The date was June 28, 2004. I found it buried in the archives of DearElder.com, and as I reviewed it today it seemed timely.
Dear Sister Mel & Elder Jake:
I was thinking yesterday as I sat in Church that no one even acknowledged the 160th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail. We seemed to be focused in the sacrament meeting on the upcoming July 4th weekend. I sang with the ward choir, and we performed “America the Beautiful” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It was a good program, but to let that day pass without even so much as a reference to Joseph and Hyrum’s ultimate sacrifice seemed strange to me.
I wrote a letter to Merilee (to be delivered to her this week by the “Pony Express” while they are out in the wilderness trek), and as I wrote to her to try and give her an appreciation for the sacrifice of her ancestors I was struck again with how much we have today because of those who have gone before us. I was also struck with how little we truly understand of the lives of those forefathers – how difficult it is for us to comprehend their existence!
Imagine the hardships of wagon train travel – heat and cold, wet and dry, extremes that vary so dramatically from our “controlled environmental range” that never varies that much from 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know what to make of it all, only to express gratitude that our situation today is what it is in relative ease comparatively.
I believe we are uniquely positioned in this late date in the dispensation to recognize our “time and place” circumstances. Indeed, where much is given, much is required (D&C 82:3-4; that verse 4 is especially sobering). I have struggled to keep in perspective all that we know is coming in the years ahead in these last days.
There is a lot to be happy about in what we know – that good will ultimately triumph is sufficient in so many ways. But, nevertheless, there are some bone-chilling realities that the world is going to become yet more wicked. Who are we in the midst of these realities? We are the children of light, according to my good friend Paul (see 1 Thessalonians 5):
"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
I’ve got to tell you, that’s about as timeless a piece of scripture as there is. It especially applies to our day.
Here’s another sobering reality that struck me again as we studied it recently in our family scripture study. It’s King Mosiah explaining to the people that he will serve as their king only until the end of his life, then admonishing them to abolish kings for these hauntingly familiar reasons in our day as we witness from the front-row seats what it takes to overthrow a wicked king in Iraq (see Mosiah 29:16-27):
"Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you. For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage. And were it not for the interposition of their all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance, they must unavoidably remain in bondage until now. But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him. And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood. For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God; And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness. And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you. Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord. Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law — to do your business by the voice of the people. And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land."
Once again, the prophets nearly nail our present world to the wall. Oh, let’s see – that would be because we’re dealing with an all-knowing God who reveals the future to inspired prophets who write it all down – now I remember. Despite all the evidence to the contrary right now in this political presidential season, the good news is that there is good news – it will all work out! Truth will prevail and flourish – it will even pierce through the mists of darkness. I am constantly humbled by the goodness of your lives, your desires to do good, and your ever-present ability to seek even more improvement.
I love you both,
|Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Congressional Budget Chairman Paul Ryan|
Eight short years later after writing this letter, little did I suspect we would have a POTUS who is openly advocating for same-sex marriage, we have a SCOTUS debating the constitutional merits of an unpopular healthcare law not favored by the people, and we have the Catholic Church suing the federal government over its mandate forcing the Church to provide contraception through their various medical plans provided by their church-owned entities. And let's not forget $5 Trillion in new debt in just the last three years, more than at any other similar period in our history. Once again, after last year's downgrade in its credit rating, America is faced with another downgrade this year. It's deja vu all over again, according to today's Deseret Morning News editorial page.
Who says things can't deteriorate quickly? However you choose to define and quantify the phrase, "it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right," you may rest assured that Americans are increasingly aware of the loss of their liberties through the imposition of the tyrannical rule of the federal government. The slow erosion of moral values seems to be picking up momentum, and it's not so slow anymore. Much of it has come about in eight short years since we were laboring as a country in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein from power.
Now the tables seem to have turned and we have a tyrant here in this country determined to regulate and tax everything that moves in America. We have a Senate that has not passed or even offered so much as a counter-proposal for a federal budget for over three years, though the House has sent them one for the last two years. We used to call that malfeasance in office, and now we are told it's just "good politics."
But hopefully there is a counterbalance at work also. We are witnessing a "Mormon moment" having the potential to produce nothing but more good for the economy, the institutions of government and the righteousness of the people who hear and learn more about the gospel in its fullness in these last days. One can always hope for good things to come.
There is much to remember this Memorial Day weekend. We can give thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice that we may have and be what we are today.
We can give thanks for the patience and long-suffering of God despite the abuse of agency by His children.