Sunday, August 28, 2011

Your Children Are Who You Think They Are

As a parent we sometimes mourn for our children who deviate from the gospel path. We agonize over their obvious weaknesses and frailties, and we lament when their behavior takes on the appearance of ugly and unspeakable sins. We hold up the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet (don't get me started), and we wonder who this alien child is living under our roof. We long for their innocence and purity to be restored.

Sometimes, even when we are adults, married with children of our own, our even-older parents deviate and stray from their covenants. We agonize over their choices, we wish we could live their lives for them, and we wonder how they could have taught us the principles of the gospel so clearly then seemingly forsaken everything they once stood for.

Over the years I have participated in many disciplinary councils. I have never seen anyone subject themselves to that process who was thrilled to be there. Invariably, there are expressions of guilt and remorse, humility and sincere desires to begin afresh. Often people will express that they almost couldn't believe it was them who committed the sins, like they were actually having an "out of body" experience of some kind. When they came to their senses, of course, they knew they had to seek repentance, first from those they had wronged, then priesthood leaders in some serious cases, then the Lord, and finally themselves.

In all of these unhappy circumstances (and I have witnessed many), there has always been hope. I have come to the conclusion that Heavenly Father, knowing much more about the details of the sins of His children than we, does not wander around his celestial courts above wringing His hands and agonizing over the details. Instead, He knows His children, and He knows who they may become. He continues to feel after them with love unfeigned, and He exercises divine patience and long-suffering. Why can He do this? Because He has already made provision in the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son for all the sins of the world.

In the scriptures we have a useful definition for "the world." It is defined nicely in this verse from the JST: "What is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world?" (Joseph Smith-Matthew 4).

I love another verse that underscores this meaning: "He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world, for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation." (2 Nephi 26:24). Said in the positive: He commands everyone everywhere that they shall partake of his salvation.

Joseph Smith
"The world" is the human family. "The earth" is the terra firma upon which we stand. Said Joseph Smith: "The world and earth are not synonymous terms. This world is the human family. This earth was actually organized, or formed, or created out of other planets which were broken up and remodeled and made into the one on which we now live." (Discourses of Joseph Smith, 207).

The world will judge Christ to be a thing of naught. (1 Nephi 19:9). Who is the world? People.

The Lord will punish the world for evil. (Isaiah 13:11). Who does evil? People.

The Lord will show the world  he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (2 Nephi 27:23). Who will He show? People.

Christ is the light and life of the world. (Mosiah 16:9; Alma 38:9; 3 Nephi 9:18; 11:11; Ether 4:12; D&C 10:70; 11:38; 12:9; 34:2; 39:2). And where does His light and His life reside? Within people.

Spiritual gifts shall not be done away as long as the world stands. (Moroni 10:19). In whom do the spiritual gifts reside? People.

The world lies in sin. (D&C 49:20; 84:49). Who sins? People.

Those who are cut off by the church are overcome by the world. (D&C 50:8). But the corollary is the Lord has overcome the world. (D&C 50:41). Often sins are first introduced to us by friends who are living after the manner of the world, and we witness our children partaking of the very same sins as their friends.

We are commanded to forsake the world (D&C 53:2), and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (D&C 59:9). When our children are confronted with choices to separate themselves from those who are drenched in the world's ways and praise, and they seem incapable of absenting themselves from the carnal desires that will swamp them, remember they are exactly who you think they are.

Their spirits were first children of heavenly parents, and they are on loan to you for a season of their eternal existence.

When venerated patriarchs have laid their hands upon the heads of your children and pronounced blessings greater than the imagination can contain or understand, remember they are exactly who Heavenly Father told you they were. Don't focus too long on what might have been -- those blessings are eternal in nature and will surely have their day of fulfillment on His timetable. The Lord never forsakes His promises to us.

Our lives here on earth are like a long marathon race. There will be peaks and valleys, there will be fast portions when you can sail along without interruption, then there will be steep portions where you'll feel like you cannot put one foot in front of another. When children slacken and fall out of the race of eternal life for a season, remember their stamina, exercise faith in the things you have taught them, believe that someday they will once again desire to taste the good fruit that is delicious beyond all that is precious. Do not doubt what you know about them, even when they stumble and fall down, scrape their knees, and blame you for their troubles.

They are exactly who you think they are.

Remember, be merciful, contemplate all the shortcomings you have, look back with some objective disdain on your own life when regrets and wishes for "do-overs" might have filled your heart once upon a time. Bask in the knowledge you are still standing in hope and faith for a better tomorrow, and remember, they are all looking for the same blessings you have realized, knowing you didn't do everything perfectly either.

They are exactly who you think they are. They are just like you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"I Can't Block Out the Light"

Our bedroom is located in the southeast corner of our home on the second floor. In the winter the first rays of the sunrise come streaming through the large window facing the east. The southeast corner, Joseph Smith instructed, should always be the first stone laid when a new temple is built. The southeast exposure always garners the most sunlight, according to the Prophet.

That's why this view of the Salt Lake Temple has always been a favorite:

Salt Lake Temple
(copyright 2007 by Howard A. Knudsen)
Early in the summer when the sun is at its zenith in the eastern sky it's hard to ignore the sunlight. It will awaken even the heaviest sleeper. As the long days of summer begin to shorten, the sun visibly retreats to the south along the horizon signaling the onset of fall.

Even in the winter, however, when the sun is in the farthest southern aspect, the light is brilliant. It's fun to watch the changing seasons, and regardless of where the sun is positioned over the mountains to the east it is hard to block out the light. In the summer it shines in the northern windows, and in the winter it streams through the southern exposure and warms the whole house.

