Saturday, June 30, 2012

And the SCOTUS Upholds. . . WE THE PEOPLE!

No one in their right mind would say they didn't get their money's worth in drama last week. The SCOTUS handed down a ruling that was universally loathed on both sides of the aisle, but under the hood this was a finely-tuned engine poised for full power to be unleashed. The people of the United States of America have had the power returned to them if they can seize it.

Benjamin Franklin
It calls to mind the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, a representative to the original Constitutional Convention. Their deliberations 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.

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 record-setting heat (an apt metaphor) of the SCOTUS ruling handed down last week in Washington D.C., Franklin's response still resonates. We know we can keep our Republic, the question looms. . . Will we?

I wrote about us having to take a stand and stop having it both ways some months ago. We are at the inflection point now as never before, thanks to the SCOTUS ruling this week. The hint it was a historic court decision was all the histrionics that followed from both sides. Clearly, the legal victory belonged to the Obama administration. On a 5-4 decision the Affordable Healthcare Act was upheld by the finding that the individual mandate was indeed a tax, it was constitutional and Congress had the full authority to do that. Predictably both sides claimed victory.

The Republicans were delighted on three counts - the Commerce Clause, long abused with its meanings expanded beyond belief for decades was finally curtailed. You cannot mandate activities of the American people for something no one has done yet, the Roberts opinion stated. Medicaid expansion being forced upon the states was also slapped down. And they even found something to like in the Court's definition of the mandate as a tax, not a penalty. They will be able to remind everyone that Obama lied about there being no new taxes here, when in fact (as I stated repeatedly) this represents the largest tax increase to pay for the largest entitlement program in the history of the world.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
The Obama administration, of course, loved the legal victory of the Obamacare law being declared constitutional after all. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), however, argued it will be a short-lived and hollow victory in the end. Why? Because he believes the American people will rise up in revolt and revulsion over this decision and slap down the legislators who gave us this monstrosity of a law in the middle of the night without one single opposition vote to sustain it. Love the optimism there.

Here's what Chief Justice Roberts did for the nation last week. He actually said something no one had predicted he would say. Everyone in the nation was poised for the ultimate arbiter, the Supreme Court, to finally settle the argument once and for all, and to tell all the children that "father knew best." Instead, here's what John Roberts said that will enshrine him in the pantheon of American jurisprudence forevermore: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” 

Wow! How refreshing is that? This is a restatement of the plan of salvation: Men are free to choose. Free agency, the power to choose, is a gift of God. We are endowed with it by our Creator. In 2 Nephi we read: "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself" (2:16). Further, "Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves — to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life" (10:23). And in modern revelation the Lord said, "Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself" (D&C 29:35).

Joseph Smith
The Prophet Joseph Smith described agency as "that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts"(TPJS, 49). The word "free" is also used to describe free agency in this hymn Latter-day Saints have been singing since our first hymn book in 1835:

Know this, that ev'ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be;
For this eternal truth is giv'n
That God will force no man to heav'n.
He'll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
— Hymns #240

We made a political judgment with our freedom of choice in 2008. The pendulum swung in favor of the Democrats. Both houses of Congress and the White House were swept. No one, even the Supreme Court, was available in the end to change those consequences. John Roberts reminded Americans last week it was time to grow up, take off the training wheels from our wobbly attempts to ride the bicycle of freedom of choice and to stop looking for a savior to fix things. The savior did not emerge in Barack Obama, and Roberts wasn't about to insert himself or his court into that role either. Ultimately, Roberts declared, the power for good or evil is in your hands America. Choose well.

Mitt Romney
Conservatives should be dancing in the streets. Roberts gave us exactly what we believe in - a battle cry for freedom, less top-down, government-and-courts-driven dictum, and actual liberty for the people who can decide (if we will) to elect people to Congress who won't tax us and obligate us to unsustainable spending with debts we cannot pay. The choice, said Roberts, is all yours. And the big winner here, I have to believe, is Mitt Romney. Perhaps never since George Washington has a presidential candidate represented that political philosophy more eloquently and completely.

President Barack Obama
Liberals who believe in a cradle-to-grave entitlement existence under the "parental" control of an empowered tyrannical executive run rampant on individual freedom got exactly what THEY wanted - additional control of another 18% of the GDP - the healthcare industry. They now have the funding mechanism under the taxing authority of the United States government to make their progressive agenda a reality after 100 years of trying. Victory at last! Power to the oppressed! And it's all constitutional. The Constitution was crafted by the people, for the people and of the people. It granted enumerated and limited powers to the government and virtually everything else to the people. When government asserts powers it does not possess and encroaches into our individual freedoms, the only way tyranny can be curtailed is by the people. It may yet be the case that no one in the history of this Republic may be judged in the final analysis to represent tyranny more completely than Barack Obama.

Only the people are empowered to adjudicate the winner of this debate on November 6th.

Chief Justice John Roberts
Roberts just did exactly what the nation could not have foreseen. He has literally handed back to the free people of America a very unpopular piece of legislation (I'm intentionally using restraint here) that was crammed down our throats against the wishes of the majority by a minority suddenly emboldened with the votes to do it. Now, if we really mean it and we are truly unhappy with the results of the election of 2008, we can either fix this aberration (if I'm right and that's all it is) at the polls on November 6th, or if I'm wrong we can live forever with the consequences. It seemed the electorate rose up in the 2010 mid-terms and put a stop to the runaway train by returning control of the House to the Republicans. Will the trend continue in 2012? Victory in the Senate races is paramount.

I am setting aside all the punditry and the loud protestations I've heard from both sides in the aftermath, and I will make this bold declaration: I liked what happened and what I've read in the actual opinions of the justices since the ruling was handed down. I like it because it retrieves accountability for our actions as a free people from the Executive Branch and the Courts. Our elected representatives in the Congress should now be right where they belong, in the cross hairs of every freedom-loving person in America with a ballot in their hands.

I like the idea of having a Mulligan, a chance to re-educate Americans with the reality our policy and process should begin and end with us. It starts with an informed vote, and electing representatives more carefully than ever before, people who will actually represent our collective will in Washington D.C., and will resist the few who represent the minority who would destroy us from within.

