Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Marriage and Immigration -- Some Thoughts

Let me make a bold statement -- I do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on anything. What I do here is totally on me. This blog represents no one but me. I am an agent unto myself, and I take full responsibility for what I think and what I write. If you disagree, I would love to discuss it with you. If you support my conclusions, then come join with me in expressing those opinions more courageously than you have heretofore done, and help spread the love.

In a bipartisan vote in favor of extending marriage rights to gay couples, the New York State Senate passed the bill after provisions protecting churches who opposed the measure were written into the language of the final version. It is significant to some proponents of the LGBT community that the legislature in New York is under Republican Party control. It signals progress to them that other "red" states may soon take up their cause.

New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed, doubling the number of Americans living in a state with legal gay marriage.

It appears the legal ramifications of what is being done to promote the LGBT agenda will continue to be defined by votes in various jurisdictions throughout the country, with many predicting this New York vote will spur momentum in other states to follow suit.

There are many who say, "What's the big deal? If they want to get married, who are we to get in their way?" It is not likely lightning bolts will strike dead gay couples on the courthouse steps when they step out of the shadows to legalize their domestic relationships. The world will not suddenly come to screeching halt because of it, nor will the stock market collapse, the moon be turned to blood, and earthquakes and plagues suddenly break out in response.

Instead, the reality is that life will continue. Oh, except that life is created between a man and woman and it's called procreation and gays and lesbians have no ability to create the life. But I digress. I've written about all of that before. If you are confused about the associated underlying gospel doctrine, please click the link. Study it as passionately as you tend to give heed to the prevailing winds of false doctrine that swirl around your head. Do not let the political winds that blow at gale force turn you away from the foundation of truth that has already been laid for you. God would not have you believe a false doctrine in this benighted world when He has given you light and truth in unfailing doses of brilliant illumination.

I have been thinking this morning in the wake of this news what it really means for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leaders stand shoulder to shoulder with other religions in opposition. The Church's opposition in California to the Prop 8 ballot initiative seeking to legalize gay marriage there in recent years is an example of what can be forecast into the future on this issue. New York may the be latest fatality in the onward spread of LGBT thinking, but the Church's opposition will not abate.

On the immigration front here in Utah, we have seen as recently as last week a referendum of sorts on the Church's benign and humanitarian stance. Critics of the position of the Church have openly stated they prefer to uphold the platform of the national GOP and the state GOP that opposes any and all attempts short of 100% enforcement of border security. They criticize the Church for not screaming at the federal government to do its job. The delegates I saw in action at last week's state GOP convention who were determined to send a message were predominantly members of the Church. It seems they are more interested in upholding and sustaining the platform of the Republican Party than they are of the stated position of the leaders of their Church.

They adamantly cite the 12th Article of Faith:  “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” They contend the Church can't have it both ways, picking and choosing which laws they obey, honor and sustain. It's as if they want to hold the Church accountable for the federal government's inability or unwillingness to carry out its constitutional duties. If the Church makes a determination on the grounds of the federal government's failure to act to enforce immigration laws, that is something completely different than asserting the Church is not adhering to the tenets of the 12th Article of Faith.

It seems the members of the Church will have to be tested yet again in these times over this question: Will they come out in support of popular issues like gay marriage and immigration enforcement in opposition to the public positions the Church's leaders have taken, or will they align their thinking, writing and speaking with their leaders?

I have answered that question for myself. I will stand with the Brethren. Scroll down the comment page until you see the post by "goatesnotes" -- that would be me.

I have cited my reasons in past posts, but some of it bears repeating this morning in the wake of this latest challenge to the stated positions the Church has taken. Some ask, "Why does the Church get involved in these controversies? Why don't they just mind their own business and let people do what they want? Don't they believe in free agency?"

In matters involving morality, the Church has an obligation and duty to its members to lead out and give direction. The Church will never violate the exercise of moral agency, but it will offer guidance and direction while leaving the final decision in the hands of the individual. In both controversies, the LGBT agenda and immigration, the Church is doing nothing more than restating the time-honored Christian traditions of what constitutes the true definition of marriage between a man and a woman, and advocating the need for humanitarian considerations in our treatment of immigrants without regard to their legal status.