Light is like that -- it's just hard to suppress. It chases away the darkness of night. No matter how bleak the day before might have been, a new sunrise offers the promise of unfulfilled goals and dreams. No day is so dark and dreary that it can't be cured by a new day dawning on the horizon to the east. "Today while the sun shines," is a title of a familiar hymn (see Hymns, No. 229). "All we have is the present; that's why they call it a gift."

So it is with our lives.

All light is “the light of truth” that comprehends one grand whole. (D&C 84:45). Even though all light and truth are one, not every form of even physical light in the universe is visible to the mortal eye. Consider our present scientific model of light, often called the electromagnetic or light spectrum:

Long waves
Short waves
Micro waves
Infra-red waves
Red through Violet waves
Ultra-violet rays
Gamma rays
Cosmic rays

Light travels in wave-like patterns, often referred to as “frequencies.” The term frequencies has reference to how frequently the waves trough and peak. The light spectrum begins with the light having long wave patterns. It peaks and troughs less frequently than shorter wave-length frequencies. Our mortal eyes can only detect the frequencies of light that range between red and violet. This is sometimes called the color spectrum. All the other frequencies of light are invisible to mortal eyes. These other frequencies or forms of light are just as real as the color spectrum. It is all light, we just can’t see it.

We use micro waves to cook with in our microwave ovens. We use short and long waves to communicate with in our short and long wave radio receivers and transmitters. We use infrared waves for photography and night vision equipment. Ultra-violet rays are what tanning machines and sunshine use to tan (sometimes burn) our skin, and X-rays are used by doctors and dentists to illuminate hidden bone structures. We have learned to use X-rays carefully, as we have come to realize they can produce cancer-making cells. Whether we see these forms of light with our eyes or not is really beside the point. All these frequencies of light are real and they affect us. There was a day when we used to say, “If I can’t see it, I won’t believe it.” We do not tend to say that as much these days, because we have come to realize we simply cannot see with the natural eye much of what is affecting our lives in this universe.

In this century science has come to recognize that all light is matter, whether it is visible to us or not. This is very compatible with what the Lord said through Joseph:

There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit [light] is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be seen by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter. (D&C 131:7-8).

Prophets Describe the Light

When a mortal’s body is changed (transfigured, translated or quickened) by a special endowment of light, that person is enabled to see light that we normally cannot see, or in other words, to see as seers, things spiritual. Such was the case as with Joseph, Moses and Enoch.


For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God.
Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind. Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected. (D&C 67:11-13).


But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. (Moses 1:11).


And it came to pass that I turned and went up on the mount; and as I stood upon the mount, I beheld the heavens open, and I was clothed upon with glory;
And I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face. . . (Moses 7:3-4).

In each dispensation prophets of God have been recipients of, and witnesses to, wonderful theophanies of this spiritual fire, glory or light. Consider these examples (emphasis mine throughout):


And the presence of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. (JST Exodus 3:2).


And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
As the appearance of the [rain]bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. (Ezekiel 1:26-28).


And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much. (1 Nephi 1:6).

Peter, James and John:

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
. . . behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (Matthew 17:1-5).


. . . I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling be by name and said, pointing to the other -- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (JSH 1:16-17).

We are taught some significant details about this light by looking closely at such sacred accounts. Consider some of the details of the resurrected Moroni’s first visit to Joseph’s bedroom the night of September 21, 1823, as recorded in JSH 1:30-32, 43. For a full explanation, click here.

Joseph’s description of the Father and the Son in his first vision was the same. “I saw two Personages; whose brightness and glory defy all description.” Celestial beings like the Father, Son and Moroni are beings of glory. Their resurrected tabernacles of flesh and bones are filled with light: "These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.” (D&C 76:70).

As Moses, Paul and Joseph said: “Our God is a consuming fire.” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29; TPJS, 367).

No matter how hard we may try sometimes to deny the light in our lives, we will all be constrained sooner or later to declare: "I can't block out the light."

So bask in it today, while the sun is shining.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Elections Cure Policy Misjudgments

Elections have a way of correcting the miscalculations of voters in this great country of the land of the free and the home of the brave. In 2008, exhausted with George W. Bush because everyone was focused on the man instead of the policies he pursued, the country changed horses and gave Barack Obama a mandate to "change" things. That was all we got over and over again from the candidate, that he would "change" everything with majorities in both houses of Congress. He proved to be a man of his word. "This is what change looks like," he proudly trumpeted after the passage of Obamacare.

With the president's approval rating dropping again, this latest polling result indicates the dissatisfaction with the way things are going in America. Apparently, these "changes" weren't what we had in mind. Not to worry. We have elections here. In 2010, a historic shift in direction in the U.S. House of Representatives happened.

We're still 14 months away from the next general election, and while the markets teeter on the brink, unemployment holds steady at above 9% nationwide, and wars and rumors of wars continue to swirl, conditions appear to be bad and getting worse. However, I'm trying to stay focused on a change in policies that will become self-evident by the time November 2012 rolls around.

There seem to be no easy answers for our dilemma as a nation. I will say this, however, and I believe it to be true: When we make our angst about the person instead of the policies, we are in error. The people who get the most emotional about our state of affairs in America are the ones who attach their emotions to the individuals instead of the policies. You can witness it every night on cable news networks, but it is as old as the Republic.

