion we reunited for zone conferences. His mother continued her opposition to his participation in the Church until the day she died. She was a single mother all the years I knew them, and she supported them financially the best she could. He also had a sister who was ten years younger. Both learned hard work early as a necessity.

After our missions, my friend went to dental school at the University of Washington. His education was paid for by the Air Force in return for a service commitment when he finished. His initial enlistment was followed by what stretched into a thirty-year Air Force career, and his assignments took him and his family all around the world. He retired as a full colonel in recent years and he returned to the Seattle area where he still practices and teaches orthodontics. He served as a Bishop twice, a Branch President twice, and the First Counselor in a Stake Presidency. He and his wife are faithful, true disciples who now serve in the Seattle Temple as ordinance workers.

Because of the many miles that have separated us since those early days of our friendship, we rarely see one another or even communicate on a regular basis. They have two children and three grandchildren. Their annual Christmas letter is a cherished gift each year as they have chronicled their lives.

Then just yesterday I found him on LinkedIn and we connected. Soon thereafter I received a message from him because he saw my e-mail address in my profile. Technology is many things, but one thing I love about it is when I can make connections again with dear friends. He asked me to call and gave me his numbers.

"I've Kept a Secret From You"

When we talked, it was as if time collapsed and we picked up right where we left off. Our love for one another has never dimmed nor diminished one iota. There were three things on his mind, the first two quickly dispensed, then came the blockbuster. "David, I have kept a secret from you for many, many years that I need to tell you about." My mind raced instantaneously. What could that be? What had my dear friend withheld from me? A secret? I thought I knew everything about him.

Slowly over the next hour and half we were on the phone he poured out the details of his biological father. As he spoke, it became obvious to me I really had never known anything about his family. I had always just accepted the assumption of his father's death and his name, leaving his mother as a single mom raising him and his younger sister, not even knowing or questioning that his biological father was really someone else with a different surname.

I am intentionally withholding my friend's name, though our family will know of whom I speak.

His biological father, he explained, was something of a reclusive and mysterious figure who had withdrawn into a shell of his own making. He lived in a ramshackle, run-down small old home. The yard was an overgrown untended tangle of weeds, an unkempt eyesore that was uncharacteristic of the surrounding neighborhood. It was one of those properties everyone discussed and despised because of what it might do to affect property values. The man himself was gruff and mean-spirited. He was rarely seen in public, except when he emerged to walk to and from a nearby neighborhood grocery store.

The boys in the neighborhood caught fleeting glimpses of "old man Morrison" on occasion, but his interactions with his neighbors in general were isolated and rare occurrences. They were always discussing the mysteries and mythology that grew up around this withdrawn hermit from society, assertions like: He was wealthy beyond imagination; his fortune was concealed under his mattress; he had killed someone and he was on the lam; he was a spy and this reclusive lifestyle was his cover. There were dares and double-dog dares to sneak into the house when he was known to be out and look around to see if his concealed fortune could be uncovered. No one ever accepted that dare. It was just too risky. There was no end to the speculations of little boys. But one thing was certain -- he was harmless.

Imagine my surprise when my dear friend disclosed that "old man Morrison" was the same "old man Morrison" who lived directly across the street from my childhood home! To walk out our front door, was to stare directly into the unsightly front yard and broken down house I just described. He was our "old man Morrison," the undisclosed natural father of one of my dearest friends! And I never knew!

Last night he went on to explain he had first become aware of his father's true identity at about age ten when his mother told him the story for the first time. Embarrassed and resentful that he did not have a father, my friend had chosen to keep this secret tucked away from me for most of our lives. As the details poured out, however, my reaction was probably predictable given our deep and abiding love for one another. It only endeared him to me all the more.

The Early Years

His full name was Seth Warner Morrison, Jr., and was born on 21 February, 1895 in Salt Lake City, Utah. His father, Seth Warner Morrison, Sr., served in the Utah State Legislature in its inaugural year of 1896, when Utah became a state. Seth Sr. was listed as a “Gentile (Non-Mormon) Republican,” and his picture shows a large, bushy mustache. Warner, our "old man Morrison," grew up in Salt Lake City, but my friend says he knows little of his father's childhood and adolescent years. He often spoke of his love of skiing the beautiful mountains of Utah, and presumably worked in his father’s lumber company as a teenager.