So now it's "game on" time. I hope we can throw off the idea that government is somehow the benevolent dictator of our future and the dispenser of our freedoms. The people in Washington are there only because we put them there.

Forget that routinely a minority of the electorate show up to vote. That should and must change if we are to preserve the Republic Benjamin Franklin and the others gave us. They must become our willing minions, not the other way around.

I suspect Roberts knew full well what the risks would be in handing down the majority opinion that the Obamacare law was found constitutional. Too many people will see that headline and continue to quietly go about their lives without further adieu. Factor in the complacency of many who have grown to love the idea of government checks flowing into their mailboxes on a regular basis. That is precisely what Obama and the left will bank on.

The spin has already begun. Astoundingly, what do we hear from the White House after the definition of the word "tax" has been rendered? "It's not a tax." Really? No one has done more damage to their loose familiarity with truth, justice and the American way than this administration. Well, they are transparent to anyone with eyes to see.

Between now and November little will change to measurably improve the anemic economic recovery with which we are saddled because of the policies of this White House. The MSM will continue to remind us of the "victory" in this bill being upheld constitutionally, but in the end the court of pubic opinion will prevail.

In their heart of hearts, surely Americans realize there is no free lunch, no "something for nothing" reality. . . don't they?

I'm not one who is going to bash John Roberts into oblivion. I prefer instead to think he just punted the ball deep in his own territory on fourth down with the game clock expiring and said to the American people, "If you want a touchdown, you now have the final possession and go make it happen."

We may be confused as a people with the cacophony of political rhetoric, but in his case Chief Justice Roberts was clear-eyed and deliberate. We, the people, brought the ball to the game and after the final buzzer sounds we still own the ball regardless of how battered and bloodied it may be.

I'm often wrong on political predictions. I certainly could not have envisioned what Justice Roberts just did. But I do know God is still invested in America, and her destiny will not be denied if the people who sustain her and all her ideals are still alert. Who knows, this loathsome burden on the American taxpayer may not even be the law of the land come January. Already governors are rising up in opposition and refusing to implement its provisions in their states.

If you're still reading, I advise taking the long view here. Resist the desperate voices, tune out the pundits, turn off the TV, instead listen to the quiet whisperings of your soul. John Roberts may have just saved the Republic. . .if you can keep it.

I think we can.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Witness More Powerful Than Sight

Jesus Christ by Chambers

Yesterday as I was researching something else, I stumbled onto a site I hadn't anticipated. There was a painting by an artist named Chambers that I recognized from many years ago. The first time I saw it was when I was in the office of President Harold B. Lee in the Church Office Building. That same print now hangs in my father's office at his home (the former home of President Lee). Several years ago I did some research and found a larger print in a Catholic bookstore and had it framed.

The rest of the story is there is an account President Lee preserved and glued to the back of the painting that may help clear up the speculations I saw on the site to which I made reference above. This is what President Lee attached to the back of the painting by Chambers:

"I have something that to me is a very personal and sacred experience. The late Samuel O. Bennion, who presided for many years down in the Central States Mission, and later became a member of the First Council of Seventy, came into my office one day and he showed me a picture of an artist's conception of the Savior, and he said, 'How do you like this representation of the Master?' Now, as we know, there was no photograph. Some folks dress up foolishly and think they are trying to make themselves look like the Savior today, and it is a rather ridiculous spectacle and I am sure the Lord would not be proud to be so represented. I said to him, 'I think that is marvelous,' because here was a face of strength. I have seen the pictures of Hoffman and sometimes He is almost pictured as an effeminate weak person and I never liked that portrayal, but here was one - He had eyes that were piercing, He had the kind of a look that could be stern, and yet I could see him tender towards a little child, taking the little child in His arms, and I said, 'that is the most wonderful representation I have ever seen. That is the way I picture the Savior in my mind.' And he said, 'I will get you one of those pictures.' And he said, 'I will tell you why that means so much to me. While I was presiding over the mission, the late Elder Orson F. Whitney, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and a close friend and an associate of President David O. McKay, was about that same stature, tall, handsome (some of you older folks will remember) and he said, as we toured the mission, Elder Whitney told me about a personal visitation he had had from his Lord, and he said, contrary to many people's description, the Savior was a large man, as tall or larger than I in stature, and he described him so accurately that it was fixed in my mind, and when I came back to conference I stopped in Chicago and went to the art gallery and there I asked to see all the artist's conceptions of how the Savior looked from what descriptions they had, and I came across this one by an artist by the name of Chambers, this came the nearest to the description of Orson F. Whitney.'

"After several weeks there came this picture and that night Samuel O. Bennion passed away, and I suppose I still owe him for that picture that I have hanging on the wall just back of me. As I walk from one side of the room to the other, (you have seen great paintings do this), His eyes seem to follow. If I go to the right or to the left, He's there. It's as though I am feeling what I know is the truth, that we who occupy places of responsibility are under the constant surveillance of the Lord who is the head of this Church. President Joseph Fielding Smith isn't the head of this Church, the head of this Church is our Lord and Master, over the Church which bears His name. President Joesph Fielding Smith is the presiding authority, the earthly representative here upon the earth, but his is the Lord's Church and that is why it is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in these latter days, and that is why we call it by that name." (President Harold B. Lee, during his tenure as the 1st Counselor in the First Presidency).

Jesus the Christ, by Del Parson
So that's the story about Harold B. Lee's association with this picture. Eventually, Del Parson would come along and produce a similar painting of Christ in a red robe, that is more commonly associated with the Church today. There are perhaps thousands of artists' representations of what Christ might look like, and many recent artists have contributed much to the body of work, Liz Lemon Swindle and Simon Dewey to name two.

Frequently, members of the Church speculate (there is no other word for it) on who among the General Authorities may have seen the Savior while they were living in mortality. It's nothing more than a parlor game, really, since those who may have had that experience will rarely disclose it, and those who haven't are prone to speculate. My experience with President Lee and others leads me to offer this counsel: Take their public statements and read them for the light and truth you may glean from them and go no further.