There are visceral reactions broadcast and published about Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama, but always and forever these emotional outbursts directed at individuals do nothing to solve our problems and miss the mark. It is fashionable to blame the president for nearly everything, and by design most of it is out of his control because the writers of the U.S. Constitution were determined to assure the dissemination of political power. So stop bashing presidents and singling them out for your vitriol.

There's a better way. Look to support candidates across the board whose policy positions line up with yours. Give up the personality beauty pageants.

We have this unhinged belief in America, seemingly, that one man or one woman can make everything right again. Placing that much confidence in the executive is inaccurate. Speculation still abounds about Sarah Palin -- will she or won't she run? -- but one individual isn't going to turn this ship of state around in the narrow harbor, least of all her.

Commentaries are plentiful about any criticism of President Obama being interpreted as racist. I'd like to think we are past all that, but the allegations persist. The focus is wrong if that is how you line up. Rather, the policies he has pursued are more and more like a mirror image of those pursued by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the aftermath of the Great Depression. History, indeed, seems likely to repeat itself.

This past week further evidence continues to surface and observers suggest we are headed to a "double-dip recession." To expect Barack Obama to reverse course is ridiculous. He has hinted at being hard at work devising a plan to put Americans back to work. Well, who would imagine what that might look like? Here's a safe prediction -- a call for more government spending, more deficits and more debt and taxes. When it happens shortly after Labor Day, don't call me a prophet, just examine the man's policy track record. Predictably, he will blame Congress for being irresponsible.

The policy-based-upon-political-calculations mentality continues unabated. Presumably hunting up more votes as his popularity plummets, we learned last week President Obama is bowing to pressure from immigration groups and has announced a "case-by-case" review of deportation of undocumented residents. Rather than lead in the hard work of legislative immigration reform, this president continues to rule by handing down executive orders. Once again, the president proves to be all too predictable. Rather than enforce the existing laws, he does things his way. Policies, not the individual, remember.

And don't get me started on Obamacare. When the country was on its back economically in 2009, once the executive reins were in his hands with majorities in both houses of Congress, what did he do? He put the idea out that now was the time to pass national health care, presumably to "reform" Medicare, then punted the details to an all-too-eager Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to hammer out the details.

We ended up with an excessive policy overreach in the most expensive entitlement program ever conceived by man, with its most obvious technical flaw -- the individual mandate. The law of the land, opposed in court by 26 of the 50 states and now awaiting appeal to the Supreme Court will in all likelihood (one can hope) be struck down as unconstitutional and the lower court and appellate courts who have reviewed it and come to the same conclusion will be upheld. Instead of leadership, under this administration we have seen widespread uncertainty and little else since its inception.

These few examples (and we haven't discussed unfunded perma-wars in three countries), continue to drag on the economic recovery with little or no leadership from policy makers with the authority to give direction. The policy seems so simple. Rallying votes to make it happen is the problem. The government would be well-advised, it would seem, to stop spending money it doesn't have. There is no such thing as "government money." All money in the government coffers comes from people who own businesses who are taxed to raise government revenue. Restoring government to its proper limited role is the correct policy.

Because we have elections the regulated voters, suppressed by an overarching federal government and feeling their liberties curtailed through taxation (even threats of higher taxes), can push back. Every two years they can vote on every seat in the U.S. House and 1/3 of the Senate. Every four years they can fire the executive POTUS if they feel they got it wrong. That assures America will never stray too far. When someone says they are running to raise taxes to pay for new government programs, as voters we can simply say, "No, enough is enough, and we're going to do something different this time." We will use the ballot box to impose term limits, won't we?

Remember, when government repeatedly demands more and more money telling us they don't have enough, we can do the simple math. Our national debt is now in excess of 100% of our Gross Domestic Product, meaning we are borrowing more than we are producing as a nation. If $17 trillion in debt isn't enough money to operate the federal government and $.40 of every dollar it spends is borrowed to sustain itself, we are not stupid people. We will inevitably take steps through the ballot box to correct the trajectory, won't we?

Our liberty is restrained when we don't. That's why I fundamentally believe we can still stop the expansion of the federal government whenever we see our tax burden growing. The solution is always the same: We can vote for a new batch of elected representatives to run our government, and we'll likely not pick those who advocate this never-never land fable of class warfare. We are smart enough to reject the notion that taxing the rich will bail out the boat and we will give up suggestions of class envy, won't we?

There's more too. We can restrain overreaching government by dismantling excessive regulations. We have a venerated old document struck by our founders, the U.S. Constitution. It has served us well and virtually assured that abiding by its precepts has created the greatest country the world has ever seen. We will not abandon its principles now, and we will defend all the foreign and domestic attacks against it, won't we?

If we will elect people standing for correct principles and policies going forward, and anchor those beliefs in the Constitution, we will begin to turn things around.

We can and we will, won't we?

Resolve now to get in the game for the 2012 election. We all will, won't we?

P.S. I apologize for all the Obama re-election ads that appear on my page. Apparently, Google doesn't have the capacity to figure out I am opposed to every policy position he represents. DO NOT CLICK ON THOSE ADS!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Political Quote of the Day

This article could also pass for something I wish I had written. It drips with logic, truth and inescapable conclusions that are sound and worth repeating. Be sure to click on all the links for the background.

J.R. Dunn
Here's today's Political Quote of the Day from American Thinker's J.R. Dunn:

"Every liberal president fails. The more 'successful' he is, in the sense of actually putting his policies in place, the more clearly he reveals the emptiness of that bastard combination of socialism, Marxism, fascism, and Progressivism that goes under the name 'liberalism.'  Franklin Roosevelt triggered a second dip in the Great Depression in 1937, delivering America to the same wretchedness in which he found it upon taking office.  Lyndon Johnson threw the country into abject chaos for fifteen years with his 'Great Society,' essentially 'New Deal, the Sequel.'  Jimmy Carter... well, where do we start?"