Upon graduation from Salt Lake City High School and some preparation at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, he went away to New Haven, Connecticut, to attend prestigious Yale University. He graduated in 1917, with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

A biographical entry from a Yale University book entitled Class of Nineteen Seventeen recounts some of his activities at Yale. World War I was still going on in Europe, and as a new graduate, he went to San Francisco and volunteered for the U.S. Army. He served as a First Lieutenant in the 91st “Wild West” Division, 166th Field Artillery Brigade, 347th Field Artillery Regiment, which primarily saw action in France. He was in Fohren, Germany when the Great War ended on Armistice Day, 11 November, 1918. Again his activities in the war are well documented in a biographical entry from a Yale University book, Nineteen Seventeen in the War (1917 was the year of his graduation). Apparently, he had sustained some internal injuries during the war, but there is uncertainty about what they were.

Upon his discharge on 30 April, 1919, he returned to Salt Lake City, and went back to work for his father in the lumber business. The next year, in September, 1920, he joined the Masonic Order, Wasatch #1, Grand Lodge 8105, Lodge 781, and rose to attain the 3rd degree or level in that organization. As of 9 December, 1932, though, he discontinued his activity with the Masons. He was also a member of Salt Lake Post, No. 2, American Legion, and the Squawmen’s Union, No. 1.

Warner served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives in the Utah State Legislature from 1921-1922, as had his father. He also served as president of the Yale Club of Utah from 1922 to 1925, and was a member of the University, Alta, and Country Clubs of Salt Lake City.

During this time frame, he went to the Sierras to learn logging and sawmilling, and met and married his first wife, Elizabeth Maurice Martin in Portland, Oregon. To this union were born two sons, Seth Warner Morrison III, and Harry Douglas Morrison. “Si," as he was known later on, was born in Oregon City, Oregon and Harry Douglas in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, Warner and Elizabeth divorced in 1931, and she moved back to Chicago, Illinois and re-married. Warner stayed in Salt Lake City and had split custody with his sons, and then also re-married.

His second wife, Edith Doris Friedrich Freiin von Hadeln, was a German national tennis player, and one daughter, Margot E. was born to them in Salt Lake City. Again, this marriage also ended in divorce several years later.

My Friend's Memories of our Mr. Morrison

"I don’t recall how old I was when I first met my father, but it was probably after I started elementary school in the early 1950s. For the first three years of my life, I lived in Los Angeles, California, where I had been born. My mother had met Warner at our great-aunt Jeanne’s restaurant, Jeanne’s Tea Room, which was not far from his father’s lumber company. In the winter of 1945, she had gone to visit her first cousin, Adrie Peters in Los Angeles, and did not know she was pregnant. She went to the doctor suspecting she may have a tumor, but was given the news she was actually expecting a child. She was elated, because she always wanted to have children, but was embarrassed she was not married.

"I was born at the Rose Maternity Hospital on 25 May, 1945, and we remained in California for the next several years. Mom had gone to work for a naturopathic doctor and author, and though he too had had several previous marriages, they married on 8 December, 1946. Unfortunately, he passed away of a stroke on 20 April, 1947, and so I never knew him. He did not adopt me, but my sister and I have always carried his last name, as did my mother for most of her life.

"On 26 June, 1947, she legally had our names changed from her Dutch name to our current names.

"We moved back to Salt Lake City when I was about three years old. Mom worked in various occupations when I was growing up in the lower avenues of the city, but primarily worked as a cook and housemaid at several boarding houses. Later on, she pursued her degree at the University of Utah as an elementary school teacher, and this profession was the joy of her life. She was artistic, an accomplished pianist and vocalist, and she used these talents in her teaching. The one good contribution to her life from Warner during that time was his help in her passing some of her classes.