Clyde Williams did a masterful job of compiling the Teachings of Harold B. Lee several years ago. From that inspiring collection I have drawn a sampling of those expressions of testimony from President Lee. Please note how many times President Lee uses the expression, "a witness more powerful than sight:"

There has come to me in these last few days a deepening and reassuring faith. I can't leave this conference without saying to you that I have a conviction that the Master hasn't been absent from us on these occasions. This is His church. Where else would He rather be than right here at the headquarters of His church? He isn't an absentee master; He is concerned about us. He wants us to follow where He leads. I know that He is a living reality, as is our Heavenly Father. I know it. I only hope that I can qualify for the high place to which He has called me and in which you have sustained me.

I know with all my soul that these sayings are true, and as a special witness I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that there is no shadow of doubt as to the genuineness of the work of the Lord in which we are engaged, the only name under heaven by which mankind can be saved. (72-43, p. 134)

Jesus Christ is our Savior. As one of those who feels himself the least among you, and having a right as a member of this church, and by appointment, to testify of these things of which I have spoken to you this morning, in all solemnity, and with all my soul, I bear you my testimony that I know that Jesus lives, that He is the Savior of the world. I know that He reveals Himself and is revealing Himself to His prophets. Week by week, day by day, we see the on-rolling of His works, guided and directed and shepherded on every side, through the President of the Church, who has been set apart to preside as the mouthpiece of the Lord to His church. (56-01, p. 12)

Jesus lives! I bear my witness to you this morning. There are some witnesses I cannot give now, perhaps sometime later. Many things are too sacred to share at this time. I have received a witness that I cannot or dare not deny. When I see Jesus, I cannot mistake His identity. I know that He lives! (72-16)

I came away from some of these experiences never to feel the same again about the mission of our Lord and Savior. I had impressed upon me, as I have never had it impressed before, what it means to be a special witness. I say, with all the conviction of my soul, I know that Jesus lives. I know that He was the very Son of God. And I know that in this church and in the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be found the way to salvation. (72-05, pp. 337-38)

With all my soul and conviction, and knowing the seriousness and import of that testimony, I will tell you that I know that He lives. I am conscious of His presence much of the time when I have needed Him most; I have known it out of the whisperings of the night, the impressions of the daytime when there were things for which I was responsible and on which I could receive guidance. So I testify to you and tell you that He is closer to the leaders of this church than you have any idea. Listen to the leaders of this church and follow their footsteps in righteousness, if you would learn not only by study, but also by faith. (68-05, pp. 127-28)

A witness from the Holy Ghost is more powerful than sight. As I pray for the guidance of the Spirit, and seek to rise to the responsibility which has been given me, I don't ask for any special endowment. I ask only to go where the Lord would have me go, and only to receive what the Lord would have me receive, knowing that more important than sight is the witness that one may have by the witness of the Holy Ghost to his soul that things are so and that Jesus is the Christ, a living personage. It is that which guides me through many of the experiences of life. (73-29, p. 88)

On the day when I came to this call, which imposed a greater responsibility to be a witness of the mission of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ — I suppose no one ever came to such a position without a lot of soul-searching, realizing his own inadequacy, and without the help of the Almighty — after a long night of searching and days of spiritual preparation that followed, I came to know as a witness more powerful than sight, until I could testify with a surety that defied all doubt, that I knew with every fiber of my soul that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, that He lived, He died, He was resurrected, and today He presides in the heavens, directing the affairs of this church, which bears His name because it preaches His doctrine. I bear that testimony humbly and leave you my witness. (71-19)

The call to be a prophet brought an outpouring of love. Now I want to tell you a little sacred experience I had following the call to be the President of the Church. On the early morning thereafter with my wife I kneeled in humble prayer, and suddenly it seemed as though my mind and heart went out to over three million people in all the world. I seemed to have a love for every one of them no matter where they lived nor what their color was, whether they were rich or poor, whether they were humble or great, or educated or not. Suddenly I felt as though they all belonged to me, as though they were all my own brothers and sisters.

So with that heart full of love toward all of you people included in that great feeling, I extend my blessing to you and your families, that your lives will become symbols of your faith and your love for your Heavenly Father, that you will be more diligent and faithful in the performance of all your duties in the Church. (72-30)

The principle of foreordination provides assurance to leaders. I want to add my testimony to those that have already been borne. Since the shock of [President Joseph Fielding Smith's] passing came, and realizing now that the Twelve would have the responsibility to take up the labors and determine what steps to take in order to reorganize the presidency of the Church, and serving as I do as the senior member of the Council, I have been concerned. I have wanted to know what the Lord's will would be. I wanted to do nothing except I knew it was of the Lord. I have sought most earnestly to know, to be guided, so that this church could go on and be worthy of those who have sacrificed, who have given their lives that this church might grow.

I have received a special witness the last few days. I had a comfort from one who wrote, "Men who are called to these leading positions in the Church were foreordained to that mission before they came to this earth." If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't dare stand in the place where I am today; believing that, I have no fear, anxiety, and concern, because I know the Lord is at the helm in guiding the work of the Church. (72-23, p. 39)

An Apostle is called to be a special witness of the Savior. As one who is expected to bear solemn testimony, I exercise the opportunity of declaring to you my sacred testimony. When the call to the apostleship came, it was on a Saturday night of general conference. I was called to the front of the Tabernacle to meet the President of the Church [Heber J. Grant], and I walked into the General Authorities' room and found him crying. He put his hands on my shoulders and told me that I had been named to be a member of the Council of the Twelve. I said to him, "Oh, President, do you think I am worthy of that?" As quick as a flash, he said, "If I didn't think so, my boy, you wouldn't be called."

Then I spent a night I shall never forget. There was no sleep that night. All my life seemed to be coming before me, as in a panorama. I could have told you every person who had any ill will toward me. I could have told you every person against whom I had any ill will, and the feeling came that before I was worthy to accept that call as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I had to love and forgive every soul that walked the earth. Then when I began to fear the experience of standing in the Tabernacle with so many listening, I found the Spirit directed my words. I don't know what I said; it wasn't anything I had prepared.

On the following Thursday I walked into the room where I was to be ordained. There were twelve chairs in a semicircle, with three chairs in front for the First Presidency. As I thought of the men who had sat in those chairs, and I now was being invited to sit as one in that circle, it was an overwhelming, shattering feeling. Am I worthy, can I measure up, can I reach the goal or attain the spiritual heights that such a position requires?