Because I have already addressed the LGBT issues in the past, this morning I'll flesh out the immigration debate in more detail.

Winston Churchill
In a radio broadcast in 1939, Winston Churchill, speaking about Russia said: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."

If we were to attempt to unravel the riddle of the current state of immigration in this country, perhaps that is where we must start -- the national interest of the politicians we have elected to represent our individual interests. This much is certain: the federal government has failed to secure our borders in the aftermath of 9/11 and continues to dither without any forward progress toward addressing the practical realities of the presence of some 12 million undocumented residents who are here illegally. Why is that true?

The cynic would say, and who would contradict, it's because they represent a block of voters that must be wooed. Why has there been little but token effort to secure our borders? Why has comprehensive immigration reform legislation at the federal level been blocked again and again? It seems as if a false choice has been erected -- amnesty or deportation -- so why can't we take a vote, pass laws and come to some agreement? Why do we permit identity theft, document fraud, employers who hire illegals knowingly, and give access to our schools, our health care and other services knowingly without any political will to enforce the laws we already have on the books both in the states and at the federal level?

The simple answer is we seem to lack the political willpower in the halls of Congress in Washington D.C. to do anything about it. The federal government has abdicated one of its few expressed powers granted to it in the Constitution -- to secure the national interest -- and many of its elected representatives have breached their oath of office to defend us from all enemies foreign and domestic.

So, if that case can be made that the federal government has been derelict in its duty and it has a perceived political benefit in doing so (wooing potential voters with a wink and a nod with a free pass over their true identities), what comes next? At that point is civil disobedience justified and to what extent? Can a state pass a law requesting a waiver from the federal government to collect taxes so the revenues generated under the bill can be utilized to take enforcement steps against crime within the borders of its state? Shall federalism -- the argument over which powers are the states' and which the federal government's -- finally be defined by such a course of action? Stay tuned, that's what this is all about.

Arizona responded with a harsh enforcement law designed to put teeth into the growing problem it faced along its borders. Not wanting to repeat the same mistake in Utah, a coalition came together around a document entitled the "Utah Compact." It laid out five basic principles, beliefs really, about how legislators should go about putting together legislation attempting to address the immigration issue:


FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT  We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES  Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY  Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY  Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

Out of that modest beginning came Utah's HB116, an attempt to pass legislation at the state level designed to go as far as a state could in taking on the practical realities of dealing with an immigrant population, taking into account their illegal status, and providing a path forward for them that respected the humanitarian needs of those affected.

Yes, the legislators were warned in advance that on its face it was unconstitutional because it was asking for a waiver from the federal government to allow it to collect taxes normally passed along to the feds, but pass it did and it was done knowingly. It was based in large measure on the need to preserve families that were being broken up because of the absence of federal guidance and hit-and-miss enforcement that left everyone grappling with what to do -- arrest and deport, ignore and co-exist, embrace or reject. But at a deeper level, it sought to define where we draw the line on enforcement -- go after the criminals, not the hard-working law-abiding aliens who are honestly seeking a better life in America.

The Church buttressed the legislation that was signed into law by the governor with a restatement of its long-held position on the matter. In part, the Church reaffirmed: "What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God."

And therein, a simple statement of belief based upon a moral principle -- how we treat each other as children of the same Father in Heaven -- has the Church set its statement before us to accept or reject. It troubles me that perhaps some of us have gotten our priorities out of sync. It seems about half of us Republican Mormons in Utah are more interested in what the Party thinks than what the Brethren do.

If it came to a showdown, and you were standing before your precinct to be elected as a state delegate, how would you respond? Would you swear an oath of allegiance to the state Republican Party platform to get elected, or would you stand on the moral principles as outlined by the Church in seeking a humanitarian approach to a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma?

I have enough confidence in the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to believe they are aided by revelation in their attempts to unravel even the peskiest Gordian knots of gay marriage and immigration.

How about you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mike Lee and "The Pledge"

Today in the Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will participate in a press conference with many of his colleagues to introduce a topic he hinted at when he spoke to the Utah Republican Party Organizing Convention last weekend here in Utah.