"When I first met Warner, he had become somewhat of a recluse. He was balding, and had lost many of his teeth. His home at 84 'U' Street was about a mile from where we grew up. It was never a normal abode, but filled with aisles of newspapers you had to walk down to get through the house. He never owned a car, and got around by walking or by public transportation. He was a chain-smoker, and drank a lot of red wine over the years. Undoubtedly, the fire that destroyed his home in later years was caused by a cigarette he had not extinguished. He was then forced to move to a hotel in downtown Salt Lake, and our mother visited him and helped him as much as she could.

"Warner died at the age of 75, on 23 February, 1970 in Salt Lake City. A funeral service was held for him at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, which Si attended and, no doubt, paid for. Our father was cremated and buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery, not far from where his parents were buried. Each Memorial Day, a small American flag is placed on his gravesite to honor his service to our country."

The Lessons

In all the overcoming, the loving and forgiving, my friend now stands as a shining beacon. Whatever your childhood experience might have been, you can rise above it and make a wonderful life. You do not forever have to be consigned to a state of birth circumstance bondage.

Imagine all the patience, the sacrificing, the overcoming, the desire to rise above the unsavory elements of his early childhood, to become the man he has become and to finally come to a place of peace, serenity and acceptance of the facts of his biological creation. My heart was welled up continually as the details poured forth and I heard in his voice the tranquility and the steadfast determination to research his family lines in the Morrison family tree and take many of those names to the temple to have their work done for them.

My friend's mother had speculated that his withdrawn and reclusive nature might have been attributed to injuries, perhaps more psychological than physical, traced to his involvement in the war. As might be expected, he found solace in his alcoholism and cigarettes.

Living in the northwest was one of my friend's half-brothers, a prominent lawyer who had recently passed away. Almost as if by "coincidence" he happened to read the obituary and made the link. My friend attended his half-brother's funeral and connected for the first time with his blood relatives and a daughter, who while "not yet" a member of the Church is an ardent genealogist. Imagine the discussions they must have had with one another at that funeral!

My sister reported she remembered the fire that consumed the home of Mr. Morrison vividly, the flames leaping upward a hundred feet into the air. It awakened the whole neighborhood in the middle of the night it happened. One of my younger brothers, I was reminded, was actually accused of setting the Morrison fire. Some time earlier, he and a friend had set a brush fire east of my grandfather's home a few blocks away, so suspicion turned immediately to them. No doubt the newspapers inside the home served as an accelerant once the blaze started, probably from the forgotten burning cigarette within. All these years later, now Mr. Morrison's temple work, along with many of his progenitors, is being done in due course by my dear friend. Imagine!

I asked my father the day after this disclosure if he and my mother had ever had a conversation with the reclusive and mysterious "old man Morrison." Flabbergasted at my disclosure of Morrison's true identity, my father could only lament, "We must have been terrible neighbors. No, I don't ever recall that a single word passed between us."

In the course of one's life there are many pleasant surprises, "secrets" we never know about, happening right under our noses. The precious, treasured secret last night delivered by a dear friend can only be classed as an "Enchanted Moment." It underscores once again the need to never assume anything.

My take away from his long-held secret was a simple one. Everyone in your life has a back story worth learning. Even someone like an "old man Morrison." We all have someone like him in our lives. I have resolved to learn more about the seeming "ciphers" all around us.

A few minutes later, welling up with the emotion of what I had just heard, I wrote back an e-mail response to my friend. This is what I told him:

Thanks for your disclosure about your biological father. It makes me love you and admire you all the more. Your "secret" only burnishes my esteem for you and the magnificent life you have lived.

In addition, I want to share something that happened when my mother was near her death. Because she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, then went through three rounds of chemotherapy and two major surgeries, we had what I came to call "the long farewell." She survived three and a half years. We knew she would be gone eventually because it was terminal, so we said our farewells many times in anticipation.