Well, that day passed, ordination came, and then one of the Twelve came to me and said, "Now we would like you to be the speaker at the Sunday night service. It is for Easter Sunday. As an ordained Apostle, you are to be a special witness of the mission and resurrection of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." That, I think, was the most startling, the most overwhelming contemplation of all that had happened.

I locked myself in one of the rooms of the Church Office Building and took out the Bible. I read in the four Gospels, particularly the scriptures pertaining to the death, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord, and as I read, I suddenly became aware that something strange was happening. It wasn't just a story I was reading, for it seemed as though the events I was reading about were very real as though I were actually living those experiences. On Sunday night I delivered my humble message and said, "And now, I, one of the least of the Apostles here on the earth today, bear you witness that I too know with all my soul that Jesus is the Savior of the world and that He lived and died and was resurrected for us."

I knew because of a special kind of witness that had come to me the preceding week. Then someone asked, "How do you know? Have you seen?" I can say that more powerful than one's sight is the witness that comes by the power of the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to our spirits that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. (66-01, pp. 25-27)

The veil has been thin. I thank the Lord that I may have passed some of the tests, but maybe there will have to be more before I shall have been polished to do all that the Lord would have me do.

Sometimes when the veil has been very thin, I have thought that if the struggle had been still greater, maybe then there would have been no veil. I stand by, not asking for anything more than the Lord wants to give me, but I know that He is up there and He is guiding and directing.

May you know that I know with a certainty that defies all doubt that this is His work, that He is guiding us and directing us today. (73-36, pp. 385, 386)

Hold to my testimony until you develop one. I come to you with a witness as sure as was the Apostle Paul's, perhaps in a manner in which the Apostle Paul received his. A witness more perfect than sight is the witness by which the Holy Ghost bears witness to one's soul that he knows these things are true. I witness to you tonight, with all my soul, that I know, as the Spirit has borne witness to my soul, that the Savior lives. To you who may not have that testimony, may I ask you to hold to my testimony until you have developed one for yourselves. But work on it, study, and pray until you too can know with a certainty that these things are true — that God lives and this is the plan of salvation. (70-21)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Grandfather, Don't Shove Me!"

Every family has a few beloved stories about themselves that get enshrined in the family pantheon of memories. Today's post highlights one such story from our family. As most who read these pages will know, my maternal grandfather was President Harold B. Lee.

My mother preserved this insight among her writings to give the backdrop for the story that follows:

President Harold B. Lee
While I was serving as the chorister in our ward Relief Society when our first two sons were about two and a half and four years of age, I had arranged with Mother to come and tend my little boys while I attended a Friday afternoon stake leadership meeting. [This was circa 1951 - imagine how poorly attended a stake leadership meeting on a Friday afternoon would be today]. Mother called early that morning, however, to say that she had awakened with a bad cold and wouldn't be able to come. She felt badly to disappoint me but I assured her I could arrange with our pianist to excuse me and to bring me the information that would be given at the meeting. Sometime mid-morning, the phone rang again. This time it was my father, calling from his office in the Quorum of the Twelve. He said, "Dear, you plan to go to your meeting and I'll come tend the boys." I was appalled at such an idea and strongly protested. But he persisted and asked, teasingly, "Don't you think I'd be an acceptable babysitter? "Of course," I replied, "but-well-I just couldn't have you do that! I'd feel like I was thwarting the work of the Lord to have you leave your important work at the office just to come and tend my babies!" His reply was sobering and taught me important lessons: "Why, my dear, who is to say which is the most important work of the Lord - to stay at my desk at the Church Office Building, or to tend two choice little grandsons while their mommy goes to her Relief Society meeting?" He came; I went to my meeting, and two little boys were blessed that day by the full attention of a loving, devoted grandfather.

Indeed, our whole lives we have been blessed by grandparents we knew and loved on both sides of the family. The story to which I made reference earlier is this one:

On June 11, 1953, [Elder Lee] took "Skipper" (David), age five, and "Hal" (Harold Lee), age four, to attend the Mutual Improvement Association Dance Festival in the University of Utah stadium. His official diary entry stated that "they were tired boys, but seemingly very happy."

David, Grandfather Lee, Hal
The inside story, however, was a contest of wills from which this General Authority grandfather learned a lesson he often used in his sermons. As the long evening wore on, it became obvious that four-year-old Hal was not able to sit still that long, nor have his interest sustained in the panorama going on some distance away on the stadium floor. Grandfather Lee, not wishing to disturb his General Authority friends who surrounded him, tried in vain to quietly direct him to sit still as Hal taxed his patience by running up and down the aisle. Finally, in exasperation he caught the restless youngster with a firm grasp, sat him down very hard on his own lap, and held him tightly. A second later he felt the impact of a little doubled-up fist against his cheek, accompanied by Hal's indignant response, audible to all, "Grandfather, don't shove me!"

Embarrassed and realizing too late his mistake in handling the matter, he relaxed his hold on his young grandson, and reassuringly and lovingly cuddled him in his arms. It was not long until Hal submitted to the warmth and security of Grandfather's arms and drifted off into a contented sleep.

The title of Elder Lee's next sermon to Primary leaders? "Love-Don't Shove!" (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee: Prophet & Seer, 314-15).

* * *

Sometimes in life the "contest of wills" is an unrestrained force to test us and threatens to destroy every relationship. As parents of children who have a tendency to stray from the path, our immediate reaction is to "shove" not love. We are invested in the outcomes of the decisions our children make. We sometimes recoil in horror when we observe their rowdy behavior when it does not comport with the careful life lessons we have sought to imbue in them. To uphold our reputations as Church leaders and neighbors in the eyes of others becomes first and foremost. 

Next time you're tempted as a parent to "shove" one of your children into a certain acceptable path of behavior, think again and remember the moral lesson here - love, don't shove!