The topic of today's press conference is to announce "The Pledge;"

I pledge to urge my Senators and Member of the House of Representatives to oppose any debt limit increase unless all three of the following conditions have been met:

Cut - Substantial cuts in spending that will reduce the deficit next year and thereafter.

Cap - Enforceable spending caps that will put federal spending on a path to a balanced budget.

Balance - Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- but only if it includes both a spending limitation and a super-majority for raising taxes, in addition to balancing revenues and expenses.

Laugh if you want -- "yeah, right, would any politician actually commit to such a path?" -- but I for one salute the junior senator from Utah for his unrelenting determination to change the "business as usual" approach to what's going on among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

I'm going to be interested in how many like-minded people there are, who will actually take steps to address the details of our spending as a nation. The Federal Reserve has downgraded its projections for growth in the economy from two-month-old estimates. I'm guessing the conflagration of tripwires in the economy is going to force a resolution among lawmakers, not because they will voluntarily sign up for distasteful political realities, but because conditions will compel them to finally get serious.

At the press conference remarks will also be offered by Senators Hatch, DeMint, Rubio and others.

I don't know about any of you, but I for one am grateful for these men who have the guts to take on the problem without apologies to the go-along-to-get-along crowd that has put us in the financial jeopardy we find ourselves as a nation. Until this moment in time, nothing like this has happened, and I credit an aroused electorate for putting the pressure on the elected representatives.

It's why we sent Mike Lee to Washington. If not in 2012, then in the cycle after that in 2014, the Senate must turn over into a filibuster-proof majority with enough votes to turn the Republic around. Today's press conference is only a good start. . . but,

I like the direction it's going. . .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two BIG Reasons for Economic Stagnation

When I was in a position to counsel those who were seeking for new employment opportunities, I routinely recommended they not watch the news.  I warned the mainstream media is always looking for a headline to grab the attention of their followers, and frequently the news is not good on the unemployment front.

As this long and protracted recession drags on, however, it may be useful to understand some of the underlying structural reasons the economy is still staggering.  I realize it's cold comfort for those still seeking employment, but there may be some legitimate reasons jobs are hard to come by regardless of their best efforts.

The most recent jobs report from the government is sobering.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate edged up to 9.1% in May, from a level of 9.0% in April and 8.8% in March.  This "jobless recovery" is a useful myth perpetuated by the administration and other like-minded politicians, but it is not a recovery until each American seeking work can be assured they have recovered.  If the economy continues to stagnate, Obama will be a one-term president.

Of deepest concern to me is the number of long-term unemployed (those unemployed for 27 weeks or longer).  Those numbers jumped up to 45.1% and 6.2 million in May, from 43.4% and 5.8 million in April.  It proves to me that those who are being successful in their job quest are those who are following the principles taught in the Employment Resource Centers of the LDS Church.  In the Career Workshop, attendees are encouraged to take control of their own job search and create their own opportunities, rather than depending upon the old ways of going about their search by sending out resumes and responding to job board listings.

In addition, registering at has been yielding fruit not only for job seekers, but also for employers who are finding qualified applicants in a much simpler and easier cyber-market where they can find what they are looking for.  I've had the opportunity recently to teach the Career Workshop in our ward, and was reminded once again of the power of the principles outlined by the Church in the workbook for the attendees.

What is clear to me now, after initially hoping for the best under the Obama administration's efforts to resuscitate the economy, is that their policies are deeply flawed.  The federal spending per household is rocketing upward on a dangerous trajectory that must be halted.

It is reminiscent of the three government workers who gathered at the shore of a lake, each armed with a bucket.  Into the lake each dropped his bucket and filled it up with water, thus lowering the level of the lake minutely.  Then they marched with much fanfare around the lake to the other side, emptied their buckets back into the lake, and declared they had "stimulated" the lake by pouring the contents back into the lake.  (Thanks to Grover Norquist for the visual image).

After 28 months in office, it is clear the President’s policies have failed to positively affect our economy.  He has two signature pieces of domestic "achievement."  His first was ObamaCare and the second was the stimulus package.  Each cost something in the range of $1 Trillion, and it was all borrowed money.  Even Obama admitted recently that "shovel ready" wasn't quite as shovel ready as they had initially posited.