One day, seated on her bed, she reminded me again what a valiant spirit I must have been in the pre-existence to have warranted the privilege of being Harold B. Lee's eldest grandson. I had heard this from my parents all my life, and often the reminder felt like unwelcome pressure to bear. That day, hearing it again, something different happened within me. Like a lightning bolt the realization hit me. I said, "Mom, I don't really believe I did anything to earn that privilege, I probably had to beg for it instead."

I reminded her of the story recorded in Matthew 12:46-50, and also in Mark 3:31-35:

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
Then one said unto him, behold, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

We often attach inappropriate significance to the "royal" families in the Church, those who are related by blood to the prophets. However, it is my considered belief that those who have the royal blood of the prophets coursing in their veins include all who have "believing blood," as Elder Bruce R. McConkie used to characterize it. We may all trace our lineage to Father Adam and Mother Eve. How is that not royal blood coursing through all our veins? It is our faith and belief in the gospel that unites the family of man, not the facts of our biological birth.

You, my brother, are in the first rank of the believers and valiant disciples, and there is nothing in your life that would ever suggest anything less regardless of the obvious and unfair comparison of our biological parentage. I hope to someday be considered as worthy as you in the Lord's eyes.

Much love,



A little work, a little play
A little sorrow on the way;
A little sigh for what’s unwon,
A dream of when the race is run.

A gleam of hope from morning skies,
A little light from love’s dear eyes;
The swinging gate, the setting sun –
We close our eyes and life is. . .

- Les Goates

Friday, April 15, 2011

Zion's Four Facets

I continue to get questions from people I know well about the end of the world. It seems the political upheavals we are witnessing continue to trouble even the most grounded saints. These concerns arise as a natural consequence of the bad news we hear every day.

The budget and deficit spending in America is out of control. The prophets of doom and gloom continue to spread fear and uncertainty all around. Conspiracy theories abound. Few are escaping the effects of the 2008 financial market meltdown. Widespread doubts about the future are escalating. Inflation is eroding purchasing power. Gas prices are averaging $4 per gallon in five states, and continue rising in more. The price of basic food is rising at the grocery store. It is a troubling time for most.

In the aftermath of General Conference two weeks ago, I've had a chance to review the content, topics and themes we heard expressed by the living prophets. Patsy and I were asked to speak about the prophets in a recent sacrament meeting.

I chose to focus on the two senior Apostles -- President Thomas S. Monson and President Boyd K. Packer. What did you hear from them two weeks ago? I heard a clear emphasis on priesthood power as it relates to family. Temple ordinances and marriage covenants were also themes. Missionary work and proclaiming the gospel throughout the world also came up more than once. Temple marriage was a plea from the Prophet to young single men.

So where were the themes of doom and gloom, predictions of the pending demise of the planet being ground into dust? Conspicuously absent. Rather, we hear the announcements of three new temples echoing each opening statement by the Prophet as General Conference begins each six months. Just this week a new "super building" housing 5 stakes and 48 wards in Provo was announced. The City Creek project surrounding Temple Square in Salt Lake is on time set for opening in a year from now.

Time and again we hear, "and this is just the beginning" in the promised establishment of Zion in the midst of Babylon. Living prophets are decidedly optimistic because of their absolute faith in the plan of salvation. There seem to be no fears in any of the living prophets.

Many years ago I began putting it all together on paper. I discerned four facets related to our understanding of the word "Zion" in the scriptures. I found that in each scriptural reference to Zion one could pinpoint one or more applications of the word. These four facets are people, place, condition or time.


Zion is a covenant people, set apart, consecrated, and sanctified from the rest of the world. They are different, they are peculiar and they are pure. They have come out of the world, entered in at the gate of baptism, are born of the Spirit and have taken hold of the iron rod. They reject the clarion voices from amid the mists of darkness, and ignore the taunts and jeers of those in the spacious building of sin. God has purged his people in all the other dispensations of which we have record, and the purification has come as a result of extreme adversity and affliction. Gold is never refined in an air conditioned chamber. If the covenant people cannot sacrifice and consecrate their lives to God, it has forever been the case that the rest of the world was willing to cast them out, throw them into the lions' den, or stoke up the fiery furnace. Let us never be deluded into thinking we will inherit Zion in any other way, nor be worthy of the company of earlier martyrs at that future wedding feast unless we consecrate.