In my more rational moments I become convinced that Barack Obama will be a one-term president and that America will reclaim the ground lost during his administration. I have no idea who the next occupant of the White House will be, but at this point I can accept nearly anyone as a possibility.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quiet the Mind, Accelerate the Spirit

Trial Lake, Uinta Mountains
This past week I was invited to go with my sons and grandsons on a camp out to the High Uintas near our mountain home. The campground at Trial Lake is a popular destination for city folks, and the elevation rises to 9800 feet surrounded by majestic mountain peaks. It puts one closer to heaven in every way.

My sons are all equipped with camping gear -- cool stuff to assure comfort and warmth outdoors. What used to be dreaded scouting experiences of my youth, are no longer. The food was great, the companionship was fantastic, and the scenery and the wind gently whistling through the trees overhead created an almost reverential mood late at night around the campfire. The full moon for two nights added to the magic. The mosquitoes were out in full force, but even repellent has improved to make their unwelcome presence bearable. Other distractions like an unhappy and quarrelsome family next door, barking dogs, and a crying baby nearby, eventually diminished.

We played their favorite game, "Would you rather. . ." It provided a lot of laughter. It began with one, "Would you rather drink a bucket of snot, or eat a bucket of scabs?" There are endless permutations and combinations spinning out of their fertile young minds -- try it sometime if you haven't heard of it. Trust me, it can take you on a wild ride from the frivolous to the imponderable.

Trial Lake, Uinta Mountains
Because of the nature of their work, their "other equipment" -- company-provided iphones -- were rendered useless. We were away. No Internet. No computers. And while they hiked and fished to their hearts' content, I had time to finish a good book I had been reading and to ponder and reflect. They took off the second day for a hike up to another little picturesque lake, not far away. It was great to see those fathers, once my little boys, returning to camp with their little boys whose legs are still too short, riding atop their fathers' shoulders. It's a joy to be a grandfather and to witness life replay itself.

To quiet the mind, to study and ponder the word of God, to be alone with your thoughts is an activity worth pursuing, but those rare moments must almost be manufactured, planned in advance, and savored to glean the full benefits.

I pondered about the High Priest lesson I was to give. I wondered how to approach a lesson on "Family Responsibilities," knowing how inadequate the vessel can seem when teaching the venerable brethren who have lived their lives to the fullest. How to teach them anything becomes a challenge. As I pondered and prayed about it in the open air in a quiet setting, white whispy smoke ascending from a dying fire one morning, I remembered Abraham and the covenant. I pondered Abraham 2:8-12, and considered how improbable his promised blessings were, and how unlikely it is that I have inherited the same promised blessings he did. Today I am still a son of God, a son of earthly parents, a grandson, a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, and I feel in someways like I am holding hands in a circle of life spanning the pre-mortal world, mortality and the spirit world. Five more grandchildren are due in coming months.

I thought about the weaknesses I possess and how truly unworthy I am as a recipient of so much when I have done so little to merit such blessings.

I read Ether 12:27, and asked myself again where all my weaknesses came from. Did they come from the Lord? If he gave me all my weaknesses, why? I thought the goal was to grow in light and truth and to become like Him. Because Christ is perfect and my Father in Heaven is perfect, why would they give me anything but strength and powerful gifts to overcome?

I've heard a thousand false sermons taught about that scripture. People just say, like no one should ever challenge it, "The Lord gives us our weaknesses."

Well, it just isn't true. Moroni doesn't say the Lord gives us weaknesses. Instead, Ether 12:27 refers to our weakness. I pondered it anew that morning last week, alone with my thoughts in the mountains. I was renewed again in the realization that has become a comforting insight. The Lord defines words for us if we are attuned to His dictionary.

The Lord didn't give us weaknesses (the tendency to overeat, be impatient, angry, lazy, lustful, etc.). What we did receive from Him as a gift, however, is weakness. His meaning was not that we have character flaws, but that we will be in a mortal state where our physical bodies will tend to be weaker than our spirits in order for our spirits to be tested, tempted and tried in nearly all things this mortal laboratory can inflict upon us. (See Abraham 3:25). That weakness has more to do with the state of mortality than with individual character flaws afflicting all of us. As a spirit I didn't have mortal weakness. But when I was born into mortality I received a body in a fallen world — a state of weakness — because it was the only way we could become as He is.

The brother of Jared prayed: "Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires. (Ether 3:2).

The Apostle Paul, noting his "infirmities," spoke about his "thorn in the flesh." So troubled by it was he that he pled with the Lord three times to remove it. (See 2 Corinthians 12:5, 7-8). "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

As we study Paul's missionary journeys again this year in our gospel doctrine classes, I am reminded just how unworthy I am in the comparison with him. But when I quiet my mind, forswear the noise about me, my spirit accelerates with knowledge. Paul understood it was the conditions of the flesh constituting our weakness. He also knew what Moroni knew — the Lord desires to help us, not heap weaknesses upon us to increase our difficulties in this mortal probation.

It's the plan of a loving Father for us. That's what Moroni was talking about in Ether 12:27. Paul reached a point in his understanding we must all come to individually. He was actually grateful for the weakness of the flesh, for a merciful plan of mortality, for the expectation of exaltation.

Like Paul, my mind was quiet, my spirit accelerated as I connected with Christ, who helps make me stronger.