Instead of stimulating the economy, however, these two biggest domestic spending experiments in the history of our nation have only served to exacerbate the two biggest systemic economic challenges we face as a country -- overspending and rapidly escalating debt.  Rather than introducing "new money" into the economy, the administration's efforts to date have been nothing more than cost shifting from one pocket with holes in it to another.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
Compounding the seriousness of the matter is that Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in more than two years, and couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for the President’s most recent proposal.

I'm not naive enough to believe one man can change everything all at once, but watch for Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and others who believe as he does, to continue making the case for addressing these issues head on without apology to those who keep demanding a continuation of the status quo.  Lee is leading out with a Balanced Budget Amendment proposal, seeking to hammer legislators into a spending straight jacket in the years ahead.  To his credit, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has long been an advocate for the BBA, but has never been able to push it through.

It is my judgment that the administration has ceded their leadership to others by default.  Look for the emergence of new leadership, men and women who are not nearly as interested in politics as usual as they are in real solutions with apolitical consequences.

It's what we used to refer to in this country as statesmanship.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pharisees and Utah Politics

Enid Mickelsen
Something big happened yesterday, and most Utahns will be totally unaware of it. As everyone knows, Utah is the epitome of red state American politics. When the Republicans gathered yesterday in Sandy at the South Towne Expo Hall for the 2011 Organizing Convention, it would normally be viewed as only another humdrum boring affair where state party officers are elected for the next two years.

This year, however, in the aftermath of the state legislature's passage of HB 116, the "guest worker" bill laden with constitutional problems on its face, but endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Utah Compact signatories, there were bound to be some fireworks and there were.

Before I get into all that, let me state my admiration for Enid (Greene Waldholz) Mickelsen's leadership in filling in for State Party Chairman Thomas Wright as she conducted the convention. Her skill and obvious experience were much appreciated in what could have easily become a contentious and out-of-control display of sharp elbows and heckling from the peanut gallery. Instead, her humor and maturity were on full display. She masterfully wielded the gavel with reasoned wisdom and balanced control.

Wright was appointed in January by the state central committee as the "establishment" successor to party chief Dave Hansen, who stepped down to pick up the campaign reins (yet again!) of Senator Orrin Hatch's seventh bid for re-election. In my humble opinion after watching the tepid response for the aged senator yesterday, both of them may want to re-think the advisability of going forward. The delegates politely clapped lightly, but little more enthusiasm than that was in evidence. The latest polling data suggests the reason why -- 59% of the electorate are reporting they would definitely or probably pick someone other than Hatch.

Going into yesterday's organizing convention, the hand-picked party leadership with Hansen's departure consisted of Thomas Wright as Chair, Christy Achziger as Vice Chair and Dana Dickson as Secretary. However, the delegates flexed their collective muscle as they retained Wright on the first ballot, ousted Achziger on the second ballot in favor of Lowell Nelson, and gave the nod as Secretary to Drew Chamberlain. Nelson and Chamberlain will provide a perceived "balance" at the top of the state party. Politics is divisive by nature, even on the best of days, but yesterday's convention was only the latest example in what could become even more self-destructive behavior in the future.

Thomas Wright
Wright's failed attempt to save Achziger on the second ballot with his ill-advised and impassioned attack against Nelson, prompted a swift and angry response from the floor. Tempers ignited, Mickelsen interceded, and Achziger concluded her remarks, but the damage to her was irreversible. In a highly charged political meeting you can sense a backfire coming a mile away. A motion failed later in an attempt to rescind Wright's election because of his personal attack on Nelson. This morning, Wright may be wondering just exactly what he's gotten himself into as the newly-elected Chair with 1/2 of his leadership team now in hostile hands. (State Party Treasurer, Mike McCauley ran unopposed.) He and Nelson will have some making up to do, and the sooner the better.

Because they were up for election, the establishment candidates, relatively unknown before yesterday to the rank and file delegates in attendance, decided to ask Enid run the meeting, thus equalizing their exposure with the other candidates. It was a nice gesture, but clearly the delegates were in the mood for throwing off the collective wisdom of the central committee and wanted people who were more aligned with their tea party leanings.