Zion is two world centers of righteousness and judgment that are ultimately joined together physically. One is Independence, Missouri, the "centerstake," from which “the law” will emanate, the other is Jerusalem, from which “the word” will go forth. Those who love and cherish the Constitution of the United States, it would seem, will rally to Zion and her stakes (and by extension her temples) upon the American Continent and throughout the world wherever they may find themselves. Christ will come to the Earth and sit in his temples in Jerusalem and in Jackson County, from which will go forth his word. They will combine eventually in the Lord's timetable with the heavenly Zion when the earth enters the terrestrial phase of its existence, thus returning to the status it once enjoyed referred to in the 10th Article of Faith as "paradisiacal glory." This telestial world in which we now live will give way to a terrestrial world that will stand for one thousand years, a period of time referred to as "The Millennium." This is the place at the end of the path in Lehi's vision where the tree of life grows.


Zion will stand apart from all worldly influences. Men and women of honesty and truth will seek the peace Zion affords, trust their temporal and spiritual welfare to each other, or sink lower and lower with the rest of the world who will be at war. There will be no middle ground -- either total acceptance of God's salvation, or Lucifer's damnable embrace of death and destruction. Zion will be the light on the hill, and so formidable will be her strength and beauty because of God's overshadowing presence that her enemies will shrink at the sight of her. The society will be characterized by people of one heart, one mind, and one objective spreading the truth of God's salvation over the face of the earth as with a flood.


Zion will come to pass in the due season of the Lord, and that season is upon us even now. We live at the end of the sixth seal of John's Revelation, meaning the end of the sixth thousand-year period since the Fall. It is called "today" in the scriptures, and it is a day of sacrifice. It is not a day in which to trust in the arm of flesh, seeking security in the carnal pleasures of today's society. Zion's time is not fully ripe until the Bridegroom comes to accept the Bride, as John foresaw. The paradox of Zion's timetable is that she will be nurtured as it were in the bull rushes like Moses, in the midst of unparalleled wickedness and abominations among men. The wheat and tares continue growing together, and the tares keep looking more and more like the weeds they are. And we also see the fig tree putting forth its leaves every day.

The Spirit whispers the truth that Zion will indeed have to be led out of bondage as the children of Israel were led out under Moses. While we are in the midst of spiritual bondage right now, the scriptures are replete with types and shadows of a physical bondage yet to come that will precede the day when all things are fulfilled.

We will not see the establishment of the headquarters of Zion until the temporary landlords who now occupy the sacred sites of the habitations of the New and the Old Jerusalem are swept off. The reclamation of those lands will come in the wake of destruction as foretold by all the prophets who witnessed the promised day, and that time is not far distant. Without an understanding of the impending destruction as the lynch pin to prophecy, the promises of the Lord to Israel that she will ultimately redeem the promised lands of her inheritance seem incomprehensible.

One need not read far into The Book of Mormon to discover that this land is not promised to the Gentiles who now occupy it. Rather, it will be given as an inheritance to the scattered remnants of the House of Israel now being gathered, and to those relatively few Gentiles who repent, embrace the gospel and by adoption become Israel. To think otherwise would be to deny the very faith that gave the prophets their utterance. And this despite the obvious evidence that the Gentiles who occupy this Promised Land today have material wealth and military might beyond even the wildest imaginations of the prophets who foresaw their destruction.

Ephraim's descendants will figure prominently in the leadership of the House of Israel in the development of Zion, but it would be a gross error to assume that Zion is the private domain of Ephraim. The scriptures speak plainly of
 all the tribes coming to their inheritances in their various lands. We are witnessing the emergence of all these long-lost cousins in Israel in our day, as adversity, lawlessness, and political upheavals continue to drive them to our borders of freedom. They come because of wars, famines, diseases, natural disasters, and the love of freedom, but whatever the reasons they are coming to claim their promised blessings at the hands of Ephraim. Let us never be so surfeited by the things of this world that we cannot embrace them, when they come with little more than the clothes on their backs.