Too often we succumb to the tendency to use the heavy whip hand and beat those around us into submission. We know the way, they don't, crack the whip. Resist using the whip. Instead, slowly recoil it in your hand, set it down and do what is hardest to do when confronted with a defiant child - try loving them instead. Relax your grip. Risk failure for a season. Look to the long-term day of the harvest, just as our Father in Heaven does with each of us.

"And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard." (Jacob 5:75, emphasis mine).

Why is it so difficult to resist the natural man in such extremities? It's usually because our pride is invested first in the outcomes. Set aside your pride. Take the long view. Stop focusing on the offensive abhorrent behavior and look a little deeper into their soul. What is it you can discover about the underlying reasons for the outward behavior? Often what is needed is a little more cuddling instead of thirty-nine lashes in your flogging of them.

Most children understand and already know when they have done wrong. Their inner spirit knows. Trust that the Spirit will guide them unerringly. Teach them, instead of flogging them, how to recognize the still, small voice that speaks to them. You don't need to shove them into righteousness. Trust that the Spirit will do it better and more convincingly than you ever can. Be invested in the long-term outcomes. Be assured that if you have taught them correctly they are fully capable of governing themselves.

* * *

This was not an easy lesson for headstrong and self-willed Harold B. Lee to learn. Here's another sample from his history. I heard President Lee tell and retell this story many times:

A favorite, oft-repeated teaching lesson, which had its origin in President Lee's early welfare experiences, found renewed application immediately following the October 1973 general conference. President Lee found it necessary at this time to counsel with a Church-appointed administrator whom he had sustained in a stressful personnel controversy but whom he later privately counseled with love so he would become more compassionate with his workers. President Lee wrote to this leader of "lessons that I had to learn the hard way," recalling this experience:

On one occasion, just before I was called to the Council of the Twelve, a certain matter was referred by the Welfare Committee to the new Presiding Bishopric, the President of the Relief Society and myself, for a study and a recommendation. I waited to be invited to a discussion of that subject, but I received no invitation. Shortly there came a letter signed by all three members of the Presiding Bishopric announcing a decision. This, of course, was construed by the Welfare Committee as a slight and an affront to the Welfare Committee.

Brothers Henry D. Moyle and Robert L. Judd of the Committee went over to see President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and voiced their disappointed feelings. President Clark, being a good diplomat, sidestepped any head-on controversy between these brethren and the Presiding Bishopric.

Within six weeks of that incident I was called to the Council of the Twelve. President Clark invited me one day to ride with him to his ranch in Grantsville so that he could have the opportunity of talking with me about some matters, and during the course of our visit together I made mention of the incident with reference to the Presiding Bishopric refusing to meet with me, representing the General Welfare Committee, and then I made some such remark as, "I suppose that now the Presiding Bishopric would be willing to sit down with me and discuss the problem."

President Clark saw in this remark a continued feeling of resentment on my part. He said to me, rather sharply, but with a fatherly look: "Yes, my boy, now you do have the whip hand, but in your position, you must never use it."

As additional responsibilities have come up to the present time I have found that President Clark's counsel was very wise and timely. The greater my responsibilities the more careful I must be in using that authority in a way that would be not inconsistent with my position. The greater authority one has the more careful he has to be to not use his whip hand.

Then, after assuring his leader-student of his personal love for him and confidence in his operation of one of the Church's largest corporations, he summarized: "I would have you think, as I have been taught to think over the years, that the greater my responsibility the more careful I must be in using my authority to the hurt of individuals whose feelings might be more tender because of my position." (Ibid, 554-55).

* * *

May this lesson from the life of President Harold B. Lee serve to guide us in our interactions with our children, grandchildren and co-workers. My hope is that by sharing it we may not have to learn it "the hard way." Restraint, patience, love unfeigned and long-suffering is the way of the Master.

Monday, June 18, 2012

So Easy a Game Show Host Could Do It

Congress is approaching another debt crisis moment. Here's evidence it's not really as difficult as they seem to want us to believe. Making meaningful cuts in the budget is so easy even a game show host could do with the aid of his crack team of experts.

So why do we keep electing the same set of politicians? It's time to finish the job we started in 2010 and clean house until we get people who can add and subtract.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Orderly Transmission of Priesthood Keys

In this political season on Fathers Day, it is refreshing to witness the changing of the guard for leaders in a contrasting system.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands in stark comparison to the political system we witness in America. Running for the presidency in this country involves billions of dollars, millions of volunteers, thousands of events and years of effort to attract enough attention and voters to win the nomination of your party.

Defenders of the system will tell you it should be this way. The POTUS, after all, is universally viewed as the most powerful office in the world. It should be hard, it should be complex and it should be an endurance test. Mission accomplished. It is.

This weekend we have been in Vancouver, Washington, to participate with one of our families in a sacrament meeting where a son-in-law, Jay Warnick, has been sustained by his congregation as the new bishop of the ward. The process is much simpler, and there has been no lobbying for the position. There are no votes cast, no campaigning for the job, and no popularity contests involved. Rather, a stake president fasts and prays, interviews, carefully ponders and seeks revelation.

Once he has settled on a candidate, he submits his name to the Office of the First Presidency. Often, weeks are involved between the time he submits the name and he receives confirmation back that his choice has been approved, the calling is issued and the congregation learns who the new bishop will be. When all the paperwork, interviews and callings have been completed, the ward is told the bishopric will be reorganized, usually a week in advance. Many members of the Church do not realize that when they finally hear the official announcement that the change is upcoming, all the pieces are already in place.

The names of bishops are all ratified by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve before the calls are issued to the individuals. Once the stake president receives confirmation of his nomination, he is given specific instructions about the questions he is to ask the prospective new bishop. There is little question this process conforms to the requirements of the 5th Article of Faith:

"We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." 

Following the sustaining vote by the congregation, hands were laid on Jay's head today. His father ordained him to the office of high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Under assignment from the First Presidency, the stake president then laid his hands on his head and bestowed upon him all the "keys" of the priesthood necessary for him to be authorized to do his duty as the bishop of the ward.

Jay will serve for an undetermined period of time without compensation from the Church. He will continue to work at his profession, be a father and now assume additional duties as the "father of the ward." After he is released at some point in the future, he will be called "bishop" throughout his life because of the love and respect that ward members have for him.