Throughout the day amendments to the state party constitution and bylaws were debated and votes were taken, including two votes on largely symbolic resolutions about the controversial passage of HB 116. The second and most contentious was considered first as the agenda was modified. On a narrow margin of 94 votes (833 to 739), the resolution urging the legislature to repeal and replace the bill succeeded. It was the most divisive issue of the day.

The other resolution passed easily on a voice vote reaffirming the party's desire for "inclusion and that there is a place for all, including immigrants, within our Party." A friendly amendment was accepted after the vote inserting the word "legal" as the adjective describing immigrants, qualifying which immigrants were included in the welcome wagon and completely undermining the meaning consistent with the Church's position. It's what happens with committee work, especially a large and rancorous committee like a state political convention.

Thus far I have said nothing to hint at the title of this post. However, I was struck yesterday for the first time with the paradox of it all. There is nothing more destructive than someone who thinks they are doing the will of God when in fact they are doing the polar opposite. Then this morning I attended my Sunday School lesson, ironically the lesson entitled "Love One Another," based upon the Luke 22 account of the Savior's introduction of the sacramental ordinance. I couldn't help wondering what my Utah County colleagues who were so outraged and indignant yesterday were saying today during their Church meetings. Perhaps it was something like, "I love everyone, just like the Savior admonishes, but I get to pick and choose who they are."

Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith said it this way: ". . .nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the spirit of God." (TPJS, 205). We must never forget who the author of dissension,  bitterness and anger is. Satan loves a good argument and he loves it even more if it descends into shouting and finger pointing.

Pharisees and their cohorts in the meridian of time believed adamantly they were doing God's work when they hatched a conspiracy to put to death the Son of God for merely affirming He was the Son of God. Ironically, the most strident voices for dismantling HB 116 are coming from Utah County. If the demographics compiled by BYU professor Quin Monson at last year's nominating convention are true, identifying 90% of the delegates as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then this much is clear -- there is now a distinct disconnect between Church leaders and their supposed adherents.

The Church has repeatedly called for civility, for equity and fairness, for embracing the people of all cultures who are coming into Utah -- and yes, most are in search of sanctuary and opportunity. The fear of delegates that Utah may become a "magnet sanctuary state" for immigrants is completely a contradiction, or should be, in the minds of all members of the Church today. The tenets of our faith must trump all the other considerations, including the attempts by men to thwart the purposes of God in extending the covenants of the gospel to all His children. When we come to see them all as our brothers and sisters, that awareness will squelch any residual fear in my considered judgment. It is obvious that is the hope of the leaders of the Church for us.

But I ask, why have half of us (if the number is truly representative) rejected the gentle urging of the living prophets, who are asking something quite different than what we seem willing to give? Instead of accepting their counsel, half the crowd yesterday was vitriolic and angry at the thought, flexing their political power (as they suppose) to take matters into their own hands and attempt for force their will on others. Truth is, they're only paper tigers, since the resolution is non-binding, but they seemed to want their fifteen minutes of fame nonetheless.

The stone cut out of the mountain without hands as witnessed by Daniel will continue to roll forth until it fills the whole earth. The stone won’t roll back uphill, nor will it gather moss. Make no mistake, we are on a collision course with our ultimate destiny. Let us not take comfort in our alliance with "Babylon," for that reliance on the arm of flesh will as surely fail us now as it did ancient Israel. Our only strength and comfort can be in God and His power, inspired prophets who lead, and not in the philosophies of men we have come to love so much in these last days. The nuances and parsing of meanings in symbolic political resolutions seem alluring to some, but can be subtle and destructive if not accurately discerned for what they are. Anything breeding the kind of anger we witnessed yesterday simply cannot originate with God.

If as the mainstream media suggested, this vote yesterday portends what will become "the heart and soul" of the Utah Republican Party, then it appears a little more humbling and more time must occur in order for the stated goals of the Church regarding immigration to be realized. With or without us the caravan bound for Zion rolls forward, and in time those who are unwilling to catch the vision of a worldwide objective embracing all cultures, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds and are protecting their narrow interests while they tilt windmills of their own making, will lose their grasp of things that matter least.