There is not a clear road map to Zion, a "checklist" if you will, that will land us unerringly at the gates of the Holy City. To come to Zion requires clean hands, a pure heart, and pure faith. To be a consecrated saint is to hearken to the voice of the Lord by the power of the Holy Ghost, to receive revelation upon revelation, and to possess a submissive heart that endures all that the Lord sees fit to inflict upon us. All the inhabitants of Zion are as little children, full of faith, and eager to do the will of the Father in all things.

We are not worthy of Zion's society in our present state, but the chastening is in full effect and the spiritual mettle of us all will be put to the test in due time. Those who persist in their hidden sins while proclaiming their beliefs with their lips only, will fail to accumulate the needed midnight oil droplet by droplet over a lifetime of faithfulness. Those who cling steadfastly to their institutional faith, never risking the failure of individual responsibility for their decisions will sink in the depths of forgotten dust with the discarded baggage. We cannot endure the journey to Zion on borrowed light, nor will we find the oil of the Spirit to buy at midnight.

We must beware of repeating the patterns of old. Zion is a steadily progressing caravan of strangers and foreigners seeking a city built without hands. It is to be expected that the "corporate" Church would have difficulty implementing the celestial principles upon which Zion will be built. That reality does not make the Church's doctrines any less true, nor the need for the Church's organization less compelling. One laudable development is that the Church is adapting to the worldwide need for simplicity, as evidenced by the priesthood and Relief Society manual of instruction – it’s back to basics with Gospel Principles.

This is an important point that cannot be glossed over. The Church members' compromise with Babylon is nearly complete. In a forthcoming day there will be an entire separation of the righteous from the wicked. Babylon is slated for destruction. That fact is a well-documented scriptural reality, and so is the establishment of Zion.

We are
 in the world as never before in our history, and we are more of the world too. From the days of Brigham Young whose mission was to separate the saints from the world by leading them to these remote valleys of the Mountain West, to the administration of Gordon B. Hinckley who has welcomed the world with the red carpet, we have come full circle. Living prophets lead the way.

But never doubt for one minute -- the caravan is on course, though there will always be those among us who cling to the past fiercely, as though we are going to return somehow to the purity and simplicity of an earlier time. These somehow wish they could live in the days before the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and started rolling downhill. We are picking up speed as the little stone rolls forward. But let us not be smug.

God will cut short the work in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. The Bride may have grown weary while waiting and defiled herself with the world, but this time
 there will be a wedding with the Bridegroom and the Church will become the Bride of Christ. The best course we can take is individual repentance and to let the rest of the Church and the world who fail to repent go their merry way to destruction. As midnight draws nigh there will be fewer opportunities to obtain oil to light our little lamps of faith. Unconsecrated material possessions in that hour will be a poor store of value -- ancient prophets used the word “slippery.” (Helaman 13:31).

Now I offer this final observation. Patience with the unfolding timetable of the Lord is indispensable to the true disciple. Many, knowing what the scriptures reveal concerning conditions in a Zion society, and observing these circumstances do not now exist in the Church, and thinking they have somehow been "called" to lead the way, have made unwise and premature decisions to move out in front of the caravan. Like the ancient Rechabites of Jeremiah’s day they prefer the separatist life to the heat of the day in the kingdom with all its paradoxes, contradictions and ironies. They are never wise stewards, and seem to lack the faith they proclaim.

The keys of the priesthood reside with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those keys and this kingdom will never again be taken from the earth. The path to Zion is first discovered deep within the hearts of men and women, and they gravitate to others who have made a similar discovery, all of whom are subject to the Lord's mouthpiece. That man, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like Moses who stood at the head of another caravan, will lead Israel out of whatever form of bondage enslaves us.Until that promised day comes, it is enough to hear the Lord whisper again, "Be still, and know that I am God." His promises will never fail, and the gates of the Heavenly City await us.