Individual Mandate in Obamacare Ruled Unconstitutional (Again)

The passage of Obamacare in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve 2009, is now wending its way slowly but predictably through the courts of appeal. Most recently (Friday), a three-judge panel of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the opinion of the lower court and ruled the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional.

The carefully worded and thorough (over 300 page) set of opinions may be a bit obtuse to the average reader, but  the appellate jurists give hope to those of us who still believe the words written in the Constitution have meaning. This ruling signals that whatever an activist Congress, President, and willing judge want them to mean, the original intent and the actual words still have impact as the supreme law of the land. This ruling all but assures the Supreme Court will hear the cases currently on appeal, and then the states can finally dispose of a badly conceived idea.

Here's the conclusion of the opinion (if you want the blow-by-blow complete version, click here):

[T]he individual mandate is breathtaking in its expansive scope. It regulates those who have not entered the health care market at all. It regulates those who have entered the health care market, but have not entered the insurance market (and have no intention of doing so). It is overinclusive in when it regulates: it conflates those who presently consume health care with those who will not consume health care for many years into the future. The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life. This theory affords no limiting principles in which to confine Congress’s enumerated power….
The federal government’s assertion of power, under the Commerce Clause, to issue an economic mandate for Americans to purchase insurance from a private company for the entire duration of their lives is unprecedented, lacks cognizable limits, and imperils our federalist structure.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Senator Lee Leads the Way

U.S. Senator Mike Lee Responds to S&P Downgrade of United States

Lee lays out path back to AAA rating and American greatness

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Lee responded to S&P lowering the long held AAA rating for the United States saying, “This downgrade confirms what we have known was coming, but have chosen to ignore, for a long time.  This downgrade further confirms that the true threat to our country, our economy and our way of life is our debt and the continued deficit spending Washington and the current administration are pursuing.”
For the first time ever the United States does not hold a AAA rating.  The impact could be felt in numerous ways including higher interests rates for car, home or student loans along with credit card rates.  Lee then stated, “Unfortunately, when it comes to the significant financial challenges this country faces, we have been swatting at the branches and symptoms instead of attacking the root and core causes. Never has there been a greater need for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution – to ensure we get our fiscal house in order, reduce our debt, and get Washington to live within its means.”
Calling on his colleagues in the House and Senate along with the Administration and Americans across the country Lee said, “The answer to our economic challenges lies within a simple concept most Americans and most states understand and live by – balance your checkbook and don’t spend more than you bring in.  This is not a liberal or conservative issue, it isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue – it is an American issue.  If ever there were a time for Americans and members of Congress to have an open debate and dialogue about the future of our country, that time is now.  I invite everyone to begin to understand where we are as a nation and what it will take to restore both our AAA rating, and more importantly, our strength and greatness as a country.”
* * *
I hear Mike Lee being criticized for being an "ideologue," or too rigid in his conservative beliefs. I hear him being branded as a political extremist, a threat to the economy, a tea party terrorist. 
Honestly, all the name calling in the world doesn't change the facts as they are -- we need leadership out of the fiscal mine shaft, and Mike is leading the way. I'm grateful for his leadership in a time when there seems to be so little elsewhere. If anything, the S&P statements about the reasons for the downgrade have only given our politicians more fodder to scream and yell at each other. We should all be weary enough of the name calling that we are willing to support reasonable solutions that can be discussed and acted upon. 
Others would do well to give heed to his guidance. It strikes me as anything but "extremist." 
I hope and pray we haven't gone so far that common sense and good judgment are seen as extremist points of view.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Obamanomics -- Any Questions?

In my last post I waxed excessively verbose. This is a small business CEO who can say it with much more passion and more succinctly:

Any questions?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Having it Both Ways in America

In case you hadn't noticed recently, we have a bi-polar political atmosphere in America. For far too long we have wanted to have it both ways -- entitlements and fiscal restraint. Whenever an impasse over those two polar extremes has presented itself, the two parties have compromised.

Now it seems we have compromised ourselves into a box canyon with nowhere to go. Here's the full S&P analysis for your reading pleasure. Having rejected the guidance of the rating agencies, S&P this week announced the jig is up. For the first time in the history of credit ratings, America has fallen from atop its perch as a AAA credit risk. What follows are the highlights from yesterday's S&P report on their decision to lower the long-term rating to AA+, while the short-term rating is even worse at A-1+:

· We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United
States of America to 'AA+' from 'AAA' and affirmed the 'A-1+' short-term
· We have also removed both the short- and long-term ratings from
CreditWatch negative.
· The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan
that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of
what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's
medium-term debt dynamics.
· More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness,
stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political
institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic
challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a
negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
· Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the
gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us
pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be
able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal
consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any
time soon.
· The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the
long-term rating to 'AA' within the next two years if we see that less
reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new
fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government
debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case. (Emphasis mine).

Last week, the American people rendered their own verdict in a recent NYT public opinion poll that overwhelmingly (82%) rejected Congress and its handling of the people's business over the debt crisis. That's a new high for disapproval ratings of a Congress. We seem to be breaking new ground in America every day now, and it's not exactly comforting familiar territory we are claiming.

In short, the two-party system in politics must be declared a failure.