Imagining a great victory in taking back their state political party from the establishment, as they suppose, they may like the Pharisees of old discover they have lost their own souls in the bargain.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

President's Approval Rate Down Again

After a brief lift from the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden assassination, Obama's approval rating is back in the tank.  What I would love to know is who ARE those 23% of the people who strongly believe Obama is doing an acceptable job as POTUS?

It would appear from these numbers that America is still discontent with leadership at the top. If change is what Obama promised, then he can only be judged as a roaring success. Change in America is exactly what he has delivered. The only problem is that it wasn't the kind of change Americans were pining for.

We're now embroiled in three costly foreign wars. He's still in denial, however, refusing to call Libya a "war." Debt has escalated on his watch. Deficit spending is out of control. There is absolutely no willingness to consider looking at the entitlement programs to reduce spending. Instead of boosting worldwide confidence in America, Obama has induced fear and uncertainty in the hearts and minds not only here at home, but among our greatest allies, Israel being the prime example.

It's obvious to me that we cannot endure another four years of similar domestic and foreign policies. The leader of the Democratic Party the other day proudly boasted, "We own this economy." She actually believes the country is on the path to recovery, and so does Obama. If this is what their definition of economic recovery looks like,  there will be a majority of voters in November 2012 who will vociferously disagree and demand a change from what we've seen.

That's indicated by the huge spike up in this polling data among those who strongly disapprove of the job the President is doing. I loved Donald Trump's answer to the question, "What has President Obama done right?" He said, "He got elected."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Immigration Utah-style

(l to r) Bishop H. David Burton, Pamela Anderson, Utah Governor Gary Herbert
I have been heartened in recent weeks and months by the Church's gentle guidance in the contentious immigration debate raging across America today. I have observed the steady and persistent progress, beginning with the "unwritten" Hispanic Initiative several years ago, then earlier this year with the Utah Compact, and finally yesterday with an updated statement on this issue as the work of the recent legislature here in Utah was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert.

Several years ago while serving on the high council in our stake, I was given the missionary portfolio. It was in the era of President Gordon B. Hinckley, and I loved the assignment to coordinate the work of the ward missions, the ward mission leaders, and the full-time missionaries. Our stake, rural in nature and filled with Hispanics from many countries of origin in Central and South America, gave rise to many conversations about their individual situations and how we could best serve them.

Even earlier, some twenty years ago, I had served as a counselor in the stake mission. Back then we believed there was a pressing need to organize a Spanish branch, and advocated for it. We even had strong impressions about the man who should be called as the first branch president. However, our recommendations were summarily dismissed routinely by the stake presidency, and a branch was formed in the neighboring stake over the hill in Park City.

I learned years later the reason why -- the stake president who called me to serve on the high council had served as a counselor in the stake presidency when I was in the stake mission presidency. In a moment of remarkable candor in a high council meeting he confessed he was "bigoted" against the Hispanics at the time and had opposed any efforts or suggestions to organize them within our stake. Following his release as stake president, a Spanish branch was finally organized and the very man we had thought would be the logical choice as branch president was called fifteen years later!

There is a valuable lesson here (in fact, there are many). When the time is right the work of the Lord proceeds, but it can only proceed when we set aside the limitations we impose upon it sometimes. Time tends to soften hearts, change minds, and then when the Spirit directs, institutional changes can finally be implemented.

The latest numbers suggest about 2,200 refugees a year are coming into Utah from Iraq. While writing about Zion many years ago, I observed:

"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."

The stake presidency invited me to attend a training meeting with our Area President and the full-time mission president. The branch president and the branch mission leader were also invited. With regard to a person's legal status as a resident of America, the Church has a long-standing position of neutrality, and where the federal government has been ambiguous over enforcement of borders, it has remained for years above the fray. At the time of this meeting there were voices within the Church questioning if the Brethren were not being observant of the 12th Article of Faith, which states:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

The Area President took the issue head on in our meeting. "I just don't worry about it," he said. "I've been in meetings with President Hinckley where he has told us our duty is to welcome all the immigrants without regard to their legal status and to teach them the gospel. That's why they are here, even if they don't know it yet." His counsel to us provided a clear mandate and we implemented the provisions of an "unwritten" document he gave us that night called the "Hispanic Initiative." We were asked to pilot the initiative in our stake, which we did based upon his direction.