A bishop has overall responsibility for all functions of the ward, which are designed to lead each individual member to Christ and eternal life. Jay is admonished by revelation to "watch over the Church" (D&C 46:27). With other ward leaders, he will be concerned for the daily physical needs of each ward member, especially the sick, elderly, and handicapped. In every sense he will be like a father to the ward.

As the presiding high priest, the bishop presides at Sacrament, priesthood, and ward council meetings, and at all other ward services or activities. By these and other means he watches over both the spiritual and temporal affairs of the ward and its individual members and organizes the activities for preaching the gospel, serving in the temple, and helping ward members become more Christlike.

Jay will be the common judge of his ward. He will spend much of his free time visiting with or interviewing ward members. He will be called upon to determine their worthiness to participate in sacred ordinances, to receive the priesthood, to receive calls to serve in the ward and on missions, and to do temple work.

He will spend many hours interviewing and counseling youth as they become prospective missionaries. Besides determining worthiness, the bishop must see that all Church ordinances are performed and recorded correctly. His direction or approval is necessary for baptism, confirmation, administration of the Sacrament, blessing and naming of babies, priesthood ordinations, and all temple ordinances for members of his ward. 

Where there is need, the bishop may be involved in counseling on a regular basis. He may help ward members establish goals for improvement, or he may impose appropriate discipline. In cases of serious transgression, he may initiate formal disciplinary procedures, which can affect membership, and may be necessary to bring some back to full fellowship.

As the president of the Aaronic Priesthood in his ward, a bishop has a specific responsibility to the young men and young women of the ward, ages twelve to eighteen. He is to see that all youth are instructed not only in scriptures and doctrine but also in the principles of charity and honesty, with special training of the young men in the duties of the priesthood, including administration of the Sacrament, home teaching, baptizing, and missionary work.

The bishop is automatically president of the quorum of priests in his ward, which generally consists of young men ages sixteen through eighteen. Bishops have similar responsibility for the young women of the ward. He meets monthly with a Bishop's Youth Committee, composed of adult and youth leaders for the young men and women.

Other duties of the bishop include receiving and accounting for the financial contributions of ward members and caring of the needy through the bishop's storehouse and the fast offering fund. Little Spencer, when he learned of his father's new calling beamed when he said, "Now I can just give my tithing to my Dad." He sees that all necessary supplies are at hand for ward functions. He arranges for and conducts funeral services. When it is appropriate and civil laws permit, he may perform marriages.

The bishop, as a father in his own home, as a family provider with a normal occupation, and as a member of the community in which he lives, has many time demands beyond his ecclesiastical calling. He must organize well and delegate and supervise effectively to accomplish all his duties. The bishop's Sunday schedule usually involves a twelve or more hour day, including attending and conducting organizational meetings, worship services, training sessions; counseling and interviewing ward members; extending invitations or calls to participate in Church service in the ward; visiting the sick in hospitals; and visiting ward members in their homes as needed. He spends many additional hours during the week in meeting ward needs. His counselors and priesthood and auxiliary leaders also spend many hours helping him with these ward responsibilities.

However, the overall responsibility for ward members is his completely. Certain specific duties, such as interviews for first-time temple recommends and tithing settlement are not delegated. However, bi-annual interviewing of individuals for renewal temple recommends have been delegated to the bishop's counselors. Ward members believe that a man called of God, as the bishop is, will be endowed with wisdom, understanding, and spiritual discernment (D&C 46:27). Thus they frequently seek and greatly appreciate his advice and assistance. I know from personal experiences on both sides, as a former bishop and as a congregant, just how true it is.

Bishops come from among the congregations, and when released they return to anonymity within the congregation once again. It is done with very little fanfare in an orderly fashion, and there is no politicking involved. The key to understanding a Mitt Romney presidency is to know that he did all these volunteer services for many years as a bishop and later as a stake president.

It is the way of priesthood keys of authority and true leadership devoted to service to others without compensation. By exercising the priesthood keys of power available to bishops if they control and operate their keys of authority in righteousness, bishops are enabled to unlock the prison doors that enslave the sinners through repentance.

If you're going to understand Mitt Romney, you need to understand from whence he came, and this is one dimension of his life and personality that rarely gets mentioned.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Many Reasons I Cannot Support Barack Obama

When Barack Obama cannot excite even his most ardent supporters from 2008, all my reasons for not supporting him pale into insignificance. Spend a minute or two with this revealing set of interviews:

In his own words, President Obama predicted if he couldn't get the economy turned around on his watch he'd be a one-term president. Well said, Mr. President, well said. And oh, by the way, today is Flag Day. On this day 58 years ago, President Dwight David Eisenhower, marking the insertion of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, said: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war. . . From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Gathering of Israel Continues Unabated

This morning I awakened to the news of the organization of India's first stake. I learned there are 10,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now living in India.

President Joseph F. Smith
This is a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy. When I was a young missionary in Great Britain, I remember being astonished to discover the largest topical heading in our study guide was "the gathering of Israel." I learned way back then I was playing a small part in that gathering process.

The news of the Church's first stake in India sent me back to review this remarkable prophecy of President Joseph F. Smith in 1911, as he opened the October General Conference:

I believe in the Gospel in its fullness. I believe in the Holy Priesthood, in its power, in its rightfulness to administer in the temples and in the waters of baptism, and in the laying on of bands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and for healing of the sick, and for ordinations, and for all other purposes for which the Priesthood is rightfully used. I believe in the gathering of Israel, and I believe that the day will come when the valleys of the mountains will become too straight for the people of God. I believe that the time will come when we shall have to colonize abroad, when we shall have to spread abroad in the earth, for I believe that the Lord designs that eventually the people that will name His name in righteousness, and that will believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with His works, will spread over the earth, and especially spread over this land of Joseph, which the Lord has preserved in which to establish His kingdom and His Church in the latter days. I believe that as much as can be, but I do not believe that the time has yet come when our people can scatter abroad here and there, singly or by twos or threes or by little companies, away off into Central America, away off into Southern Mexico, away off into the northern limits, and away down to the western sea, or over onto the Atlantic seaboard. I do not believe the time has come that we can diffuse our strength and scatter ourselves abroad in the world, or colonize to such an extent and carry out the purposes of the Lord. I don't think that time has come. When it comes the Lord will make it manifest, and we will be able to do it too when that time comes. I believe that an overruling providence compelled us to establish settlements in Canada when they were established there, and I believe that the same providence overruled and compelled us to establish settlements in northern Mexico at the time that they were established there. I believe that President Young was moved by a correct principle, and by prophecy and inspiration when he determined that we should settle in Arizona and New Mexico in the south. I think that he was moved by the spirit of wisdom when he determined that we should settle at and in the vicinity of St. George, and we should build a temple and establish a colony there. I believe this. Why? Because he directed those movements by the inspiration of the Almighty, and therefore it was right, and when the Spirit of the Lord moves upon His servants who preside over the Church to build colonies in distant lands, it will be time enough for you to go and we will call you to go, some of you; but not till then. (October 1911, CR 9-10, emphasis mine).