There are those who maintain a split government is what the American people prefer, electing some Republicans here, some Democrats there, and putting an occupant of the White House in place to try to bring peace between the warring factions. As S&P notes in their report:

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as
America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective,
and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt
ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in
the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our
view, the differences between political parties have proven to be
extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting
agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program
that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and
Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on
discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on
more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have
dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions
only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements,
the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.
Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the
structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt
burden in a manner consistent with a 'AAA' rating and with 'AAA' rated
sovereign peers (see Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions,"June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). In our view, the difficulty in framing a consensus on fiscal policy weakens the government's ability tomanage public finances and diverts attention from the debate over how to
achieve more balanced and dynamic economic growth in an era of fiscalstringency and private-sector deleveraging (ibid). A new political consensus might (or might not) emerge after the 2012 elections, but we believe that by then, the government debt burden will likely be higher, the needed medium-term fiscal adjustment potentially greater, and the inflection point on the U.S. population's demographics and other age-related spending drivers closer at hand (see "Global Aging 2011: In The U.S., Going Gray Will Likely Cost Even More Green, Now," June 21, 2011). (Emphasis mine).

Now, one may argue this report is from S&P, the same corrupt rating agency that gave us AAA on securitized sub-prime mortgage debt instruments that put us in this debacle in the first place. They would say S&P sold their credibility for a mess of pottage, and how dare they come forward now with this negative assessment of U.S. creditworthiness.

"The Enemy Is Us"

However, I would argue that any rational and open-minded individual with half a brain in his or her head, regardless of which party label you wear, would come to precisely the same conclusions stated above by S&P. As part of the retiring, graying, aging population known as the "baby boomers," but speaking strictly for myself alone, I echo the sentiments and embrace S&P's conclusions. "We have seen the enemy, and it is us."

At a time when the bubble in an aging population is expanding and pushing its way through the shrinking access to cradle-to-grave-government-welfare knothole, the number paying into our entitlement programs is decreasing, putting additional strains on the system. Add that demographic reality to a dysfunctional two-party political family and you have the perfect storm for destruction of the free market economy (if we ever truly had one).

Entitlement reform of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is relatively simple now, but as this last round of discussions between the bi-polar political class demonstrated, they seem to lack the political willpower to get the job done we elected them to do. Why? Because there is a persistent belief among politicians that to get re-elected they must continue to dole out the candy from the government in order to win favor among the electorate in order to get re-elected. If allowed to perpetuate, this is a formula for disaster.

Even in the wake of negative polling data and now a public reprimand for our "political brinksmanship," the professional politicos do not seem to be deterred in their entrenched positions. They stand in their respective ideological corners of the ring and shout at each other, then occasionally the sparring escalates to verbal abuse, but then they "make nice" for a season, crown their bickering with yet another "compromise" hailed in language like, "It isn't a perfect bill, but we've done the best we could under the circumstances."

Three Ideas to Save America

So what are the options going forward? I would suggest three things:

1. Elect people to represent us who are apolitical who refuse to pledge allegiance to a political party. In the short term, they may have to adopt a banner of one or the other party to get on the ticket (we've seen how impotent third-party candidates can be). However, it is my growing opinion the more they lean libertarian, the more acceptable they will be in the ensuing years ahead. Think how radical Ron Paul, for example, sounded in  the 2008 election cycle, and witness how prophetic his predictions have proven to be. Yes, we are a house divided, in truth we have been since our inception, but we must now reinvent ourselves to survive as a nation. I would define "reinvent" as "unite" under the banner of freedom and throw off the tyranny of a government that refuses to be responsive to the wishes of the governed.

2. Get involved in the political arena to the degree we are able, and don't shrink from participation or voicing your opinion to change things from the toxic status quo. Standing under an ideological banner represented by our two political parties in America and yelling from across the ring at each other is no longer productive or useful (if it ever was). This will require intelligence, self-directed philosophical anchoring, independence and a willingness to not count the costs personally. All that is required is to do what is right for America without regard to what may be politically expedient.

3. Re-enthrone God as the center of your universe if you haven't already. Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), raised eyebrows by announcing a day of fasting and prayer in Texas "for a nation in peril." And someone tell me why that would be thought to be a radical idea? We have paid allegiance to our elected representatives, the parties they have represented and the ideologies they purport for far too long. The net result has been near-catastrophic, but it is not too late. If there are any lessons we can learn from history, it is that when the people of this land have gotten themselves into a dicey place, they have always turned to God with their allegiance and they have been delivered when they have turned to Him.

So our future as America looms before us and the foreboding decisions are brooding over us, awaiting our collective decisions. We are still free to choose.

A New Path in 2012, or the Same ol', Same ol'?

Will we do something different as a nation in 2012, throw off the yoke of a stifling class of politicians who have done little more than try to perpetuate their electability, or will we embrace a new direction and vote for those who will administer the distasteful but healing tonic of truth and demand better of themselves and us as a nation?

We have miles to go as a nation before we sleep, and today we stand at a crossroads. These are only some of the questions begging for an answer:
  • Will we continue to opt for divided government ensuring more gridlock, or will we give one party the reins to Congress and the White House? Who is trustworthy?
  • Will we pick between needed fiscal restraint and more unsustainable debt, or continue to compromise on a path down the middle leading nowhere but into oblivion? 
  • Will we continue to uphold a two-party system of government, or will a third party, CAN a third party emerge behind which all freedom-loving people can unite and throw off the false traditions of two-party rule that have gradually overtaken us as a stealthy thief in the night? 
  • Can anyone truly believe we can continue to have it both ways with an expanding dose of progressive government designed to save everyone with a domestic social safety net (one in seven Americans is now on food stamps), and a commensurate offsetting dose of government devoted to expanding the military-industrial complex designed to spread democracy everywhere?
  • While both parties have laudable goals, can we chart a new direction or have we lost our will to do do something different? 
  • Will we ever be able to reclaim the American dream through easy credit at low rates and a stable, predictable store of value in home equity, or will we become a nation of renters? 
  • How long will it take for us to put America back on a stable economic footing? (Most plans being put forward today are operating on a ten-year assumption for achieving a balanced federal budget.) 
  • Where will we find people to represent us who can shun the party labels and ideologies to get the job done in framing our future?
This much is certain in my mind -- we stand on firm ground only when we worship the God of Israel. All other gods before us are impotent and cannot save us now.