I have been an eyewitness of the principles contained in the furtive attempts to implement the Hispanic Initiative, and was thrilled to see the embodiment of what we were doing years ago in this accompanying article on the Church's website yesterday:

The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood.

There are still those who assert we cannot and should not be providing safe haven through our service to the Hispanic population if they are illegal immigrants. However, I am not one who takes that position. I am well aware of the arguments in favor of stringent enforcement of immigration laws. I've heard all the voices about the illegals utilizing health care, schools, and so forth.

But I believe the Church has opted for the observance of the higher law, and that is a good thing as the principles inherent in the establishment of Zion in the last days unfold before our eyes. The position as now published publicly by the Church is consistent with everything I have studied in the scriptures and espoused in the precedents for building a Zion community that will one day span the earth as with a flood.

I am aware of how heated and contentious the immigration debate can be. I know there are members of the Church who will continue to push back against the Church's position in this statement. An undocumented immigrant who comes to this country to work without the government's permission, a person who is otherwise law-abiding and hard-working, cannot and must never be branded as a criminal any more than someone who is guilty of a similar infraction akin in the law to a speeding ticket.

Our mandate as Christians serves a higher law than man's law. All God's children are deserving of His richest blessings without regard to their legal resident status. And now the Church has made it official.

Living prophets lead the way.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mitt Romney's Religion

Salt Lake Temple

I read a letter to the editor this morning about Mitt Romney's religion. The author suggested Romney should used his political platform to advance his religion. This is what the letter writer advocated:

". . . he should actively make his Mormonism an issue and show how its tenets and values support his candidacy, and not downplay his faith or its contradictions with what other Christians believe."

I'm certain the writer is a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), but he is sadly misinformed about the role religion must never play in the political arena.

I write a blog about my views on politics and religion, attesting these topics are not taboo topics. There is nothing wrong with merging those two topics in the public discourse of America, particularly today in the desperate straits where we find ourselves. We can and we must advocate, testify and boldly declare true religious doctrine, and not be afraid to mix it up, take the incoming bullets of criticism and be prepared for a vigorous and enlivening exchange of ideas in the public square.

I believe that. But when you announce as a candidate for elective office in this country, you leave your religion on the doorstep when you step over that threshold. If anyone is paying attention to what the leaders of the Church are doing and saying publicly, when it comes to politics and their influence over the political hearts and minds of members of the Church they would know there is a well-established and consistent affirmation of a strict policy of neutrality in place contradicting the very idea the letter writer has suggested.

As a stake president, Mitt Romney should preach doctrine to his heart's content, which he did when he served in that capacity. But he would be well-advised to keep his mouth shut about his Mormon beliefs as a political candidate, and point his questioners to the governing document we have erected in America -- the Constitution -- for their answers about his suitability as a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.

His suitability as the potential Commander in Chief may indeed call into question his religious beliefs in the minds of the voters (no one can force the human mind, now can we?), but the founders did everything they could do, going as far as the written word would take them, to assure what their intent was in these matters.

If only Americans would read the Constitution, believe it and act accordingly:

Article VI, paragraph 3, states:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The problem with Mitt's candidacy has nothing to do with Mitt's religion, or whether or not he should advocate its tenets and defend his membership. Rather, the problem is we have strayed from our Constitution's founding principles.

America is the only country on earth that was founded on a creed, codified and written in a few pages of collective wisdom by the best minds among the luminaries living here at the time. It has been emulated repeatedly in attempts by other self-governing people to duplicate its results.

The guidance and foresight of our founding fathers have endured far longer than any of them envisioned.

At the time they were worried their union would not last ten years.

They invested their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for what? For a principle that free men, endowed with the moral compass of a divine Providence would triumph over all their enemies, foreign or domestic through self-governance.

I still believe it. Do you?

Then act on that belief and choose your candidates for public office based on all the factors before you, but don't limit the debate to which religion he or she espouses. The majority (68%) of Americans now say it doesn't matter if a Mormon is a presidential candidate.

To make a choice about who you will or won't vote for based solely on religion is un-American.