Of course, President Smith was not the only prophet with this vision of the future gathering of Israel. The scriptures are full of that topic (perhaps my mission study guide was accurate, because it may the the largest single topical category). Here's one sampling of the doctrine:

And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.
And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD.
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.
And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.
I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.
And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.
And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the LORD. (Zechariah 10:6-12; see also Isaiah 5:26, emphasis mine).

Today, I read that phrase "hiss for them, and gather them," meaning the seed of Joseph, latter-day Israel, and I can picture in my mind the Internet and its global reach as the means for fulfillment of those words. Can you discern the reality in today's world of Israel being scattered ("sow") "among the people" in "far countries" as well as the north country? Do you see their eventual individual journeys into the stakes of Zion ("they shall remember me") in those "far countries?"

This is exactly what Ephraim ("like a mighty man") is doing today. We are following the counsel of our leaders to build up the Church everywhere in their own countries - because "place shall not be found for them" in the New Jerusalem yet. Do you understand there are more members of the Church now living outside the United States than within it?

Do you realize the meaning of the words "he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea," as a reference to a later era of gathering, namely the eventual return of all the ten tribes, first to the New Jerusalem, and then to their homelands ("the land of Gilead and Lebanon") from where they were first captured and taken into slavery?

As they make their journeys, as in all the journeys of gathering in the past, will there be occasion for the "deeps of the river" to be dried up again? It is Isaiah who informs us on their return to their homelands the Lord will "destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea," and returning Israel shall "go over dryshod," exactly as it happened the first time when the Lord brought them through the Red Sea on their way to the promised land anciently. (See Isaiah 11:15; also Elder Orson Pratt, JD 16:151-152 [1873]).

We are living in the "times of the Gentiles" in this phase of the gathering, and Isaiah continues to add perspective for these times and beyond in this prophetic declaration:

And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof. (Isaiah 5:26-30, emphasis mine).

President Harold B. Lee
Isaiah sees the lifting up of "an ensign," which refers to phase one of the gathering in the last days. It is this phase in which we are still engaged as we are mainly gathering the tribe of Ephraim and his fellows during the times of the Gentiles. We see these references suggesting the speed of travel available to both the gathered and the gatherers. I still remember vividly when my grandfather, Elder Harold B. Lee, used to marvel at the introduction of jet travel compared to train and automobile travel in facilitating the work of the Lord in his day. Those riding in jets today come so swiftly that they have no need, and are unable "to slumber nor sleep." Remarkable to me is that Isaiah saw it and words nearly failed him in trying to describe what he saw.

Phase two of the gathering, the laying "hold of the prey," and carrying "it away safe," and "the light is darkened in the heavens" suggests a still later period of gathering when the ten tribes will be led to Zion in the New Jerusalem to escape the impending desolation in these latter days.

For almost a hundred years, latter-day Israel has been counseled by their leaders to remain in their own countries and build up the Church. In 1973, President Harold B. Lee spoke even more specifically about this topic in General Conference:

Today we are witnessing the demonstration of the Lord’s hand even in the midst of his saints, the members of the Church. Never in this dispensation, and perhaps never before in any single period, has there been such a feeling of urgency among the members of this church as today. Her boundaries are being enlarged, her stakes are being strengthened. In the early years of the Church specific places to which the Saints were to be gathered together were given, and the Lord directed that these gathering places should not be changed, but then he gave one qualification: “Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.” (D&C 101:21).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
At the Mexico City Area Conference last August, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve, in a thought-provoking address, made some comments pertinent to this subject, and I quote a few sentences from his address:

“Of this glorious day of restoration and gathering, another Nephite prophet said: ‘The Lord … has covenanted with all the house of Israel,’ that ‘the time comes that they shall be restored to the true church and fold of God’; and that ‘they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.’ (2 Nephi 9:1–2).

“Now I call your attention to the facts, set forth in these scriptures, that the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church; of coming to a knowledge of the true God and of his saving truths; and of worshiping him in the congregations of the Saints in all nations and among all peoples. Please note that these revealed words speak of the folds of the Lord; of Israel being gathered to the lands of their inheritance; of Israel being established in all their lands of promise; and of there being congregations of the covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again.”

Elder McConkie then concluded with this statement, which certainly emphasizes the great need for the teaching and training of local leadership in order to build up the church within their own native countries:

“The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” (President Harold B. Lee, "Strengthen the Stakes of Zion," Ensign, July 1973, 4-5; see also President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1975, 4; also Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, November 1992, 71).

President Spencer W. Kimball
President Kimball added these insights a few years later:

Now, the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church and their coming to a knowledge of the true God. Any person, therefore, who has accepted the restored gospel, and who now seeks to worship the Lord in his own tongue and with the Saints in the nations where he lives, has complied with the law of the gathering of Israel and is heir to all of the blessings promised the Saints in these last days. . .

The First Presidency and the Twelve see great wisdom in the multiple Zions, many gathering places where the Saints within their own culture and nation can act as a leaven in the building of the kingdom-a kingdom which seeks no earthly rewards or treasures. (TSWK, 439).

President Ezra Taft Benson
A few years later in 1991, President Ezra Taft Benson further fleshed out the doctrine as it relates to finding safety among the saints living in the far-flung stakes of Zion in the perilous times of the last days:

Yet another revelation from the Lord gives this explanation of the purpose of stakes:

“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;

And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (D&C 115:5–6).