Nothing to Fear

I raise my voice, in summary, to the youth of this country, to believing members of churches everywhere, and to my own children and grandchildren. There is nothing to fear. Live your lives, make your plans for the future in the constant hope of your deliverance. You do have a future. . . the path leads toward ZION, and the journey has just begun. Click the link and discover for yourselves where we are going.

With all the God-given promises and prophecies before you, do not let yourselves be stampeded by the fears and the panic of the crowds about you. Here's a small sample:

"And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion." (2 Nephi 27:3).

I sense fear and doubts sweeping over the hearts and entering into the minds of good people. Don't ever forget who propagates fear at its roots. They are the minions of Satan who would embroil us in wars and foreign intrigues, against which we have been warned by our founders. They are those who would tell you without government programs and stimulus and profligate deficits and debt, we cannot be safe and secure. They would tell you the government has to rescue everyone, even those who are deemed "too big to fail."

Well, poppycock.

We must be determined to throw off the wisdom of men in the days that lie ahead. We must not act as though subjugation by a foreign enemy is inevitable. Or that debt will swamp our ship of state. Those are false choices, and they are not inevitable. That day will come only if we reach a "fulness of iniquity." I still believe that finality is in the "if" column, not the "when" column. No matter how dark or dreary the path ahead may appear, America still has a future. Our future, however, is not threatened so much by foreign enemies as it seems to be with decay from within. Whether Communist-inspired or not, the effects seem to be more than coincidental.

We must not fail to take on the horrors of evil as they become manifested. It is faith and righteousness this nation now stands in need of, not more bristling armaments and unaffordable social entitlement programs to defend us and our allies abroad and "save" us here at home in supposed comfort and ease through government-mandated redistribution of our wealth with more entitlements. We have reached the tipping point on who we will become, but our fate and doom is NOT cast in stone just yet. We can take counsel from our past instead of our fears of the future.

Columbus and Settlement of America

A thousand years after the Nephites were destroyed, Columbus came. He was among the first to become aware of its existence. For a hundred years thereafter the Lamanites were thrashed by the invading Spanish conquistadors, and were stagnated in a state of wickedness from which they never emerged after they finally destroyed the Nephites. Truly, the scriptures were fulfilled -- they did "afflict the seed of Lehi." (2 Nephi 10:18). The visions and prophecies of Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob were all fulfilled.

Then in the seventeenth century, the English, the French and others began settling the sprawling uncharted land of America. The day of the Gentiles began. The sad history of our nation proved to be yet another era of fulfillment as the scattering of the Lamanites ensued. Those same ancient prophets saw and predicted it, a scattering which may not yet be fully finished as we witness undocumented immigrants spilling over our borders continuously today to occupy America. (1 Nephi 15:17).

The earliest Gentile settlers came to escape religious persecution. So why in America of all places would a Governor of Texas today be thought somehow strange for inviting (not commanding) his people to offer up their fasting and prayers? We forget so easily that to escape the persecutions of the Old World, our forefathers came here to the New World, and they were a hodge-podge of religious Christians.

Our records find the Puritans in New England, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Catholics in Maryland, the Huguenots in Virginia and the Carolinas, the Lutherans in Georgia and other Gentile colonies. They came because they believed they could prosper in this "chosen land of the Lord." For them the land was a "consecrated" land. They envisioned liberty, freedom and they forged the future together while retaining the uniqueness of their respective heritages, customs and cultures.

They prospered financially, they grew religiously, but they went farthest and fastest in the development of their political doctrines. Looking back, one sees the unseen power of God guiding them year by year, harvest by harvest, factory by factory, home by home. They planned, they worked tirelessly, and what was their goal? To make this country exactly what Jacob had said it was to be, "a land of liberty unto the Gentiles." (2 Nephi 10:11).

God Himself was moving the minds and souls of those whom Lehi said would be "led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord," (2 Nephi 1:6), moving them toward a future of unrestrained spiritual and material prosperity.

The Colonies

The stirrings within our forefathers in the original thirteen colonies should capture the imagination of every young person in America today. But I fear we have forsaken history and they may not be taught without intervention from those of us who are older. Our earliest inhabitants were caught up in the French and Indian wars. George Washington had his first lessons in commanding men in battle, and for the most part he was so miserable as a tactic commander he felt completely inadequate when asked to command the Continental Army later.

The purpose of those early skirmishes on this land of freedom were for motives our European mother countries espoused and had nothing to do with emerging American thinking. The wisdom of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would evolve based upon these formative experiences. They believed we had no business mixing in European affairs. If only we could believe it today, but the wickedness came to our doorstep in Pearl Harbor and New York, and since 9/11, I fear our national psyche has been altered forever.