So put away your Mayan calendar, and add to your food storage in the spirit of faith not fear.

Political Quote of the Day

“I think I can make that case, and I think that, in the debates that take place over the next 18 months, the American people will feel that I deserve a second term," President Obama told the Associated Press in an interview.

I couldn't help wondering when I saw this picture the other day with Thomas Jefferson looking over Obama's shoulder, what Jefferson would make of that bold statement. I'm a little in awe of the bravado behind President Obama's assumption, but we all know what happens when we use the word "assume," don't we?

President Obama made that statement today, when Gallup reports simultaneously that his approval ratings are now matching his all-time low -- 41% -- for the third time during his presidency. Gallup also draws the implications and comparisons with past presidents at this stage of their presidencies:

"President Obama is now as unpopular as he has been at any time since he became president. He faces difficult challenges ahead in trying to improve the economy and get the federal budget deficit under control, and must do so with Republicans in control of the House. His ability to navigate these challenges will help determine whether he will be elected to a second term as president. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton at this stage of their presidencies, but the last two were able to turn things around in time to win a second term in office."

So let's wait and see what happens to the mood of the American people between today, April 15, 2011 and election day, November 6, 2012.

Does he deserve a second term in your opinion? You know where I stand.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Political Quote of the Day

In a book released last year, Scott Rasmussen observed that, "The gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th century." He added that "The American people don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or the center. They want to govern themselves." In Search of Self-Governance is available at

To wit: The poll just published today (see below) is an indication of how low Obama's popularity is sinking among the electorate.

The gap between those who "strongly approve" (19%) of Obama versus those who "strongly disapprove" (39%) has widened even since last month.

P.S. Mitt Romney announced his candidacy today. He and Tim Pawlenty are the first two on the Republican side to come out against Obama. There will be more.

The lack of leadership is what most are dismayed with. If anyone thinks he was "leading" over the budget cut debate, they obviously didn't participate in this poll, because the 19% who strongly approve is way too high. Who are you people? Obama runs up records in spending and deficits, then claims victory over the largest budget cut in history? Anyone who believes that is being duped of their own free will.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Abundant Life and Government Prosperity

I awoke this morning to news that a threatened midnight shutdown of the government had been avoided. The politicians on both sides were claiming that a monumental achievement had been accomplished.
Last week, the much-anticipated 2012 budget labeled “The Path to Prosperity” was rolled out by Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee. It’s certainly better than Obama’s version of the future, but it still is woefully short of what is required.
The Balanced Budget Amendment is favorable to all this posturing, where we put government in a spending straight jacket of our own choosing.
I awoke with a scripture ringing in my head this morning: ". . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10).
It is distressing to me that politicians of late have so badly mangled that scripture in attempting to deliver man-made economic philosophies. I see government promising more and more and requiring less and less to realize its version of the abundant life, and it is little more than empty rhetoric.
Obama Claims Huge Budget Cut Victory
As the nation emerged from the Great Depression of the Thirties, the slogans were not dissimilar to what we hear today: "We stand for a full dinner pail," and "We stand for a chicken in every pot," and still later, "Two cars in every garage," then more recently, “Every American should be able to realize the great American dream of owning their own home.” I remember LBJ’s anthem in putting forth the dream of the Great Society, "Full employment for everybody in America and a pint of milk for everybody in the world." 

The more things change, the more the rhetoric remains the same, but the promises are now more reckless and more frantic, and less true than ever.

After running the biggest deficit in this nation's history, and spending more in two years than Franklin D. Roosevelt did in four whole terms as president, Obama stepped to the microphone last night to proudly announce this budget deal to cut spending is the largest in history. Even House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are trumpeting their grand collaborative achievement. Just to put it in perspective, the government debt mounted to $54 billion in the eight days covered by the last continuing resolution to create savings of something in the range of $38 billion over the next six months. 

We're still talking a few crumbs here, not much to get excited about. 
In commenting on this page about my belief in the role of America in the days that lie ahead as we continue to lay the foundation of Zion in preparation for the Lord’s Second Coming, make no mistake that I am deeply concerned about the fictions that abound in our political solutions. This wrong-headed ideal of endless comfort with little or no effort required to achieve it will never be realized as a new world order because we can never be comfortable enough, we can never have enough things, and this ideal will be destroyed by the divisions it produces. I see no peace or prosperity in that course.
I fear no contradiction when I state we may never have seen a time in the world’s history when so much has been said about the abundant life and so little effort has been expended in preparing to obtain it.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:1, 7, 9).
And then He closed His lesson with this statement: ". . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10, emphasis mine).
To His disciples on another occasion He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).
It was the same message that He gave to Nicodemus, who asked what he must do to be saved, and in reply the Master answered: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5).
The way the Savior has laid out in the gospel plan is His way. Anybody who tries to lay out a different definition comes to you "as a thief and a robber," to use the Savior's words. Poverty will always follow those who would take the true abundant life from you. They will be left desolate in the day of their greatest spiritual needs.
Paul urged: "Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection. . . ." (JST Hebrews 6:1).
In explaining what salvation means, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared:
Joseph Smith
Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved. . .  (TPJS, 297).
The full realization of the abundant life, of course, comes later, as the Prophet Joseph Smith reminds us: "Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full." (D&C 101:36).
Peter gave us the true Path to Prosperity, not Paul Ryan:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11, emphasis mine).
We do not obtain temporal gratuities in counting the essentials for the abundant life, for the Lord declared: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21).
Before he was Paul the Apostle, Saul of Tarsus was one who had been persistent in his attempts to stamp out early Christianity. He was a zealot until that day around noon:
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:3-6).
Ananias, a humble man of God, was the messenger to Saul and taught him the way to an abundant life. He baptized him and then sent him to the apostles, where he received his commission that sent him out to be one of the greatest missionaries among the gentiles, and we know him from that time forth as the Apostle Paul.
As a prisoner on his way to Rome later in his life, Paul and his shipmates put out from an island in the Mediterranean Sea. He had the impression all would not be well, and they were hardly out of sight of land when a furious storm broke, and for fourteen days that frail ship was tossed about, and when, as the scriptures say, "neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away." (Acts 27:20).
Then it was that the Apostle Paul went down into a place by himself and prayed, and here are the words that are recorded in the scriptures which describe his experience:
. . . after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, . . .
And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Then Paul quieted his shipmates with this testimony: "Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me." (Acts 27:21-25).
Paul found the abundant life in what could only be described as ironic circumstances.
So it is for each of us. The first step is to live the kind of life that permits us to receive the light of heaven, and a testimony that Jesus is a living reality and that He can speak to us. One possessed of such testimony, then, from the depths of his heart will say, as did Paul: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
We could all determine better whatever in our lives would lead best and quickest for the welfare of Zion by asking, "Heavenly Father, what wilt thou have me do?"
We may only be one, but together of like mind we are many and we are powerful beyond our wildest imaginations.
When we pray in real sincerity and faith, there will come back to us the answer to that prayerful inquiry. The answer has come oft repeated, time and time again, that all that we do should be done "with an eye single to the glory of God." What is the glory of God? The Lord told Moses, ". . . this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39).
With that goal always before us — seeing every act of our lives, every decision we make, as patterned toward the development of a life that shall permit us to enter into the presence of the Lord, our Heavenly Father, to gain which is to obtain eternal life — how much more wisdom there would be in the many things of life.
If all our selfish motives, then, and all our personal desires and expediency would be subordinated to a desire to know the will of the Lord, one could have the companionship of heavenly vision. If our problems be too great for human intelligence or too much for human strength, we too, if we are faithful and appeal rightly unto the source of divine power, might have standing by us in our hour of peril or great need an angel of God.

One who lives to glean a testimony that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, and who is willing to reach out to Him in constant inquiry to know if his course is approved, is the one who is living life to its full abundance here and is preparing for the celestial world, which is to live eternally with his Heavenly Father.