In this revelation is a command to let our light shine so it becomes a standard for the nations. A standard is a rule of measure by which one determines exactness or perfection. The Saints are to be a standard of holiness for the world to see! That is the beauty of Zion.

The Lord then reveals that the stakes of Zion are to be “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” Stakes are a defense for the Saints from enemies both seen and unseen. The defense is direction provided through priesthood channels that strengthens testimony and promotes family solidarity and individual righteousness.

In the Lord’s preface to his revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, He warned: “The day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.” (D&C 1:35).

Today — some 160 years after this revelation was given — we see the fulfillment of this prediction. Satan, in undiminished fury, is displaying power over “his own dominion” — the earth. Never has his influence been so great, and only those who have taken the Holy Spirit as their guide and followed counsel from priesthood leaders will be spared from the havoc of his evil influence.

The Lord also states in that prefatory revelation that He “shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst.” (D&C 1:36).

He does this as He works through His anointed servants and stake and ward authorities.

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi foresaw the day when the Saints would be scattered in stakes all over the world. He saw the time when the Lord would extend His protection to them when menaced by a storm of destruction that threatened their existence. Nephi prophesied:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (1 Nephi 14:14).

Through revelation we know that there will be perils, calamities, and persecution in the latter days, but through righteousness the Saints may be spared. The promise of the Lord in the Book of Mormon is sure: “He will preserve the righteous by his power.” (1 Nephi 22:17). (President Ezra Taft Benson, "Strengthen Thy Stakes," Ensign, January 1991, emphasis mine).

* * *

In this political season in America, now that Mitt Romney has clinched the Republican nomination for the presidency, it will not take much imagination to predict the potential arousal of all the old bigotries that were unleashed on our ancestors in Jackson, Clay and other counties in Missouri and later Illinois. Strange to me is that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), also a prominent political leader as the majority leader of the Senate and also a Mormon, seems incapable of arousing so much animus, but that might be only a reflection of which political party he espouses. Liberal Mormons seemingly get a free pass, but not conservative ones.

As one braces for the onslaught of the envy, jealousy and fear associated with the rise of conservative Mormons on the political scene, let us never forget what has been prophesied as outlined by these leaders cited above. With or without Mitt Romney in the White House, Zion will continue to prosper and spread its tentacles abroad throughout the world, and stakes will continue to be established as the gathering to the stakes continues.

The ongoing spread of Constitutional values throughout the world seems to continue amidst all the political foment, as the dictators one by one are toppled. Whatever storms may arise in the future days ahead, safety and protection will be available for Ephraim's descendants in the stakes of Zion throughout the world.

As the times of the Gentiles draw to a close, the fewer of scattered Ephraim there will be left to gather into the stakes. We've already witnessed the consolidation of missions in Europe where the harvest has been dwindling. However, there are still a number of countries the missionaries have not been granted permission yet to enter, and there may be many of the tribe of Joseph locked within those borders.

The harvest is rich in the Latin American countries, where many of the seed of Joseph were scattered anciently. (See 3 Nephi 21:24). You may know assuredly when the second phase of the gathering has begun, because it will involve an escalation of baptisms among the descendants of the lost tribes as they begin to embrace the gospel at a far greater rate than anything we have heretofore imagined. (See 3 Nephi 21:26-29).

The thunderous appeal of the gentle invitation to "come unto me" continues to echo down the corridors of time, and increasingly the people of the world will heed the invitation to gather in among the stakes of Zion. I think that invitation is captured best in these words:

"One of the most frequent words in Christ’s vocabulary was
a small one –  come. The gestures which we associate with
him echo the same idea. Arms outstretched in welcome, his
entire being said, ‘Come.’ This is not a restricted invitation
for the few, for the elect, for those who somehow deserve it;
he made it open and for all, no matter how weak or afraid or

“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” he
said, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). At another
time he said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and
forbid them not,” appealing to the little child in each of us.
(Luke 18:16). Come follow me, in fact, was the message of
his life.

“Come. It is an immediate appeal, admitting no excuses.
We who say to the Lord, ‘I am too busy; I am too tired; I will
work for you at another time,’ have missed the point. There
is not a mortal being who is not burdened with the cares
that threaten to absorb him altogether. All are preoccupied,
all busy. But when Christ said to Peter and Andrew fishing
in the sea of Galilee, ‘Come… and I will make you fishers of
men,’ they dropped their nets and came. (Mark 1:17).

“Come. It is without qualifications. Not come when we are
perfect. Not come when we have no doubts, when life is
uncontested and we have no problems. Nor is it an invitation
to come only when life is at its darkest –  only in time of dire
need. It is simple, ‘Come now. Come as you are.’

“Why is the Lord so insistent about this invitation? Probably
because he walked with us and knows firsthand the
mysteries, violence, and contradictions of life on this earth.
He knows if we will come to him in pain, we will leave in joy.
If we come in confusion, we will leave in clarity. If we come
in darkness, we will leave in light. So he offers the invitation
and leaves it extended with a kind of divine hopefulness –
until we respond." (Spencer Kinard, “The Spoken Word,”
Time for Reflection [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.,
1986], 113-14).

There is much lying in futurity we know must yet come to pass before the Lord is done with America. Let us not be weary (this is self-talk now, because sometimes I get weary) in well-doing and in expressing our hope and faith in the future. I believe America will survive yet a while longer to fulfill her mission as a beacon to the world, though she has stumbled badly in recent years. Why do I believe it? Because it is the land of the New Jersualem yet to come and its Constitution is divinely inspired.

The gathering of Israel in these last days is a harvest the Lord of the vineyard will have on His own timetable and in His own way, and to the human mind it could only be classified as "strange" sometimes.

Pray ye, therefore, that their ears may be opened unto your cries, that I may be merciful unto them, that these things may not come upon them.
What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse;
That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered;
That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God. (D&C 101:92-95, emphasis mine).

If you think sometimes this political campaign season featuring Mitt Romney qualifies as a "strange act," be assured it is only the preamble to that which lies ahead.