Our forefathers were "brought out" by the hand of God to forge a better path, inherit a far brighter destiny. They were separated from the Old World to build a new and mighty nation together, to become united in a land of liberty. They truly did consecrate the land to this purpose.
President J. Reuben Clark

President J. Reuben Clark, long accused of being a pacifist in his teachings and writings, observed in 1940, "How vain for us to join with those against whom we are to be fortified, with those who shall perish if they fight against us." He warned against the foreign intrigues of World War II, until America's involvement became inevitable and unavoidable when Pearl Harbor was attacked. We have found ample justifications for war ever since, most recently in that war in Libya -- you know, the one in which we would only be involved for a matter of "days not weeks." We continue to fight three foreign wars against almost invisible enemies. We killed Osama bin Laden, but his expressed goal to destroy us lives on in the jihad.

The War of Independence

Our ancestors claimed this land by the shedding of their own blood. With the aid of France, they fought and won the War of Independence from Great Britain against all odds. When we consult the scriptural accounts, there is little doubt Nephi foretold what he saw in a futuristic vision. We were "delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations." (1 Nephi 13:19). Note that word "delivered." It repeats again and again in The Book of Mormon. This prophecy was to have a more complete fulfillment later, but God was moving us toward our ordained destiny as a nation, toward unnumbered blessings.

George Washington and King George

George Washington
Prophetic fulfillment continued at the end of the Revolutionary War. Once again, Jacob: "There shall be no kings upon this land." (2 Nephi 10:11). All Washington had to do was reach out and take it if he desired -- the grateful nation would have gladly crowned him King of America. In his wisdom, however, Washington's desire was to return to his beloved Mount Vernon, now wasted in disrepair and neglect because of his long and devoted service to his fellowmen. But he was denied his return to Mount Vernon, serving another eight years as the first and only president to be elected unanimously in the electoral college. Without knowing of Jacob's prophecy, however, he fulfilled it to the letter and established a precedent that there should be no kings here. He retired after two terms as president, not wanting to die in office, fearing that if he did succession to his office as president would be something other than intended by the founders.

God had seemingly pushed us forward one more vital step toward our our collective destiny. The blessing for which we seldom express adequate gratitude -- from that early formative time until now kings and emperors, potentates and dictators have never prospered on this land.

The Constitution

Recognizing the inadequacy to govern thirteen independent Colonies, the representatives of the people voluntarily came together "to form a more perfect union," as they put it.

We had won our freedom from Great Britain, but our ancestors were near losing it in the aftermath. Fragility was everywhere. The Constitutional Convention met and out of that collaboration, that glorious compromise,  came our God-inspired Constitution. Gladstone would later declare it to be "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."

The Lord Himself bore witness of its origins: "I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose." Then He added meaningfully in reference to how it was obtained, "and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood." (D&C 101:80). Freedom is NEVER free.

The Lord declared the purpose of this Constitution when He said that it "should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh." (D&C 101:77). It thus became a document for a nation to be governed, and to provide a beacon of hope to all living flesh on earth.

What was accomplished in those early formative times was the setting up of a government under the guidance of God Himself, a government that made this land the kind of land Lehi and his son Jacob had foreseen and prophesied about. It was "a land of liberty."

Once again, the Lord had moved us forward towards our destiny. He had bestowed upon us another blessing. And once again our own actions have put that vision at risk and opened the doors to our self-inflicted peril if we fail now to remember our history.

What was this glorious plan of the Lord to look like in practice, this "glorious banner" established by the hands of wise men whom He had raised up for this very purpose? Consider with me what we received:

Three Branches of Government

It gave us, for perhaps the first time in all history, a republic with the three basic divisions of government, the legislative, executive, and judicial, mutually and completely independent the one from the other, under which it is not possible for any branch of government legally to set up a system by which that branch can first conceive what it wants to do, then make the law ordering its doing, and then itself, judge its own enforcement of its own law, a system that has always brought extortion, oppression, intimidation, tyranny, despotism, a system that every dictator has employed and must employ. May we never unravel those underpinnings.

Benjamin Franklin
And when it was done, a questioner asked Benjamin Franklin, the first American, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy?” To which Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

In the sweltering heat of the negotiations recently concluded in Washington, Franklin's response still resonates. We know we can keep our Republic, the question looms. . . Will we?

No longer can we have it both ways.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Penny Plan - Way Too Sensible

The Democrats have no interest in putting forward any plans to cut the spending, but here's another Republican who's got a plan that works.

Watch for Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL) in the days ahead.

He makes so much sense it's scary because it's so sensible.

Can You Say Bitter and Angry?

This is priceless -- I said Harry Reid looked like he was sucking sour lemons the other day on the Senate floor. . . well that was nothing compared to this.

The Republicans were sore "winners," but the Democrats have topped them all for being sore "losers."

Now I'm almost certain this compromise debt and spending deal must have been FANTASTIC because nearly everyone hates it. All we accomplished was avoiding default and a complete collapse for a little longer. And based on all the rhetoric coming from both sides about "stacking" the "super committee" with their strongest allies, look for Pelosi, Reid, Boehner and McConnell to pick twelve people who will go to war along the same ideological lines we've been witnessing.

It's progress, I guess, but there's nothing to gloat about on either side.

But, hey, this is a little over the top -- the tea party radicals are now terrorists who are strapping bombs to themselves to blow up the Capitol? Really? These people need a frontal lobotomy to stop the abuse of hyperbole.

Remember when President Obama called for cooling down the political rhetoric in the aftermath of the shooting involving Congresswoman Gabby Giffords? I wonder what our Commander in Chief would think about his VP Joe Biden and other Democrats and the willing minions in the main stream media, who have called Republicans "terrorists" and accused them of wanting to blow up the economy.

Give a listen and ask yourselves if any of them has risen to his challenge to reduce the vitriol in our political discussions.

This is classic. They're all parrots. No, it's hysterical to think anyone would even believe this garbage: